Blog hop and socks


I was invited to a blog hop around the world by mazzaus from Australia. Her blog Local & Bespoke is varied with great photos, and always interesting for someone who likes sewing, dyeing, spinning, silk worms. Thanks for inviting me, M!

Here are the three questions I have to answer before I hand over the baton to the next blogger:

1. What are you working on? I’m a spinner, but also a knitter, and occasionally I nalbind, weave bands on an inkle loom or cards, and I also sew. I’m quite fond of tapestry crochet! Right now I’m on “vacation”, which means I’m “resting” after a very intense spinning period that lasted for three and a half years. During that time I studied for the Certificate of Achievement in Handspinning in Online Guild, and the master spinner title in my local guild Björken at Stundars. Now I prepare fleece for spinning, I spindle every now and then, sew clothes, knit, and try to figure out the secrets of card weaving and learn more about inkle weaving. I will continue my work with wools from six Northern Short Tailed sheep, a work I started when spinning for my master spinner title.

2. How does my work differ from others? This is a difficult question. I’m a quite ordinary spinner. I like spinning in the old ways, i.e. I don’t much care about spinning art yarns. I love looking at them and admire the skills of some of the spinners, though. I love spinning and textile history, but that’s not unusual either. For me  spinning is much more than a hobby, even if I don’t spin for trade any more. I spun dog hair for customers for more than a decade. So, I don’t think my spinning differs from other spinners’ with the same interests as me. I spin many kinds of fibers, but mostly wool. I spin on supported spindles, top whorl spindles, I can spin on bottom whorls but prefer top, old wheels, new wheels, electric wheels. I prepare my fibers myself, or buy them readily prepared. I sometimes dye both wool and yarns. But different? No.

3. Why do I create what I do? An urgent need! I have felt this need ever since the beginning of the 80s when I touched my first fleece. I became obsessed very quickly. Every day teaches me something new about fibers and yarns.

And now I hand over the baton to TexasRanger, who lives guess where…  Have a look at her blog Deep in the Heart of Textiles! Like Mazzaus, TexasRanger takes beautiful photos, and she writes about many aspects of textiles. If you scroll down a bit you find her colour fastness test, which is quite interesting to me. I have a few natural coloured yarns sitting in a window since spring, waiting for me to see what the bright spring and summer sun has done to them.


I have mentioned one of the small museums in my municipality many times. Myrbergsgården has more than 5000 textiles, mostly from the late 19th century until WWII. This summer they showed knitted and crocheted items, and yes, the Nordic Knitting Symposium visited the museum and I think most of the knitters loved what they saw. I’ll show mittens and caps in another post, and the Vörå sweater will also have a post of its own. Today we’ll have a look at socks.

The socks from Myrbergsgården below are all knitted between 1880 and 1920.

Zig zag
Zig zag
Zig zag
Zig zag
Now it gets more difficult!
Stripes, honeycomb and colour work, stranded, plain

These socks were mostly knit by countrywomen who didn’t have written patterns. They borrowed a sock and tried to knit a similar one. That’s the way we get varieties and new patterns, new versions of old designs. I love that way of knitting socks, and that’s how I do it most of the time, even if I sometimes use a written pattern also. I’m a dedicated sock knitter. I have a sock (or two or three or four…) on the needles all the time. I don’t really need to knit socks, I could buy them if I wanted to.

But the countrywomen in old times couldn’t buy socks. They had to knit them, and often to spin the yarn too. They made the work more fun by using colours and different designs. Most of the socks shown here are for women and young girls. At the end of the 19th century women still wore long skirts. Imagine them lifting the skirts every time they stepped over thresholds or climbed stairs! You could see the beautiful socks then, and also a glimpse of the legs. They sometimes made the needles themselves, too. These jumper needles are made from bicycle spokes by a husband for his wife during WWII, to be seen in a museum in Kokkola:

Knitting needles
Knitting needles

The foot was often knitted in plain grey or brown wool yarn. It was common that new foots where knitted when the old ones couldn’t be darned any more. I don’t know what yarns all of these socks are made from, but I’m sure many of them are hand spun. The bright white and red socks in the first photo are made from commercial cotton yarn.

The sturdy work socks were usually handspun grey wool of a coarser quality, like these from the Stundars museum:

Work socks
Socks drying on the mantle piece in Stundars farm house

I’m quite amazed by the beautiful, skilled knitting in all socks shown in this post. I love the colours! You can see that anilin was popular at that time. We do love pink, don’t we? I also love the clearly defined stripes. I think I’m going to abandon the self-striping yarns and go back to the old way of knitting.

The honeycomb (I’m not sure what to call that stitch, please comment if you know!) combined with stranded knitting is very interesting. It was popular in some parts of Finland at that time.

Have you tried entrelac in socks? I have, once, and I had to frog it. It’s not easy even if you have a well written pattern. When the organisers of the Knitting Symposium first asked me to come and teach, they wanted me to teach entrelac socks. I said no. I’m not a very avid knitter, and the thought of teaching entrelac socks scared me. I will try to knit a pair once more to see if I can understand it better, because I sometimes use entrelac in sweaters and that doesn’t scare me at all. The sock in the close up has fewer stitches in the squares in the ankle part, the others seem to have the same amount in the upper part also.

