Category: Spindles

Taming my Akha spindle

 

 

I bought an Akha spindle from Spindlewood many years ago, but never learned to use it properly. The spindle is very nice, and well made as all spindles from Spindlewood. But I didn’t quite understand the technique with Akha spinning, so I put it away and hoped for better luck later.

That later came a couple of days ago, when my Swedish friend Anna-Britta posted in a Swedish spinning group on Facebook. We had a very interesting chat, watched a few videos on Youtube, and I got inspired enough to pick up my Akha again.

This time I succeeded! It’s so fun! And it’s amazingly effective for cotton spinning. Thank you once more Anna-Britta!

Now I’m waiting for the weather to be warm enough for carding punis outdoors. It was snowing yesterday, but also a few warm and nice moments with an optimistic sun peeping through the clouds. So, maybe next week?

Snow in the middle of May… not unseen in earlier years, but this is too much. It’s been one of the coldest springs the last 100 years.

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Wool

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:

Busy summer – some results

My summers tend to be busy, considering I’ve been retired the last 5,5 years. I’ve been spinning in public and teaching. I’ll post more later, for now my trip to Överkalix in northern Sweden is quite enough for one posting.

Let’s start in Torneå (Tornio in Finnish) in northern Finland. This was my husband’s home tome in his teens. It’s a lovely small city with the impressive Torne älv (the Tornio river, Tornionjoki in Finnish) running through it, and the Swedish town Haparanda (Haaparanta in Finnish) on the other bank. Those two cities live as if there’s no state boundary at all between them! People cross the bridge all the time for shopping, it’s part of everyday life. The area has been inhabited for at least 8000 years, as the climate is milder and friendlier than you’d expect so far in the north.

Three photos from the city museum: a beautiful spinning wheel and a few of the many distaffs they have on display. I wonder, can you walk into a museum in Finland and not find at least one distaff?

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And of course there were spindle whorls:

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Then let’s drive over the bridge to Sweden. Hubby and I, and of course, Kasper the dog, drove some 100 kilometers north from Torneå to Överkalix, where they have a crafts event every August. I was to teach tapestry crochet and spindle spinning. I also met some of my spinning friends, who meet in Överkalix during the wool weekend that ends the craft week. It was a very cold weekend for them during the Spin in Public. It can be very warm and nice in Överkalix in August, as we noticed last year when it was hot and sunny. But not so this year. They were freezing!

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They had some lovely fibers and knits for sale:

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My introduction classes had tempted some lovely people. All learned the basics of the not so easy tapestry crochet technique. All also learned how to use a drop spindle. Eight hours is just enough to learn the basics, and sometimes it’s not at all enough. We run out of time during the spinning class, because there was quite an amount of curious people dropping in all the time, and they proved to be a bit of a disturbance. I didn’t want to show them out, as we had onlookers during the crochet class also, but they stayed in the background and didn’t interfere.

A snapshot from the crochet class:

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My classes were in a beautiful old mansion that has been restored into a restaurant and hotel. It’s not always you see a table cloth like that in a classroom! And the food was excellent – I miss the salmon pudding and the delicious corn soup.

My spindle class and me with my laptop showing pics of my wool combs:

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There was one lady who didn’t come to the class to learn, but to show something. I was so happy for this, and the others where amazed as they couldn’t imagine this can be done. It was a lady from Afghanistan. She sat down beside me and picked up a stone from her purse. Now you who know the history of spindle spinning recognise a stone as a spindle if you have fiber and want to make a thread, which she did.

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She spun a perfect yarn from my batt:

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I also want to show an item that made me just as happy as the stone. It’s a spindle whorl owned by one of the officials involved in the arrangements during the crafts week. This is the first time I’ve actually been able to hold a whorl that old in my hand (except for one from Israel that I own and use). It was a solemn moment at the lunch table and the salmon! Salmon was most probably a common meal in the time that whorl was used, by the way.

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And here is Katarina, one of the volunteers making things happen during the crafts week. As being one who’s had to arrange events as part of my job (no, I wasn’t at all fond of that part!), I can imagine how much she’s had to fix for this event. Here she’s selling products from her and her husband’s sheep farm.

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On the way home Kasper had to look at the world through my new companion. My friend Elaine found it for me 620 kilometers south from Överkalix. She took it a few hundred kilometers north, where my friend Britt-Marie somehow managed to get into the back seat of her car, and she took it to Överkalix. And then it traveled 640 kilometers south again, but in another country and on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia. May I present Hilma-Elaine, my new love:

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I’ll show you more of her in another post. She’s worth a post of her own.

A spindle from Sweden

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Some of you may have noticed I’m fond of wood. My spindles are made of beautiful woods by skilled craftsmen. I have lots of spindles! But there’s always room for one more.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a new spindle maker in Swedish spinning groups on Facebook. I became interested because Forsnäs hemman uses Swedish woods, which isn’t very common in the spindle world. I also noticed the shape of the whorl: broad, thin, and slightly rim weighted. An accomplished spindle spinner immediately understands what that means. The spindle will spin for long, and fast. I was caught 🙂

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I was a bit uncertain about the placement of the whorl. I’m a dedicated top whorl lover. As you know, that doesn’t have much to do with the performance of the spindle, it’s a personal preference only. After a couple of days of pondering, I decided to buy a bottom whorl. I learned to spin on a bottom whorl in the 80s, I wouldn’t have problems spinning with one now. After all, it’s a long time since I last purchased a bottom whorl, so why not step out of my comfort zone?

