I have carded some of my Swedish Finewool sheep wool the last few weeks. It’s incredibly soft! I dyed it last summer, but haven’t had time to prepare it for spinning until now. The Swedish Finewool sheep is one of Sweden’s national breeds, developed from old Swedish fine woolled sheep with a little bit of help from Finnish landrace (aka Finnsheep aka Finn) rams and some Norwegian breeds at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a rare breed nowadays, wish I shouldn’t have to use the word “rare” so often when I talk about sheep! I also carded what was left of a batch of Kainuu Grey wool. Yes, it’s a very rare sheep…
As always, I got tired of doing just one thing, so I still have all of the blue fleece to card. And I also got out of storing space! Carded wool can’t be pressed down into plastic bags just like that, it needs a lot of storing space. I hope you can see through the plastic bag how crimpy this wool is. It takes a lot of time and effort to tame it into spinnable rolags. I open it on the drum carder in 3-4 passes, and hand card into rolags. Spinning is pure joy! I spin the way I love the best: long draw on my Swedish Saxony.
I also finally finished two spindle shafts I made last year. I wasn’t satisfied with them, so I took my knife and sandpaper and made some improvements. They work fine now. The whorls are made by a Swedish ceramic artist and spinner, Lena Bergsman of Rostocks Keramik. You find her on Facebook.
We’re still waiting for spring. You may have heard of the Walpurgis Night, the celebration of spring here in Scandinavia and some other European countries. It’s supposed to be warm, sunny, green, and the spring flowers should be blooming. But not so this year! This is what we woke up to yesterday morning all over Scandinavia:
So we’re still waiting. Meanwhile, I give the birds some wool for their nests:
The last few days brought us a lot of snow just when we started to think it’s spring. Well, we should have a lot of snow this time of the year, and it’s usually quite cold.
It was cold this morning, -21 C°. No weather for outdoor activities until your hair is dry after the morning shower! So I took a photo of the morning sun indoors.
I have a carding job to do. That’s not easy in cold weather because the air indoors becomes very dry. The rolags cling to whatever they can. Your hands, the carders, the basket. I card in short passes and then wait for the static electricity to vanish.
The snow is beautiful, but it’s too cold for Kasper. He will be 13 years old this spring, and he can’t stand the cold as in younger days.
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!
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.
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!
A soft yarn for warm hats and mittens! I think I’ll try nalbinding also, even it’s a knitting yarn.
This is a beautiful, wonderful film from Portugal with English subtitle. Sheep, herding, wool prep, spinning, knitting, and fascinating sound.
I have two Portuguese spindles, but I’m still learning how to use this kind of spindle.
The antique spindle is too fragile for spinning, so it’s a decoration only. The spindle from Saber Fazer has hand carved grooves, and feels lovely in your hand. But oh how difficult it is for me to do the right movements! My old wrist and fingers don’t want to do this. I feel so clumsy. I also need a decent distaff, so this summer I’ll go out in the woods and try to find the right little tree or big bush so I can make me one.
Spinners must be the most generous group of people in the world! I want to show what’s been given me the last couple of weeks. Let’s start with mohair that Sanski Matikainen gave me. Sanski is a professional spinner, and she also teaches spinning and natural dyeing. She’s also very generous with advice on mohair, which a great joy for me.
This is a sample of mohair from a 14 year old goat named Birgitta. Soft and lustrous, and very white.
I washed it (remember, very hot water for mohair, otherwise the waxes won’t come out and it’ll be sticky and unpleasant to work with, and almost impossible to get clean later), and then browsed my stash to see what to blend it with for a sock yarn. I chose fawn Shetland top and white silk brick. Next step will be to gently card them together. There’s 14 grams of mohair, 14 Shetland, and 5 silk in each heap. I have four heaps altogether. I’ll add more wool to the blend, after advice from Sanski. Mohair is almost new to me, as I count the 4-5 times I’ve spun it only as an introduction.
Mohair (Angora) goats don’t go out very much in winter, because the damp weather isn’t good for their coats. Here Birgitta enjoys the nice sunny winter weather. All goat photos with courtesy of Sanski.
And after being to the hair stylist:
More of Sanski’s goats:
The second gift was some readily carded black Finn from Petra Gummerus. I spun a rather thin 2-ply. The two small skeins are bobbin leftovers from light brown and black Finn also from Petra. The yarns before washing:
May I present Weera, the black ewe who delivered her wonderfully soft and silky wool. Sheep photo courtesy of Petra.
She lives on Myllymäen Tila together with a herd of Finns with lovely fleeces in white, brown and black, gently cared for by her shepherdess and spinner Petra Gummerus. Petra spends hours skirting and removing double cuts and vegetable matter from the wool before she sends it to her buyers. She’s a gift to hand spinners!