A few decades later, in the 1940s, Norwegian influence like star designs can be seen in Finnish socks. Later still, in the midst of the western world’s boom of self-striping yarns, lace and intricate cables, a thorough book on plain socks was published in Finnish in 2009. It’s called Sukkasillaan (“sock-footed”), and I’d be surprised if it won’t become a classic. If you know the basics of sock knitting, it’s easy to be as creative as the women who knitted the socks in Myrbergsgården and Stundars.



Hand carders

At last! I took new photos this morning. Here they are. This is the treasure I found at the medieval event last Saturday:


New, unused carders from one of the renown card makers in Kokkola, Indola. The Kokkola area was known for high class carders from the end of the 19th century until the last one gave up and stopped making them in the 1980s. This is handcraft from beginning to end. The tines are mounted a pair at a time on leather. I had a pair that was very similar, worn out many years ago. Since then I’ve been looking for a pair of used Finnish carders, but didn’t find any I wanted to buy. There are second hand carders for sale every now and then, but they are often in very bad condition.

As you can see these also are a bit rusty. The old carders weren’t stainless like today, so no sprinkling of water on these carders is allowed. The very small rusty parts in my new carders will be kept rust free by using the carders, and adding a bit of oil to a few staples of wool every now and then and using it to clean and oil the carders. Or, by not scouring away all the lanolin from the wool. I’m one of those who doesn’t want to work with dirty wool. I scour almost all wool.

You can also see that these carders are not a matching pair. That doesn’t worry me, as I don’t switch hands when I card. I use the heavier card as my upper carder as it sits well in my hand. The card cloths are the same size.


Below three of my hand carders, and my flick carder. To the left are my old carders with a new cloth from Hedgehog Equipment. It’s plastic, so it has to be attached to the carder in a different way than leather cloth: by gluing it close to the wood. The fine cloth carder to the right is from Louet, also with the cloth glued. The Indola carder in the middle has a TPI (tines per inch) in between these two, and the tines are mounted on leather. The flick carder has strong, unbending tines.


Below: See how different the tines are in the three carders! On top the coarsest from Hedgehog, then Indola, and Louet fine. Notice that the leather isn’t glued to the wood. Instead the leather is glued to a sturdy piece of paper, and nailed onto the wood only around the edges as the leather must have space to move, otherwise it’ll crack. Also look at the wood grains: the two Finnish carders wood is turned in another way than the Dutch. I don’t know why that is, maybe it has something to do with the two different kinds of wood and the way the cloth is attached. My old carders naturally had leather cloth also, so the glue next to the wood is a new thing for them. Now this is NOT the way you store your carders, I only placed them like this so you could compare the tines. You store them belly to belly in order to protect the tines.


Here are all of my hand carders. The bench carders also have leather cloth, and they were made somewhere in Finland, maybe even at Indola. I got them as a wedding present, and my husband got a miniature plane so he could make a proper bench, but he was in a hurry and didn’t use it… I attach the mounted carder to the bench with clamps when in use.


Now why all these carders? For different kinds of fibers, obviously.

Louet fine: for very fine fibers like cotton, Merino, silk.

The coarse Hedgehog: for coarse, long wool and double coated wools like Åland, Värmland, and for opening other wools before carding on one of the other two.

The bench carders: for opening large amounts of fibers of all kinds. I sometimes use them for opening dog hair that is difficult to card and can be spun from a cloud.

Indola: for Finnsheep, Swedish Finewool, and other short, fine to medium wools. Indola’s carders are not a result of random card making. They are perfect for the wool they were made for, i.e. Finn. I can’t explain why the flexible leather, the sharply bent tines and the amount of tines per inch, is so perfect for these wools. But it is. I felt sheer, simple joy when I tested them at the booth in Kokkola and had the great pleasure of pairing two carders that seemed to be the best for my way of carding.

The label “Kardmuseum” indeed says “carder museum”. I still have to find out what that means. But obviously the equipment and also some of the raw material from Indolas kardfabrik is still stored somewhere in Kokkola. It was a cottage industry amongst other similar that sold carders all over Finland, and also exported carders to Russia around 1900. Before WWII Indola made some 50 000 pairs of carder yearly. Leather was another big business in the area, and that is one of the explanations why carders where made in several cottage industries there. For good carders you need good leather of the right kind: plant tanned sheep skin.

My little helper:


Autumn fair at Bragegården

Today we went to my old hometown Vasa (Vaasa in Finnish) for an autumn fair. We wanted to buy vegetables and see what else the energetic people from the museum guild at Brages Friluftsmuseum where up to. I have a faint memory of buying something at the fair many years ago while I still lived in Vasa, and I know I’ve visited the museum a long time ago. Today I found a museum worth a visit any time in the summer when it’s open. Most of the small museums in Finland are closed all other times except for summer because of the difficulty of heating the buildings, and also because most of them are maintained by local enthusiasts who don’t get paid for all the work they do.

