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.
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:
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:
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.
I fell in love with Lerwick when I first went to Shetland in 2010. Stone, stone, stone everywhere, still the impression of the town is friendly and welcoming. The people are so friendly! I haven’t seen any irritation at all with the whimsical tourists who take photos of everything and are in the way in the narrow streets and shops, and sometimes also shrieking instead of talking, which is considered to be a bit uncivilised in many European countries. More information about Lerwick here.
Kerstin and I had a plan for our Shetland trip, and one of them was to walk in the centre of Lerwick for one day. Of course that had to be the only day it was raining during that week! So we didn’t see all the places I had planned, but it was quite a good day anyway.
Let’s start with a photo I took a couple of days earlier, when it wasn’t raining. This is Commercial Street with our self catering upstairs in the building to the right. I love the bunting!
And a couple of days later seen from the market square:
From the other end:
The Shetland Library. It used to be a church:
It’s a beautiful library, but as a librarian I can see there’s not enough space. With movable shelves you can easily change the rooms, though.
Shetland Museum and Archives:
When you walk towards the museum you see this, if it happens to be Shetland Wool Week:
The sea is present everywhere in Shetland, so also in the photo above. An old black ship is anchored next the museum.
I’ll show more from this enchanting place in another post. It has a big and well displayed textile collection. But if you turn around and look in the other direction, you see Hay’s Dock, one of the most beautiful places in Lerwick on a sunny day:
But back to the old part of Lerwick: Lodberrie. This used to be a private pier. The houses were build in 1730:
Lodberrie from the other side. All who have watched the Shetland TV series know this building. For your knowledge: Jimmy Perez walks through the green door, but the kitchen you can see inside isn’t in Lodberrie. It’s somewhere in mainland Scotland, Glasgow perhaps?
And the famous door:
And now: Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith, aka J&S. The wool room and the shop. And you know what? I forgot to take photos in the shop. I have been talking angrily to myself, but it doesn’t help. So have a look at their site to see what they offer. They ship worldwide.
When you walk through that door you enter a big room with different qualities of yarns, tops, and literature on shelves that fill the walls. There are also knitwear and knitting equipment, and in the middle a counter with desks on four sides so the nice and service minded, qualified persons inside can serve a lot of customers at a time. At least two skilled designers work at J&S: Sandra Manson and this year’s Wool Week Patron Ella Gordon.
This is the headquarter of Shetland Wool Week, here it was initiated in 2010. It grows bigger and more beautiful with each year.
I’ll take you to the wool room next to the shop, because luckily I remembered to take photos there. First a glimpse of the incredible, lovable Oliver Henry, the man with more knowledge about Shetland wool than anyone else. I was at his last wool talk on September, Friday 30th, and it was just as fascinating as his talk at Stirling University in 2010, and later that same year in this very wool room. Oliver will retire in a near future, which makes many of us a bit sad. But he has an heir, a young lady called Jen, and I’m sure she’s capable, and the work will continue.
Oliver working in the wool room before his talk, moving wool from one place to another:
Below: Oliver talking about wool, showing us different types of Shetland sheep wool. His fingers are constantly touching the wool, patting it, stroking it, adding fleece after fleece on the table. The audience is so quiet, we try to take in what he’s saying, try to remember as much as possible. Behind him the already classified fleeces from supreme to cross to double coated, all in their designated shelves. In a room downstairs: more fleeces. From one of the piles I pick a supreme fleece for three friends in Finland.
Two types of fleece: supreme and double.
Oliver’s hands examine a wool staple from a Shetland supreme fleece. He demonstrates what this fleece will be turned into by showing us the supreme quality top and a ball of Shetland Supreme 1 Ply Lace Weight, a yarn almost as thin as sewing thread. Beside them lace scarves knitted from this yarn.
A close up of a Shetland supreme fleece. All you spinners out there: don’t we love that crimp?
Yes, I love Oliver Henry’s great knowledge, the quality of his work, his humble but at the same time confident way to present it. The even quality of the yarns J&S produce depend on the farmers and their work with the sheep, and on experts like Oliver.
One last photo from the wool room. This is a double coated fleece, a quality that is very difficult to turn into yarn in a ordinary modern mill. But handspinners can! Don’t be afraid to buy beautiful fleeces like this. Double coated fleeces have been used for thousands of years. With the right kind of knowledge and skills you can spin them and weave, knit or felt beautiful and much valued sweaters, hats, mittens, blankets, socks, carpets.
Just now I feel like going back to Shetland.
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.
What a stage in Tour de France today! Luckily I was plying, so I didn’t have to keep an eye on my spinning. It’s scary to watch the riders come down in full speed, up to 90 kilometres an hour. They were going up those hairpin bends, but it was still horrific to watch them coming down on the other side of the mountain.
My Tour de Fleece is going very well this year. I didn’t set more goals than to chain ply a thin singles with a lot of twist, and that I have already done. So I’m just taking it easy and spinning for pleasure. I have finished a small skein of Finnsheep lamb, grown and dyed by my favourite sheep farmer Petra. We call her wool Petrawool nowadays to show our liking and admiration for what she’s doing. 2-ply, 70 grams, 477 meters.
I also finished two skeins of Finnsheep + Finnsheep x Texel. I dyed two tops earlier, and wanted to spin a chain plied yarn to see how the fibers bend. They bend pretty well, better than I thought they would.
This is very nice wool for sturdier projects if you spin with much twist, and for finer textiles if you spin thin with less twist.
Today I plied 100 grams of BFL/Cashmere, a custom blend from World of Wool for my friend Britt-Marie in Sweden. I haven’t skeined it yet, so have a look at it as singles. The plied yarn looks much the same:
Tomorrow I’ll start spinning two batts carded by my friend Carina, with wool from her own sheep, Dala Fur.
Last Sunday hubby and I worked in public. I was spinning (surprise?), and he was making rope together with another crafter. He looks rather puzzled, while his companion Rune looks more happy.
Rune’s wife Stina was nalbinding. She’s a lady with many skills! A bookbinder, a beginning spinner, a skilled knitter, book printing, and probably many more skills I haven’t seen yet. Just to make things a bit exciting in public, she was binding a sock!
I dyed some wool last week. Method: cling film and a steam cooker.
This is Finnish wool, a mix of Finnsheep and Finnsheep/Texel cross. Soft and not very long, just above 7 cm which is what’s required for commercial tops. It behaves a bit like Merino: gets bigger and bigger while drying because of great amount of crimp.
I’ll spin two braids during TdF.
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?