The third gift is a rare wool. Härjedalsfår from Sweden isn’t a recognised breed. It’s a cross or mix of several breeds, where Norwegian Spaelsau seems to be dominant in this particular sample. There are only 5 flocks in Sweden, so there’s isn’t any chance they will be registered as a breed in the near future. But you have to start somewhere, don’t you? The sheep are double coated with a strong overcoat and a soft undercoat. Several breeds in Sweden have that kind of wool, among them Värmlandsfår, Dalapälsfår, Klövsjöfår, Roslagsfår. Thanks to Désirée, who sent me this! It’s still in the grease, but will be scoured very soon. I haven’t decided how to handle it. Separate the colours, separate the guard hair from the undercoat? Or just card everything together?
As you can see, I have some wonderful moments by the wheel ahead of me. I have to get it done soon, because it’s now definitely clear that I go to Shetland Wool Week in September. You who have been there, guess where I’ll go more than once? And what I’ll have to send home by mail, as it won’t fit into my baggage?
An odd thing happened when I was sick with the cold (or flu, whatever it was). Spinning made me cough! Weird.
But now I can spin again. Here’s what I’ve done the last few days:
Dog hair yarns! I also spun the red roving I showed in an earlier post. And the 3-ply barber pole is a yarn I don’t like very much, but I know it’ll be good in a weaving project. It’s unfinished in the photo.
The chiengora is my first dog hair yarn for many years. I used to earn part of my living by spinning chiengora for customers for some 15 years. I was so fed up with it for a long time, but now I wanted to see how my new drum carder would blend wool, Keeshond hair, and silk. It did it very well. Here I’m starting to blend opened (teased on the carder in one pass) Kainuu Grey wool with the dog hair + silk that has also gone through the carder once:
I used coloured silk in some of the batts, and spun three different yarns. Two skeins with thicker yarn, one thin with leftovers from a bobbin with merino (I think), and two skeins with my default yarn. I like them all!
There was pretty much debris in the wool and the dog hair! Some of the silk fell through, but that’s not a problem: shake it, and the debris falls out and you can use it.
After the successful carding of the rather long Keeshond hair, I wanted to try something I’ve been thinking of ever since Kasper came to live with us more than ten years ago. I’d like to spin his very short undercoat. So here we go: the 1,5-2,5 cm long Kasper hair on top, and some Kainuu Grey lamb locks underneath. I also added a little silk. Silk is magical in chiengora yarns. It binds the shorter fibers, and adds lustre to the yarn. I’m not afraid to use my scissors – I often cut silk tops into shorter lengths to make the blending and spinning short, tricky fibers easier.
Here’s a Kasper batt ready to be doffed off:
I haven’t spun the batts yet. As you can see, I haven’t blended the different shades of the Kainuu Grey thoroughly, as I like the heathered look very much. If I’d like an even colour, I’d card the wool separately in 2-3 passes before adding the evenly coloured Kasper hair. The undercoat from dogs is very fine and delicate, and it can’t be carded in more than 2-3 passes on the 72 tpi card cloth before it starts breaking and making pills.
So now I’m working through my not so small fiber stash. I’m opening fleeces in one pass. I’ll use most of those rovings for blending both for colour and structure later. It’s so much more fun to just start blending and not being forced to open the fleeces first! Here’s some light yellow Finn x Texel ready for blending or further carding as it is:
Yesterday my Christmas present from hubby arrived:
It’s a standard Classic Carder! 72 wpi, with options for replaceable drums of 48 and 120 if I’d need them one day. I started carding by blending short pinkish-red Norwegian Kvit Sau x Suffolk and long shrieking red Finn x Texel to see how fast the carder can blend them = very fast! I was happy to diz off a soft pencil roving in warm red after only a few passes. So satisfied! Love my husband 🙂 I also bought a porcupine quill for cleaning the drums. It works much better than I expected. It catches the fibers between the tines and lifts them up better than any other tool I’ve tried. My old electric Louet drum carder will soon move to a dear friend in Sweden. It’s served me well ever since the late 90s, but isn’t what I need now when I don’t spin for customers anymore.
This is my gift to myself: a beautiful spindle I found when browsing Etsy for a Turkish around 25 grams. It’s from Natural Knot Wood, a shop with many fine spindles. The arms are Chakte Viga, a new wood to me, and the shaft is Walnut. It spins fast, and as it fills up with yarn it also spins long, so it’s good for both spinning and plying. I continued the Corriedale project on this newcomer in my spindle stash. Yes, I do have a Turkish period!
A year has almost ended, once more. I’ve seen quite a lot of new years by now. This year has been so full of catastrophes and misery in many parts of the world (if not for me, my year has been extremely good), may the next be better! Here’s a window to 2016 from me to you:
There’s a smallholder in Australia with 100 Merino ewes and a few rams. Nui Milton is also a fabulous spinner. You can follow her on Facebook, look for Casalana Wool. I bought 200 grams of grey locks from her, scoured a few staples at a time, flicked them open in both ends with a small dog brush, and spun from the cut end as fine as I had the nerve to. I wanted a shawl yarn that can take some blocking, so I didn’t spin as fine as I could’ve done. No, I’m not boasting! This wool can be spun so fine you can’t see it! You only have to be patient, take breaks, don’t spin when you’re tired. I know some of the participants in The Longest Thread competition in Bothwell use Nui’s wool.
70 grams, 1260 meters. Enough for a small shawl.
