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.
Last weekend I taught a beginners’ class in wheel spinning. Some of my pupils also took part in a spindle class last spring, and I was happy to see they wanted to learn more.
Five old Finnish Saxony wheels!
Two more Finnish Saxonys, and my Louet “Peerie” Victoria that I lent to one of the participants as the green wheel wasn’t in mood for working. The owner fixed it in the evening, but got so fond of my Peerie (who wouldn’t!) that she wanted to go on using it during the second day.
Finnish spinners will know what this is about: three wheels from Kiikka, called “kiikkalainen” in Finnish. The municipality Kiikka was famous for its skilled wheel makers, but all that ended when people stopped spinning. Luckily there are lots of old wheels in the second hand market, and among them hundreds of kiikka-wheels. You see mine (I call her Eevi) with the blue distaff stand in front. I use it for spinning in public, while my other two antique Saxonys are for home use only.
There was also a new German wheel, but I forgot to ask about the maker. Germany was, and is, an important country for spinners. All the wheels you see in this photo have their origin in Germany. The Saxonys came to Scandinavia from Germany centuries ago, and the upright wheels have continued to develop into interesting new forms there. I think the wheel in the front may be a Toika wheel, but if someone knows what it is, please tell me! It’s unfinished. EDIT: A kind reader has sent me a photo of a Toika wheel from the 80s. It’s much more robust than the wheel in the class, and many details are different. I therefore think the one in the class isn’t made by Toika.
My pupils had various skills from none to quite advanced. It’s always difficult to teach a beginners class to people who needs very different kinds of knowledge and skills. I had prepared myself for a situation like that, but you’d still need to be able to split into at least three persons! One who makes the wheels work, one who teaches the basics in spinning, and one who teaches advanced techniques.
But it was fun, thanks to the nice participants! The beautiful room in the Crafters House at Stundars is an inspiring place for small groups. I hope we can continue in the spring with fiber knowledge, fiber preparation, and one or two new spinning techniques.