This week I had a group of nine beginning spinners coming for an excursion in my studio, another group of five new spinners came for a spin-in, I went to an exhibition in town, and my brother and his family came for lunch. Kasper was especially happy for that, as they had their puppy Vilda with them. Vilda means “the wild one”… but she’s actually just a lively young dog, and so cute!
Some of my spinning friends having fun in my spinning room:
There was also a lovely baby. He slept most of the time, and when he was awake he was studying everyone with interested keen eyes. Kasper was checking out everyone and everything as usual.
At the end of the day: first skein ever made by Ida! She started by shearing a sheep, washing and preparing the wool, spinning two strands, and yesterday she plied and skeined the yarn during the spin-in. Here the skein is examined by her and Linda before she leaves with her beautiful green Finnish Saxony:
I love spin-ins! They are informal meetings where you can learn a lot, but mostly I’m just enjoying being with friends who like the same things as I do (and they don’t find me weird…) I so totally love this, as I was a lonely spinner for so many years.
Spring is coming, but we also had some snow at last. Kasper was happy to find hubby in the forest. It’s not difficult when you can see the tracks 🙂
They had a lot to talk about!
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:
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.
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:
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:
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!
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:
Now off to finish a spinning project. You’ll see the result in due time!
ETA: Please note that the spinning mill “Jamieson’s of Shetland” is a different company than “Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith” aka “Jamieson & Smith” aka “J&S”. I will return to J&S later.
Writing about all of the places I tell you about in this post would make a very heavy post with far too many photos. So I decided to give you links instead. Hope you don’t mind!
I was in northern Sweden in August 2015, meeting up with Swedish spinning and knitting friends for a weekend together. I showed photos from my first trip to Shetland in 2010, and all of a sudden some of us were planning a trip to Shetland Wool Week in 2016! In the end only Kerstin from Sweden and I from Finland were able to go, but others joined in: my friends Sarah Jane from US and Veronica from UK who were also in Shetland in 2010, and Malin and her husband Urban from Sweden. We booked Fort Charlotte Self Catering in the centre of Lerwick in September 2015. Before leaving Shetland in October 2016 we heard it was already booked for Wool Week 2017.
I went to Orkney on Wednesday 21st, and flew to Shetland on Saturday 24th. Four of my friends met me at Sumburgh airport. We then drove to Jarlshof to have a look at the Viking site, but as it was closed we went on to Hoswick Visitor Centre for tea and coffee, and then to Lerwick.
In the Hoswick Visitor Centre we saw this small Shetland spinning wheel. We saw many more of the same kind during the following week. Wheels like this have been used for spinning yarns for lace and sweaters in Shetland. There are still handspinners who know how to spin Shetland wool into the super thin lace yarns.
The Shetland Wool Week Opening Ceremony was a grand show with live music, a fashion show with garments made by renowned Shetland designers, good food and drink. Here’s Nielanell on stage. She designs garments that work like magic: they fit all types of figures.
And then all of a sudden the Guizer Jarl and his Squad marched in! The handsome “Vikings” with their thoroughly made costumes and friendly behaviour were well appreciated and much admired. No one was hurt or killed… Find out more about the fire festival here: Up Helly Aa. You can also watch it live, next year on Tuesday 21st January 2017. The Viking influence is strong in Shetland even without the Jarl Squad, and for a Swedish speaking tourist like me Old Norse is obvious in many place names and in the Shetland dialect.
Kerstin rapidly got used to driving on the left side of the curvy and narrow roads. She kept murmuring “vänster, vänster, Kerstin vänster” in the roundabouts and crossroads (Swedish “vänster” meaning “left” in English”). Following that rule she took us to Burra Bears and Jamieson’s Mill during the first two days.
The crossroad to Houss and Burra Bears. Stonewalls are one of the most common sights in Shetland.
I bought a bear from Burra Bears. I couldn’t get one to fit into my luggage the last time, but now this sheep-bear sits beside me in my spinning room.
