Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer of workshops

This year it has been a bit of a working holiday. I have been involved in three very different workshops, and I just love spreading the word about crafts!

The first was on the 19th of June. There was a large youth festival in town with musicians and artists from all over Sweden. This was the final round of a festival that had toured the country and the best acts had qualified for this final meet. Someone on the organizing committee had gotten the idea to have guerilla knitting as one of the workshops. I somehow volunteered and had one weeks notice to do something. I bought bags of bright yarn, collected needles and made a file of great examples on knit graffiti from the internet. On the big day the room, a nice café, was filled with about 30 teens and I asked if anyone could knit. No. OK, look at these pictures, knitting is cool, let me get you started. And they all went to work. Most had knitted once or twice during the compulsory craft lessons in school, and a couple did crochet or finger knitted long strips. After the class I sewed the knitted pieces together to make a long scarf, but I left it to be used at an event the following day and don't know what has become of it.

The week after this it was time for Midsummer, and I help out at a large celebration at the local outdoor museum. Since 2005 me and one other lady have helped visitors to make flower wreaths to wear as they dance around the maypole and celebrate summer. I spend a few hours in the morning picking wild flowers and birch and blueberry twigs. Then we get a couple of long tables out and supply thread and scissors and help for 3-4 hours. I always start out by making demo wreaths for my own children. This is the on my daughter got this year.

Finally last weekend I had to forsake two spinning events because I had promised to host a day of wool at the craft society. I brought samples of different kinds of wool, my yarn and equipment and a pile of woolen shawls. The other lady who worked there brought more knitting and some felted objects. We also showed some tunisian crochet (krokning) and nålbindning. The room was a bit dark, so I photographed my stuff when I got back home instead.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I can do it!

It's been a while since my last blog post, for many reasons. On of them is that I have been busy learning new skills, and now I have come out the other end of the tunnel and I can call myself a spinner! Today I made my first three ply yarn. It is also the first time I have worked with raw fleece that I have washed and hand carded. It is also my first effect yarn with added goodies. Finally it is the first yarn I make on a spinning wheel, if I don't count the three samples that I will never be able to use.

Let's go back a few steps... In November last year I got my first spinning wheel. It was very old, green and didn't work very well. I then took care of two more old wheels in need of care, but none of them are in order yet. I think that will be a summer project so I can take them apart, clean, grease and straighten them up outdoors. Meanwhile I stumbled across a local girl who had bought a Kromski Prelude last year and decided to sell it again. I got it at a good price and finally had something that worked. I soon realized that my preferences lie towards thin yarns and I fond a dealer, Den Gamla Skolan, who had a faster flyer and extra bobbins. She also had the clever idea to use inexpensive raw fleece to fill the parcel up, and that is how I ended up with 600g of very smelly Gotland wool. This is what it looked like after washing:

After a couple of days of hand carding and spinning I finally had my three bobbins of thread, but before I could ply it I had to figure out where to place the third bobbin since the Prelude only holds two. I asked MrP for suggestions and he said flower support sticks. I actually found one that was just right and then put it between my knees, and it worked perfectly!

When I got my first, green spinning wheel the owner tried to make me take a lot of other stuff, and I came home with a skein winder that I didn't know anything about. I later learned that it is a 'knäpphärvel' and it is just brilliant. It is supposed to make a snapping sound after a certain number of turns, but mine only has a clock-like hand that turns slowly and I still have to count the number of threads in the skein and them multiply that with the circumference of 1.5 m.

Did you see the lamb that just happened to be in the in the background? My son got it at his christening and it is actually a Gotland sheep!

Finally the yarn! I still have some wool left, but so far it is 280g and actually about 280m. I think I have almost 200g for next session. To the wool I have added hand dyed Tencel from Ullaffären (The Wool Business) that I visited last Wednesday. All about that visit can be found in the group Långbacken on Ravelry, so I won't write that here (but the lambs are gorgeous...).

Monday, August 9, 2010

My own spin camp

Last week Mr P went back to work and I will be at home with the children until school starts. They are quite low in maintenance by now, so I started on a project of my own. After a feeble attempt two years ago it was time do do something about my desire to spin. There was a bag of beginners material in the wardrobe since last time waiting to be spun. Working a couple of hours every day for a week it has now become yarn:

The skeins were spun in the order that they lie in the box, from left to right. No1 is 50g of grey Gotland wool, also known as pälsull. This was easy to work with, but the yarn is a bit stiff. No2 is 100g of brown BFL (Blue faced Leicester). The BFL was soft and bouncy, but harder to control. No3 is 25g of black merino, which was soft and nice to spin but practising chain plying (Navajo) I overplied it. I am thinking of removing some of the twist. No4 finally is 25g of pencil roving in various shades of blue. This was fun to work with and the chain plying worked better this time.

However, this was just the warm up. For the second week of my spin camp there is 1.400g of alpaca waiting for me! Last time I caught the spinning bug I was at a fair showing my knitting and sharing the room with an alpaca breeder. On June 4th this year I gave her a call and asked if she had any wool for me. It turned out that she had sheared her little herd of ten animals before summer and she had three bags of wool left; brown, white and mixed. I bought the mixed bag and it came from the lovely Minita Miniy who was grazing in the paddock waiting for her new foal that was born the following week.

I hope I can do this wool justice, but this time I have to practice some carding as well. My goal is to make myself a cardigan and get some speed and productivity in my spinning. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dying at the Symposium

One of the themes for the classes at the symposium was colour and dying your own yarn was part ot that theme. The most interesting technique was perhaps the use of mushrooms, but the group was full when I registered. Here is a picture of their results:

Since I had never done any dying before and new challenges draw me in I chose two other dying classes, both using acidic dyes. This means there are very few chemicals involved besides the pigment and vinegar. On Monday afternoon we heated water in large pots and made solid colours. The recipes where a bit tricky, but at the end of the day I think I knew the mathematical system. I had to do a lot of calculations because I wanted my heather pink to have different shades so I could make a gradual change across a sweater.

On the last day I went back to the dying, but this time we painted the skeins by hand and set the colours in the microwave oven. This was more fun, but the results were perhaps harder to control for us beginners. I didn't really have a plan, but I wanted the yarns to look good when knitted and not only on the skeins. Therefore I used soft colour changes and for two of the skeins I made very short sections while the last was half and half in pale red and blue.

The green and pink became my homecoming presents for the children. During the past week we have been travelling a bit and their new hats fitted nicely in a small knitting bag. We are going to decorate them later, probably with applications...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nordiskt Sticksymposium 2010 - Wednesday

Last week was so amazing that I had to rest for a couple of days to be able to process it and start writing. It was spent with 140 knitters in Härnösand at the 11th Nordic Knitting Symposium and I'm sure we are all bursting with impressions, inspiration, patterns , yarns and new skills. I will divide my recollections in themes and start with the hot and busy excursion to northern Hälsingland last Wednesday. That was also the first day when I remembered to bring the camera, because I slept at home and not at the school.

The first stop was at the Holma-Helsingland linen mill in Forsa. Since there were so many of us we were divided into groups and I started out in the workroom of a conservationist working with wall paintings and old wallpaper. The painted walls are very special in this region and we saw some on location later in the day.

Next I joined a tour of the mill guided by the owner herself. She took us through the steps of processing the yarn. Almost all the yarn is spun on the continent, but here it is dyed on cones as showed on the first picture. Then it is plied into the required thicknesses. The only yarn that is spun here at the moment is their only woolen yarn Lovikka, a heavy 1-ply used for traditional mittens from northern Sweden, which is skeined in the third picture. After the tour it was time to squeeze into the shop and grab some yarn...

After this stop the group was divided in two and sent to look at local museums with traditional houses in Forsa and Delsbo. These pictures show the 300-400-year-old wooden farmhouses in Delsbo and a group of tired travellers stealing a few minutes to knit in the shade.

The next stop was at Forsa folkhögskola, where Håkan Liby lectured on the traditional costumes of the region. Last but not least we went to Mellanfjärden by the coast where we had a selection of local fish dishes for dinner overlooking an old fishing village turned turist paradise.

The main knitting themes during the day were linen yarns and traditional sweaters, but they deserve their own posts because they were also an important part of the classes and lecures throughout the symposium.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Knitting fever

Today I have been home alone with a stubborn cold. Somehow it is not so bad being ill when you can knit, and today it was actually quite nice. Just days before that volcano erupted I ordered a few things from overseas, and today the first item finally arrived. Prjónaperlur is a book about all the facets of the current knitting fever in Iceland. Women of, literally, all ages present their own patterns and there are classics next to crazy and childish. The patterns are a bit too easy for my taste, but there are a few gems. I just finished reading the presentations and thoughts between the patterns and it warmed my heart almost as much as my own fever. Being half Icelandic I like those moments when I feel part of that community and the book really sucked me in. It will soon be published in English and there is a part two in the making, so if you have an interest in the culture of knitting or a love of Icelandic wool I can recommend it. It is small but has a soul.

Before the post arrived I finished the first project from the huge stash of Icelandic Einband (1-ply) that I brought home last October. It is the fabulous Faux Russian Stole from the book A Gathering of Lace. The yarn only lasted 180 of the 185 cm needed so the last centimetres are slightly paler, but it is like one of the mottoes from Prjónaperlur says: "There has to be a mistake in each project, because then you can see that it is handmade". This is especially true if the result is as amazing as this. This is lace in garter stitch, which I had never made before, and it is actually easier than it looks but requires a lot of patience. Most of it was made during the Christmas holiday, but the problem with the yarn made me wait with the finishing until I had convinced myself how to deal with it.

And a detail...

Monday, April 5, 2010


Last summer I found that I had three shawls named after drinks and this Easter I seem to be into sweets. The first yarn is named Dubbelnogat and it is a tasty, shiny silk. The yarn is from a small collection of hand dyed silk from Färgkraft, where they usually dye lovely, thin woolen yarns in unexpected colourways. I spotted this yarn last summer at Cina's garn and hinted to Mr P that if no one else had bought it by Christmas I wouldn't mind taking care of it. I got two 400m skeins to wrap myself in and after a lot of dreaming about the result it is finally on its way. It is interesting to see what happens to the mix of colours when you start working with a yarn that is hand dyed, so I took pictures of the process from skein to swatch.

The yarn is actually very shiny in silver, gold and bronze but the pictures were too bright for the screen. The pattern is Tuscany by Amy R. Singer from her book No Sheep for You. This pattern is made for silk and suits the drape of the yarn and the pattern works with the colours. The first swatch is on 4mm needles (right) but it was too loose and 3,5mm (left) works much better, I will just have to add som extra repeats at the end.

Another sweet project is the Madli's Shawl by Nancy Bush from Knitted Lace of Estonia. This yarn is Nef Lace from Fyberspates in Toffee Chocolate. I made most of this on my trip to Iceland last year. Short wooden needles worked well on the plane. The yarn is extremely soft and the pattern isn't very well defined so I am not quite sure if I will follow this through to the end