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?
And of course there were spindle whorls:
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!
They had some lovely fibers and knits for sale:
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:
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:
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.
She spun a perfect yarn from my batt:
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.
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.
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:
I’ll show you more of her in another post. She’s worth a post of her own.
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.
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.
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.
They learned to pre-draft strips of fiber, a first lesson in handling a batt or top:
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!
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:
And here’s the evidence:
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.
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.
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:
For many years I disliked orange, I don’t know why. Now I like it! It’s such a happy colour. Warm like the sun, full of life. I dyed some Corriedale a couple of years ago, and last week I used my biggest Turkish spindle from IST to spin a yarn for tapestry crochet.
Ball of yarn!
Skein beside water mole hole. I wish all the water moles would move somewhere else and stop undermining our lawn and making it impossible to grow vegetables. Walking on the lawn in the summer is hazardous.
We had frost this morning! The summer neighbour’s old barn was glittering in the sun.
Kasper was bored with me today. I often have the camera with me when we take a walk, and he hates waiting for me. He was so happy when we came home and he saw hubby putting on his walking gear! Now they’re on a long walk in the woods. He’ll be a tired, happy old dog when they come home!
I have spindles of many kinds: top whorl, bottom whorl. Russian, Tibetan. Tahkli, Akha. Some are made by skilled spindle makers, others by myself. Some spindles are very dear to me. One such is my Maggie spindle from Magpie WoodWorks. It’s beautifully made, and it’s of course a very good tool. I wouldn’t be so fond of it it wasn’t, would I?
So I made a container for it. Tapestry crochet, commercial and handspun yarns, some dyed by me. Motives from the Korsnäs sweater, and the traditional birds from some Scandinavian knittings.
I put a plastic bottle inside, and a blue cotton lining. Tassels. A crocheted wristaff.
The warm glow of this perfectly turned wood…
I’ve had a few Cormo locks for some years. I gave up on them during a very busy period in my life. I found them again when I was looking for a fiber for my new top whorl spindle from LuxuryOverdose. The tips had been cut off already when I bought the wool, but carding wasn’t an option as there’s lanolin left. Opening the staples with a small dog brush was effortless, but spinning was still difficult. The staples are 8 cm long, and typical for Cormo, it’s very fine wool. The lanolin has stiffened during the years, so drafting is tricky.
But my lovely top whorl proved to be perfect for this difficult fiber! The spindle rotates very fast, which so twist is building up in a second. But it also spins for a long time, which allows slow drafting. I can spin a fine, even thread because the spindle gives me time to draft.
The photo shows the supported spindle with fine short Finn, and the top whorl with the superfine Cormo, and plyback samples.
Outside the trees are becoming green. A couple of days ago you could see a hint of the lovely light green colour that make people up here in the north a bit dizzy, and very happy. For many of us this is the loveliest time of the year. A view from the wood next to our house: these trees will soon be cut down, but that’s not a disaster. There will be new trees planted as soon as the forest machine has done the job.
Just when I thought I have all the spindles I need, I fell for a supported spindle that looked like it wanted to be spun by me. I had been looking for a spindle like that after having seen one quite similar in a Swedish spinning group on Facebook. Sturdy, robust, ordinary wood, no bling bling, just a tool made with care for the performance. So I bought it. It’s the one on the left.
I was quite surprised when I opened the package and found not only one spindle, but two. The maker had sent me a demo spindle as an extra bonus. It’s a top whorl with a kind of whorl I didn’t have earlier.
Both spindles are short. The top whorl is 8″, the supported 9 1/2″. They weigh 27 and 25 grams, which is what I like in spindles I use for fine to medium wools. The woods are new to me: cypress and red oak in the supported, yellow box and red/white iron bark in the top whorl, all from Australia.
So how do they spin? They are – perfect. I have many good spindles from renowned makers. I like them all. But there are spindles I return to over and over again. My bossies. The Maggie spindle, also quite new, but immediately a favourite. My IST Russian spindles. Michael Williams top whorl. Jenkins Kuchulu. My light weight Comets from Wooly Designs. Two light weight square top whorl spindles from Spindlewood. A home made doughnut supported spindle. And a few more.
But this little supported spindle is amazing. The length is perfect for me. I sit down in my armchair when I spin, so long spindles are a bit uncomfortable even if I keep the bowl beside me instead of in my lap.
I still have to spin more on the top whorl, but I can already see I like it. If it’ll become a favourite I’ll know later. Right now I’m so fond of the supported little tornado that I don’t want to spin on anything else.
David Johnson from LuxuryOverdose made those two lovely tools. One of the things that make me happy about spindles is, that you very often know who made them. Turning spindles is not easy. It takes time, practise, and a deep interest to learn how to make a good spindle. I can feel the fine craftsmanship when I hold a good spindle in my hand, and sometimes I can see it in a photo without even trying it first. You can see the good craftsmanship in the wood, the grain, the form, the finish, the balance, the proportions.
Spinning short hand carded Finnsheep. Making a butterfly so I can rewind the temporary cop to the final cop. The bowl is from IST Woodemporium.