The Burra Bears studio is beautifully situated in Houss on East Burra, with sheep grazing on the hill slopes, and with the firth (I hope this is the right word for the bay between East and West Burra) on the west side. I didn’t take photos in the workshop, but here’s one from outside:
Jamieson’s of Shetland produces yarn from Shetland wool. Kerstin and I walked through the mill with it’s big, clean, impressive machines. They also wash and dye wool, but we didn’t see that part of the mill. We had no guide because we weren’t able to book the official tour, but it was still interesting to se the mill. Here Kerstin is trying to choose yarns from the shelves in the shop:
Jamieson’s also produce Shetland knits:
From a hand spinner’s view this looks impressive:
… and complicated…
Jamieson’s also produce weaving yarn:
We had time to drive down to the beach near Jamieson’s, where you can see Papa Stour, one of the biggest islands in the Shetland archipelago. There’s a small church and a church yard, beautifully situated by the sea.
Scalloway is a small town near Lerwick. We drove there on the way home from Burra Bears. We wanted to see the castle, but just like Jarlshof it was closed. Maybe next time… It seems I have to go to Shetland at least once more to see everything that was closed 🙂
New houses in Scalloway are often build from wood, which hasn’t been usual in the treeless Shetland.
Back in Lerwick the stairs up to the self catering almost killed us…
But once you’d gone through that ordeal, you could rest in a comfortable, clean and well equipped apartment.
The last week in August hubby, Kasper and I drove southeast, so close to the Russian border that you could see Russia if you climbed a small hill. We met with my spinning friends Petra and Mervi at Sanski’s, who’s a professional spinner and natural dyer. She also has a few angora goats, that provide her with mohair. And she has a beautiful garden! This is just one of her gorgeous dahlias:
Sanski lives by one of Finlands lakes. We have about one thousand lakes! It was a calm, beautiful day when we arrived, and continued to be so the next days.
This Finnish top from Pirtin Kehräämö thinks it’s a snowman, only needing a couple of arms and eyes, and a nose and mouth to be perfect. But oh what a surprise: soon it’ll be teared apart and sprinkled with dyes!
This time we dyed with reactive dyes, which only Mervi knew from earlier. I was surprised by the very clear and vibrant colors our Finnish tops showed after having dried. I dyed blue (surprised anyone?)
Here’s our dyeing that first day, still dry after the rinsing (my blue top is already hanging to dry outside the photo):
Sanski got quite excited and acid dyed a lot of top after we had left her alone so she could flip out in peace 🙂 I’m sorry I don’t have a photo to show! But here is her wall of yarns dyed with natural colours, all light fast. Her dyeing is magical!
Petra is a sheep farmer who hasn’t spun for very long, but pretty fast it turned out she’s a natural spinner. We had a task for our small retreat: everyone had to spin core yarn for a classic bouclé yarn. Here Petra takes a close look at mohair from Sanski’s goats, so different from Finnsheep wool:
At Sanski’s all four of us spun mohair for the bouclé wrapping. And then we wrapped it around the cores, and that was a sweaty job. Think: fresh core yarns, and freshly spun mohair with lots of twist! But we made it. Look at this skein, fresh from the skein winder and before finishing:
That’s a yarn spun by four spinners from different wools for the core, different types of mohair for the bouclé wrapping, and the same cotton sewing thread as binder. Please admit we were very clever and skilled! We also used different wheels: two upright Scotch tension, an antique Saxony, and a Hansen Minispinner.
My reflexions from those three days: we four spinners are as different as dyers as we are as spinners. Spinning and dyeing is so similar to your temperament. I think we four friends cover the most common types: the impulsive, and the thoughtful and meticulous, and a mix of these.
Sanski and me had already fallen into the dye bog. Now Mervi and Petra are splashing around there with us. Only Kasper didn’t think it was a hit:
But he was happy in the beautiful woods of that region. Hubby took him for long walks, and in between they just rested.
Hubby, Kasper and I had a fast and beautiful trip home. We haven’t been much in that area of Finland. We both fell in love with the nature with the forests and lakes, and the small hills.
Today I want you to watch Josefin Waltin’s beautiful video “Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater”.
While on Youtube, watch her other videos! There’s one on how to spin on a supported spindle which in my opinion is one of the best instruction videos about this technique.