I’m happy I bought the bottom whorl! It’s a lovely spindle. I love the wood, I love the colours. It’s smooth, it feels nice. The balance is very good. I can use the spindle both supported and suspended – a great advance when you want to spin thin on a spindle that in fact is too heavy for the very fine yarns I usually spin with spindles. I start half supported (only letting the spindle gently touch my thigh, drafting worsted), and when the yarn has enough strength I lift it up and give the yarn the final twist (suspended). Drafting worsted with a supported spindle is possible when there’s a hook. The upper part of the shaft is slightly square, which helps in having a firm grip when you twirl it.

Today I took it out and tested its performance in the constantly windy weather we have in our valley. No problems at all! It seemed it didn’t notice the wind! I know Abby Franquemont says somewhere that bottom whorls are better in windy surroundings. now I have noticed that for myself.

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Maybe a seed from this little pinecone will grow up and become a spindle one day?

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Pines, spruces, and rowans in our back garden. And the very annoying pole that was planted in one of our flower beds one day by the telephone company. Why couldn’t they just dig the cables into the ground? OK, too expensive, I know.

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Lazy days

I haven’t done much lately. Finishing patterns for a tapestry crochet class, spinning a bit, knitting socks. Made a mess of my rooms, and don’t seem to be able to gather enough strength to tidy up. It doesn’t matter. I know I’ll get myself together when it starts to bother me.

Hubby and I went to my home town for the fish market that is held at the beginning of June every year. Vaasa is nice in the summer, if you remember to dress for the cold winds that usually blow from the sea this time of the year. The town is so green, and so blue! There are lots of trees and water everywhere.

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There was a band, but they weren’t ready yet when we left. I wonder how many kilometres of wire they need? A guy was fixing the sound forever!

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This is a typical street by the water front. This part of the town is one of the oldest, and the flagstones are protected. There was a lot of discussion the last time they had to repair the streets, as it’s very expensive and time consuming work. Luckily the stones are still there!

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I spin in a SAL in the group Mirkwood Arts & Handcrafts on Ravelry. I wanted to spin something I’ve never done before, and came up with a bead yarn on a supported spindle. I’ve spun bead yarns on my wheels, so I’m familiar with it, but the supported spindle needs a slightly different technique. I add about 20 beads at a time, and protect them with tissue paper so the very thin singles won’t get tangled up when I wind on more yarn. I don’t make a ball for the same reason, instead I use a ball winder. I hope to be able to spread the beads while plying. Spindle: TdF 2015 Racer from Mirkwood. I love that spindle!

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Two more weeks to go with the SAL, then it’s time for Tour de Fleece once again. I think this will be my seventh TdF. The summer is so full of fun events!

Spindle spinning class

I was asked to teach a spindle class at Juthbacka, a manor house in Nykarleby. Juthbacka is nowadays a restaurant and cultural centre with many kinds of activities. My grandmother used to talk about it with great affection. I think she was one of the house wives that were given the opportunity to have a short vacation in these beautiful surroundings in the 1950s. So this building always makes me think of my dear grandma, who was a textile person in heart and hand.

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Parkways with birches used to be common in Finland. Even small farms could have two impressive rows of birches leading from the road up to the house. The estate is first mentioned in the census type listings in 1654. Much has happened since then, and there are less flattering newer buildings on the grounds that I prefer not to show. But the main building is beautiful, I think. Not big and impressive, but with good proportions, and inviting.

We spun on the upper floor in a nice room with beautiful light, even on this chilly day with rather heavy clouds.

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I gave the ladies drum carded colourful batts of Finn-Texel cross and Corriedale. I like that mix. The Finn-Texel is easy to draft also for a complete beginner, and the Corriedale makes it softer without making it more difficult to draft. I also want a beginners batt to have variegated stripes of fibre. It’s easier for them to see how the fibres twist in the singles and in the 2-ply I want them to make during the class. And it helps them to see how colours behave in a yarn.

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They learned to pre-draft strips of fiber, a first lesson in handling a batt or top:

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I always start with twisty sticks, and after a few minutes we change to a top whorl spindle that isn’t too heavy. You don’t want the yarn to break all the time because the spindle is too heavy for your yarn! Spindles that weigh 30-35 grams are good for the fibre blend I use, but may be slightly too light for plying bulky yarns as one of my pupils discovered. She had to struggle getting the yarn onto the spindle, but she made it!

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In fact all my eleven pupils spun, plied, and skeined their first yarn during the day. From the twisty stick to park and draft using a spindle, to letting it go while plying – I was so impressed!

Look at them plying:

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And here’s the evidence:

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Talking about spindle weights: one of the pupils had an awesome spindle, made by a relative (grandfather?) of hers. Far too heavy for a beginner, but perfect for plying. She used it later in the day for plying the yarn she had spun. Sorry for the quality of the photo! I have seen pictures of spindles like this, but not in real life earlier. I was happy, it’s fine piece of handcraft, and a good tool.

 

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What next? Fibre prep! I think it’s better for beginners to start spinning at once, than to struggle with fibre preparation before they know how the fibres will be used. Learning both the same day is a bit like starting by spinning your yarn if you’re in a beginners knitting class.

Portuguese pastoral

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.

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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.