Nui has found a way to keep the staples in order when stored. She simply uses rubber bands! They are easy to remove, and they don’t damage the delicate fibers if your careful.
I’m sorry for the bad photo quality. I hope you can still see how lovely this Merino is. I like Merino, I like the way it feels, how it just lines up into fine, soft yarns. It’s not a fiber for beginners, but once you’ve learned the basics of spinning, and feel comfortable with you wheel or spindle and your drafting, you can spin it.
I spun on the Hansen Minispinner (lace flyer), and plied with the WooLeeWinder.
Next step: to knit a lace shawl!
I dyed a fleece:
I bought several Finn x Texel fleeces to use in spinning classes. The wool is coarser than pure Finn, and easier to prepare and spin. This one I’ll spin myself. The bright colours I’ll use in a sweater for my granddaughter, the pale red and green in socks.
The spindling class last weekend was great fun! Seven ladies and a young lad got a first glimpse of the wonderful world of spindles. I love the new crafters house at Stundars. It’s built and decorated with the great skills you can expect from dedicated crafters. As always when teaching, I forget to take pics in class. I took this one, though:
I showed my spinning wheels also, as an introduction to an upcoming wheel spinning class in the autumn.
At last! I took new photos this morning. Here they are. This is the treasure I found at the medieval event last Saturday:
New, unused carders from one of the renown card makers in Kokkola, Indola. The Kokkola area was known for high class carders from the end of the 19th century until the last one gave up and stopped making them in the 1980s. This is handcraft from beginning to end. The tines are mounted a pair at a time on leather. I had a pair that was very similar, worn out many years ago. Since then I’ve been looking for a pair of used Finnish carders, but didn’t find any I wanted to buy. There are second hand carders for sale every now and then, but they are often in very bad condition.
As you can see these also are a bit rusty. The old carders weren’t stainless like today, so no sprinkling of water on these carders is allowed. The very small rusty parts in my new carders will be kept rust free by using the carders, and adding a bit of oil to a few staples of wool every now and then and using it to clean and oil the carders. Or, by not scouring away all the lanolin from the wool. I’m one of those who doesn’t want to work with dirty wool. I scour almost all wool.
You can also see that these carders are not a matching pair. That doesn’t worry me, as I don’t switch hands when I card. I use the heavier card as my upper carder as it sits well in my hand. The card cloths are the same size.
Below three of my hand carders, and my flick carder. To the left are my old carders with a new cloth from Hedgehog Equipment. It’s plastic, so it has to be attached to the carder in a different way than leather cloth: by gluing it close to the wood. The fine cloth carder to the right is from Louet, also with the cloth glued. The Indola carder in the middle has a TPI (tines per inch) in between these two, and the tines are mounted on leather. The flick carder has strong, unbending tines.
Below: See how different the tines are in the three carders! On top the coarsest from Hedgehog, then Indola, and Louet fine. Notice that the leather isn’t glued to the wood. Instead the leather is glued to a sturdy piece of paper, and nailed onto the wood only around the edges as the leather must have space to move, otherwise it’ll crack. Also look at the wood grains: the two Finnish carders wood is turned in another way than the Dutch. I don’t know why that is, maybe it has something to do with the two different kinds of wood and the way the cloth is attached. My old carders naturally had leather cloth also, so the glue next to the wood is a new thing for them. Now this is NOT the way you store your carders, I only placed them like this so you could compare the tines. You store them belly to belly in order to protect the tines.
Here are all of my hand carders. The bench carders also have leather cloth, and they were made somewhere in Finland, maybe even at Indola. I got them as a wedding present, and my husband got a miniature plane so he could make a proper bench, but he was in a hurry and didn’t use it… I attach the mounted carder to the bench with clamps when in use.
Now why all these carders? For different kinds of fibers, obviously.
Louet fine: for very fine fibers like cotton, Merino, silk.
The coarse Hedgehog: for coarse, long wool and double coated wools like Åland, Värmland, and for opening other wools before carding on one of the other two.
The bench carders: for opening large amounts of fibers of all kinds. I sometimes use them for opening dog hair that is difficult to card and can be spun from a cloud.
Indola: for Finnsheep, Swedish Finewool, and other short, fine to medium wools. Indola’s carders are not a result of random card making. They are perfect for the wool they were made for, i.e. Finn. I can’t explain why the flexible leather, the sharply bent tines and the amount of tines per inch, is so perfect for these wools. But it is. I felt sheer, simple joy when I tested them at the booth in Kokkola and had the great pleasure of pairing two carders that seemed to be the best for my way of carding.
The label “Kardmuseum” indeed says “carder museum”. I still have to find out what that means. But obviously the equipment and also some of the raw material from Indolas kardfabrik is still stored somewhere in Kokkola. It was a cottage industry amongst other similar that sold carders all over Finland, and also exported carders to Russia around 1900. Before WWII Indola made some 50 000 pairs of carder yearly. Leather was another big business in the area, and that is one of the explanations why carders where made in several cottage industries there. For good carders you need good leather of the right kind: plant tanned sheep skin.
My little helper: