Category: Spinning

Shetland: Burra Bears and Jamieson’s

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.

Jarlshof:

thumb_p1010469_1024

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.

thumb_p1010486_1024

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.

thumb_p1010570_1024

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.

thumb_p1010554_1024

 

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.

thumb_p1010505_1024

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.

thumb_img_0746_1024

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:

thumb_p1010498_1024

 

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:

thumb_p1010641_1024

Jamieson’s also produce Shetland knits:

thumb_p1010644_1024

From a hand spinner’s view this looks impressive:

thumb_p1010645_1024

… and complicated…

thumb_p1010653_1024

Jamieson’s also produce weaving yarn:

thumb_p1010661_1024

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.

thumb_p1010627_1024

 

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 🙂

thumb_p1010516_1024

New houses in Scalloway are often build from wood, which hasn’t been usual in the treeless Shetland.

thumb_p1010530_1024

 

Back in Lerwick the stairs up to the self catering almost killed us…

thumb_p1010536_1024

But once you’d gone through that ordeal, you could rest in a comfortable, clean and well equipped apartment.

thumb_img_0683_1024

Advertisements

Dyeing and spinning bouclé with friends

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:

thumb_p1010019_1024 thumb_p1010010_1024

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!

thumb_p1010025_1024

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?)

thumb_img_0339_1024

This is Mervi patting out dyes on her top. She’s our Renaissance crafter, she knows more techniques than any other of us:thumb_p1010029_1024

Here’s our dyeing that first day, still dry after the rinsing (my blue top is already hanging to dry outside the photo):

thumb_p1010049_1024

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!

thumb_p1010039_1024

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:

thumb_p1010022_1024

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:

thumb_p1010044_1024

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:

thumb_p1010028_1024

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.

thumb_p1010061_1024

“Slow fashion”

Today I want you to watch Josefin Waltin’s beautiful video “Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater”.

Slow fashion

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.

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.

thumb_P1000554_1024

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!

thumb_P1000557_1024

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!

thumb_P1000566_1024

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!

thumb_P1000437_1024

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.

thumb_P1000283_1024

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.

thumb_P1000293_1024

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.

thumb_P1000296_1024

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

thumb_P1000300_1024

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!

thumb_P1000317_1024

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:

thumb_P1000307_1024

And here’s the evidence:

thumb_P1000321_1024

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.

 

thumb_P1000308_1024

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.