Spinning silk with friends

One of the highlights of the year: meeting with friends for a day-long spinning session! We live in different parts of the country, so we have to travel for hours to meet. Because of the long distances we can’t meet very often, but on the other hand we get a lot done during the intense sessions.

This time we spun silk. We started with hankies, which I find easiest for beginners. But one of us liked silk top better, which was a surprise to me. As a spinning teacher (which I used to be) you can never be 100% sure what fiber to bring to a beginners class. I would’ve thought that opening the hankie, pre-drafting it, and just letting the wheel make the twist and pull the strand onto the bobbin would’ve been much easier than the tedious precise short draw. And she was using a super fast Saxony wheel on top of it!

Mervi, Petra, and Sanski with my Saxonys in my spinning room:

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Yes, you’re right: Kasper the dog has been doing some woodwork and left it in the middle of the floor for humans to stumble upon… no problem really for the three of us, as we all have dogs. We are used to odd things being left in odd places.

We also exchanged fibers, which for my part means I have three boxes of raw wool I bought from Petra,  some washed mohair from Sanski, and a big plastic bag full of fibre samples to work with.

Petra has a flock of Finnsheep that produces superb wool and delicious meat. Hubby and I have lamb meat and sausages in the freezer again! Myllymäen tila

Sanski is a professional spinner and dyer that specialises in natural dyes: Rukki ja rautapata

Mervi is studying to become a teacher in different crafts. She knows a lot of techniques, but her main craft is bobbin lace.

Craft cruise

Yesterday I went on a trip to Sweden: there was a craft cruise from Vaasa in Finland to Umeå in Sweden. I didn’t take any workshops, but went to a talk and met a lot of old and new friends. I also stumbled upon a second cousin of mine and his wife who live only a mile away here in the same village. That’s inevitable: the ferry from Vasa to Umeå is very popular, even if it can’t reach the levels from the tax free period before EU.

Boarding the ferry in my old hometown Vaasa:

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I often think that if I hadn’t been so interested in textiles, I would’ve turned to wood. So I thoroughly enjoyed watching how Andreas Söderlund made a spoon from what hubby and I would burn in our wood stove. Andreas has made the chopping block himself. This was a talk, not a workshop. I think handing over very sharp axes and knives to a bunch of eager ladies onboard a ferry isn’t permitted!

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At least you can use those chips to light a fire… See Andreas’ beautiful work and photos on Instagram: Andreas Söderlund

In Umeå we visited Sliperiet, that “acts as a bridge between art and science, academia and business, and between the current and the future” (from the web page). Amongst other interesting things we saw an impressive hand tufting machine. It’s much bigger and probably much heavier than I have imagined from photos I’ve seen:

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Here’s an example of what it can do:

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After Sliperiet we walked to the city centre, where I met up with my friend Carina. She had filled a goody bag with locks from her Dala Pälsfår (a rare Swedish sheep breed), lambs wool also from her sheep in the plastic bag, and Cheviot dyed by her. The bigger jar contains leather grease made by Carina, and the smaller one is filled with the best lip balm I know, also made by her. The eggs are from Carina’s hens. Yes, they are delicious! I made a 4-egg omelette for hubby and me for lunch today.

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Carina and I had time to visit a Pop Up-market where I bought sock yarn dyed by Kia of Forbackaull. My sock yarn shelves where emptied before Christmas, and needed to be filled again (the two balls to the left in the photo below). I’m very eager to see what the pink-blue yarn will look like in a pair of socks! I just couldn’t resist it… it’s called “Fråg’ in’t = Don’t Ask” 🙂

Back on the boat I bought two skeins of hand dyed sock yarns from Tuulia of Knitlob’s Lair and a bright blue skein of lace yarn spun from Finnish landrace wool, and from Lillemor of Limmo-Design I bought a skein of turquoise-pink sock yarn. From Pirjo-Liisa of Neulenettikahvila I bought an interesting yarn with wool, cotton and polyamid that I want to test in socks this spring and summer. I also bought a fringe twister, and sock needles made of birch (Limmo-Design).

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All three ladies on the boat where quite happy with their day as they sold a lot of yarns.

Now, how many of you would like to take a first spindling class in front of an audience? TV camera and microphones, and a bunch of people watching when you drop the spindle… I pitied those brave ladies, they performed well considering the circumstances!

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After the shopping and walking about for a while to look at the workshops I started to get restless with nothing to do, so I sat down in Limmo-Design’s booth to spin for a while. As it happened, I spun much longer than I had intended: I fell in love with the Schacht Sidekick! Lillemor had drum carded lovely batts that were so easy to draft, so I spun an effect yarn with a longdraw and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Lillemor is a Schacht dealer in Sweden.

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A few pics from the market on the boat:

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Tuulia and her assistant before the rush began.

Pirjo-Liisa with a customer before the rush:

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Part of Lillemor’s booth (I forgot to take a photo of her and her assistant):

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It’s not easy to walk past all those beautiful skeins and balls of yarn! All are high quality yarns dyed by skilled dyers. And, what makes me very happy, most of the sock yarns are thin. That suites me, as I wear woollen socks in my trainers and sandals.

There was so many beautiful shawls, socks, and other knitted items in the booths. Two of Pirjo-Liisas shawls that illustrate how a simple pattern shows the best of a beautiful yarn:

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So this was the first craft festival on the ferry. I heard several people talk about “next year” even before we left the ferry. So it was a success!

Crafter of the year, Årets Gunnar

I received a fine award this week – I’m the crafter of the year 2016 at Stundars, the museum and craft centre where my guild Björken is active. The award is called “Årets Gunnar”, “Gunnar of the Year”, after the museum’s founder Gunnar Rosenholm. I’m of course very proud and happy!

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Three of the diplomas on a wall in my spinning room are hand printed at Stundars’ printing museum. If I receive more diplomas I have to move the picture showing a part of the  Bayeux tapestry… it’s been with me for decades, an inspiration for a handspinner to spin fine and even threads for making art.

Left to right: Certificate of Achievement in Handspinning (Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers, UK) ; Gesällbrev, apprentice diploma (Stundars) ; Mästarbrev, master spinner diploma (Stundars) ; and the Crafter of the Year 2016 diploma.

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I got flowers, and I was interviewed in the local paper and radio station. Always nice to spread the word to a world that knows next to nothing about spinning!

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Boreray

First I want to thank everybody for your kind get well wishes! I’m getting stronger with each day. I’ve even started spinning again!

So, let’s start with a post I had intended before I collapsed in Stockholm at the beginning of December: Boreray yarn. I was able to buy a fleece last spring. The fleece is rooed, as Boreray sheep loose their fleece naturally. Rooed wool is longer than it would be if sheared. The fleece I bought is very white with a few darker fibres. I still haven’t been able to spin the darker bits that I picked out, but I have stored them in my spinning room and not in the attic so there’s hope for spring!

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The fleece was very clean, so I gently scoured the fleece only to remove some of the lanolin. The fibers have a lot of crimp, which makes it difficult to card if you leave all the lanolin and card without warming  the fleece first. I find that a bit difficult, as you must also warm the rolags/batts before spinning, so I prefer scouring.

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I split the batts lengthwise, predrafted, and spun with a woollen draw and very little twist. There was quite a lot of kemp, but most of it fell out during carding and spinning, even more in the finishing bath, and what’s left can either be left in the yarn or be picked out while knitting. I’m so pleased with this yarn!

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A soft yarn for warm hats and mittens! I think I’ll try nalbinding also, even it’s a knitting yarn.

Bumble bee in my wool

When I was looking into a shoe box with some beautiful Finnwool (aka Finnish Landrace aka Finnsheep), I noticed some dark spots. When I carefully pulled the top layer of wool away, I found this:

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Two dead bumble bees and two pupas. At least I think they’re empty pupas, please correct me if I’m wrong! Anyway, not a good place to make a nest, as the bumble bees get caught in the wool. They also seem to have been attacked by something. I have no idea what that predator may have been. It wasn’t easy to get into the box.

I think they are what’s called the Large Earth Bumble Bee, common in many places in Europe. We had a lot of different bumble bees last summer, and obviously some of them have tried to make nests in our attic.

There was still nectar in the wool, I hope you can see it in the photo:

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It’s sticky, but I didn’t taste it. Probably sweet.

I’ve wanted to have bumble bees as pets ever since I was a child. Every summer I want to stroke those wonderful insects, but I have some bad memories from earlier years that make me take a step back. So I don’t stroke them, even if the temptation is strong.

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Retired for good

I retired from my day work in 2011. Since then I’ve done some teaching in spinning, carding and fibre knowledge and tapestry crochet, and I’ve enjoyed it very much. But the time I may have left in life started to bother me: will I have time to do what I was longing for during all the years I worked full time for decades? It seemed I was planning for future classes quite often, trying to find fibres and preparing them and thinking of buying more equipment for the pupils to use. There’s not much money in teaching, good if I can get my money back, so buying even more equipment started to go hard on my economy. This year I came to a decision after having had a long and tiring time with Swedish bureaucracy to get my pay for two days of teaching in Sweden: I will stop teaching.

My last class was a mix of fibre knowledge, hand carding and drum carding, spinning on double drive and Scotch tension wheels, and top whirl spindle spinning.

I tried to fit in five spinning wheels and chairs in my spinning room, not quite sure I’d succeed:

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I made it! It was crowded, but it worked. At one point there was a baby on the floor learning how to crawl while his mother learned how to spin, and he had a tough job: he crawled into dangerous corners all the time, and was picked up and moved to a “safer” place: believe me, there are no safe places for babies in my spinning room! That was an awesome child, he was happy for hours! And so was the other baby who was so young he slept most of the time. We were not a silent bunch of people… I’m still quite taken by these two new humans and their ability to stay calm in such a noice. Kasper added to the cacophony because no one had time to scratch him…

So this is how it looked before the ladies arrived. My Hansen Minispinner is to the left out of the picture:

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I moved the fibre prep downstairs, with good help from my husband. As you can see in the first photo, Kasper was also helping as he always does! Today dear hubby has carried all the carders, drum carder table, wool, books etc upstairs again. And I have decided to keep all the wheel ready for work instead of pushing them against the walls and being forced to untangle them from each other if I want to use the one that was pushed next to the wall with all the others in front. Somehow I got more space with that arrangement. Don’t ask me how 🙂

We started with fibre theory for the first two hours. As a couple of the attendees have pet sheep, we talked a lot about ethical sheep husbandry, and also about pesticides and the use of water in cotton production. I was so happy with that discussion. People are quite aware of things now, compared to say ten years ago. But man made fibers and their part of the micro plastics problem was new to my pupils. I think some of them were severely deciding to cut down the use of superwash yarns and some clothes made from man made fibers. It’s not easy, but you can start by making small changes.

After lunch we moved to practical matters. We had time for a little bit of hand and drum carding, but there was no time for wool combing. Some wanted to spin, so all spinning wheels were in use, and at the end of the day two persons wanted to use a top whorl drop spindle.

Having fun with a batt: Santa beard!

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There’s some doubt about me being able to quit teaching 🙂 But I don’t have to teach, I can go to events and just sit down and listen and talk and give an advice or two… and I can give advice on the spinning groups on Facebook if I feel for it! There are several awesome Swedish and Finnish spinning groups on FB, all with a friendly atmosphere, and lots of skilled spinners who can answer questions if I feel a bit tired of answering the same question I’ve already answered at least 1000 times.

The day was intense, a bit chaotic, full of laughter and some frustrated “I’ll never learn this” which later turned into “Maybe I’ll learn after all”. A very good day to remember. I especially like the “Maybe I’ll learn after all”.

Our little helper:

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Now off to finish a spinning project. You’ll see the result in due time!