There were far more buildings than I remembered, and the wedding room in the biggest house was more splendid than I remembered.


We came early, luckily, as there kept coming more and more people all the time and it must’ve gotten crowded later.

Part of the decorations in the ceiling of the wedding room:

Wedding room

Wedding room

I’ll return to this in another post, because there was lots to see in that room.

My friend Doris from Topparsbacken and her mother were there with Doris’ painted items. I owe several of her beautiful painted baskets.


There was much good handicraft, mostly knitted, but also woven. Finns usually don’t want photos to be taken, as they are afraid of copy cats (for good reasons), so I didn’t take many close ups of the booths. My constantly knitting friend Harriet was there, and she didn’t reject the thought of being uploaded!


I want you to see how well mushroom information is spread in Finland. A guild from Vasa, Vasa Svampvänner, has been doing this for decades, going to fairs with fresh mushrooms and answering questions and helping people with identification of mushrooms. All over Finland different organisations are sharing their knowledge with the help of educated experts. It was in one of the guilds in Vasa I first learned the basics about mushrooms. The first rule is: NEVER eat a mushroom you can’t by certainty identify!


Edible mushrooms, not always easy to identify


Definitely NOT edible mushrooms!

The main building of the museum is quite impressive. In our cold climate it’s not wise to build so big that heating becomes both laborious and expensive, so old farm houses like this always indicate a wealthy farm. The red paint you can see in so many places in Ostrobothnia originally came from Sweden, where farm houses traditionally were painted with a red earth colour that has been produced in Sweden for several hundred years.


We came home with potatoes that usually are grown in the most northern parts of Finland and Sweden, Almond potato, and chard and carrots. And a book with patterns in knitting, crochet, sewing, and more:


So what did I buy yesterday? OK, I took photos today, but I’m not satisfied so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Hope it won’t be an anticlimax… I believe only a spinner can be exited…

Medieval event in Kokkola

There seem to be a never ending row of middle ages events in Europe, and also in my small country. My husband and I went to one in Kokkola, 100 kilometres north from us. It was a great event with riders from Rohan Tallit, a play ground for the children with a king dubbing knights and a mini-tournament, fine craft for sale, barbecue, and talks on herbs in medieval tradition.

Everybody was there

Everybody was there

There was spindle spinning...

There was spindle spinning…

... and dyeing with fir cones

… and dyeing with fir cones

Plant dyed yarn

Plant dyed yarn

There was a King

The King

On their way to the tournament

And horses on their way to the tournament

And did I see the tournament?

And did I see the tournament? No :(   I saw the lances above the people’s heads…

I saw Death in the field when the tournament was over

…and I saw Death in the field when the tournament was over

We had barbecue pork...

We had barbecue pork…

...and others had a picknick

…and others had a picknick outside the church wall

I’ll tell you what a treasure I found in another post. I need to take a photo first. It was a very nice and satisfying day, and I can now stop searching for a tool I’ve been looking for for years!

Here’s one who was happy when we came home:

Watch out, hear comes Kasper!

Watch out, hear comes Kasper!

A Visit to the Fries Museum – Part the Third and Conclusion

Barbro Heikinmatti:

See what Tomofholland found in a museum! I learned to darn socks and smaller damages in cloth in school, but this is much beyond. I’m fascinated by Tom’s work, he gives darning new dimensions.

Originally posted on tomofholland:

A few weeks ago I visited the Fries Museum archives, and their textile conservator Gieneke Arnolli shared with me many beautiful textiles related to mending and repairing. It was the first time I saw darning samplers in real life. These samplers were educational tools for young girls, teaching them how to repair woven fabrics. However, the Fries Museum also holds many samplers for learning how to repair knitted fabrics. Needless to say that as I particularly enjoy repairing knitwear, these were possibly even more exciting than the darning samplers I shared in my previous post!

Fries Museum Knitted Darning Sampler 01a

One of many knitted darning samplers. This one stands out as it was knitted from and repaired with wool

The above knitted darning sampler is different from most of the samplers in the collection, as it was knitted from and repaired with wool. Most other samplers used cotton. Incidentally, it is also similar to the technique…

View original 1,047 more words

For two perfect spindles

I have this obsession with taking spindles with me when travelling. I have loads of purses, but these two spindles with big whorls haven’t had any earlier. Now they have one!


Square spindle from Michael Williams, Comet from Woolly Designs.  Both are perfectly balanced with long and fast spin.



Tapestry crochet, yarn Sandnes Garn Mandarin Petit. Lining polyester, I think. Card woven strap in Mandarin Petit. Old rag rug gifted by a kind neighbour.

I have been spinning also. I started this yarn at a training camp on Ravelry before Tour de Fleece, and finished it a few days ago. Spun on three different light weight spindles and Louet Victoria. Sock yarn, 4-ply, 697 meters, 200 grams, merino and silk. I think for needles 2 mm, but still have to swatch.

Spunnet på bossie, liten spindlewood, victoria. Merino, silke.