Spinning in public

The outdoor museum and crafts centre Stundars, where I spin in public a few times every year, opened a couple of weeks ago. I love spinning in the old farm house, one of the almost 70 buildings on the grounds.

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About 1500 school children, refugees, and senior citizens visited us during the three days the museum was open for groups in May. In June it’s open every day.

This visitor wasn’t afraid to sit down by my wheel! She hadn’t spun for a long time, but proved what all spinners know: once you’ve learned to spin, you know how to do it.

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A distaff for flax strick I found in one of the rooms. Wish I had one of those!thumb_P1000402_1024

A small wooden box that must’ve been even more beautiful when new. The yellowish strips are straw. Straw seems to have been used for decoration in most parts of the world. Behind the box is a Bible, a book that could be found in every home.

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My two fellow crafters, the two bobbin lace ladies Ulrike and Vuokko, trying to warm themselves on the first day when the house was still cold and a bit damp after the winter. I was warm and happy, sitting by the fire. The spinning traditionally took place next to the fire, because here in Ostrobothnia the wool was seldom scoured. You needed to keep it warm for easier carding and spinning.

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With so many buildings there’s always repairs to make.

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There’s a whole small village behind the buildings in the photo: the “Grey Village”. Those who could afford it painted their houses red and white. In the Grey Village lived the poor: often crafters like blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, seamstresses, carpenters.

There’s always a few easy crafts for the children to try. Here’s the rope maker waiting for the children to arrive. The gate way through the barn is typical for bigger farm houses here. It’s big enough for a horse and carriage. You could shut the door when needed.

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If shutting the gate door wasn’t shelter enough, you had your weapons close at hand in the farm house. The hunting weapon and the axes could be used also for defend.

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The mace is made especially for defend. The grim looking collar is for protecting the dog against wolves.

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There were good days, and there were bad days, as always. When I look at all the beautiful and clever things in our museums, I still have an impression that the good days were many. Maybe the mace was never used!

Nettles

It’s almost too late for nettles, but luckily they’re still young and fresh thanks to the rather cold May we’ve had. I love nettles! I think it’s one of the most tasty vegetables we have, and for free, which isn’t a bad thing at all. In the 50s my grandmother grew nettles in her town garden. People thought she was a bit odd, but nowadays they’d think she was wise. This is super food! Lots of vitamins and minerals in these. There’s plenty in our back garden. I use rubber gloves for picking them. Later they will grow new smaller branches, that can also be used if the the insects haven’t eaten them first. There are many who think this is a fine vegetable.

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Nettles in water. I soak them in cold water for a few minutes, then I rinse.

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I boil them less than one minute, just so the colour turns bright green, which tells me most of the oxygen has gone, and they will preserve well and look gorgeous in my dishes. I put them in cold water for a couple of minutes, and then I press out as much moisture I can with my hands. There are several ways of preserving nettles depending on how you’re going to use them later. This works for me and I’ve done it for decades.

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The kitchen machine takes care of the chopping.

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I use small plastic bags for storage. You could also freeze them the size of ice cubes, and keep them in bigger bags. I take as much from the bag that I need for my soups, sauces, bread, pancakes etc. One little bag contains enough for 3-4 dishes in our household of two grown ups. I started with three liters of fresh nettles, and now I have six small plastic bags that I need to put in a place in the freezer where I can find them during the winter. That’s the hardest thing of all!

I’ll pick and preserve more nettles another day.

Oh yes, I’m well aware of the fibres in nettles! I’ve tried a couple of times to use our common stinging nettle in a yarn, but I don’t have the patience to do it properly. There’s a lot of work before you get even a few fibres from those stems. The fine cloth you can spin and weave is called “nättelduk” or “nettelduk” in Swedish, which tells that the Swedish work “nässla” is the same as the English “nettle”.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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:

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And here’s the evidence:

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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.

 

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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.

Small balls of yarn

I love thin woollen sweaters. I looked through my stash and found yarns from many decades. Some as they came from the yarn shop, some dyed by me, some handspun. Here are some of them. I have enough for a sweater! Needles 2,25 mm. No definite plan, I knit as it pleases me.

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Portuguese pastoral

This is a beautiful, wonderful film from Portugal with English subtitle. Sheep, herding, wool prep, spinning, knitting, and fascinating sound.

I have two Portuguese spindles, but I’m still learning how to use this kind of spindle.

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The antique spindle is too fragile for spinning, so it’s a decoration only. The spindle from Saber Fazer has hand carved grooves, and feels lovely in your hand. But oh how difficult it is for me to do the right movements! My old wrist and fingers don’t want to do this. I feel so clumsy. I also need a decent distaff, so this summer I’ll go out in the woods and try to find the right little tree or big bush so I can make me one.

Crochet needles – a mystery

Look at these crochet needles on my spinning cloth. All are size 2,5 (mm I presume). If you don’t swatch very carefully when using a written pattern you may get very far from what you had planned, even when you use the suggested yarn. The three needles with the same thickness in the shaft have different hooks, so the result will be different if you change your needle to another in the middle of a project.

Swatching, swatching, that’s the life of a crocheter…

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Just for fun, have a look at different ways of sizing and numbering hooks. There are plenty of charts on internet.