From sheep to human project – part 1

My fiber story, short version

I have been knitting for many years, since I was around six years old. I have always knitted stuff from the top of my head, and have dabbled in knitting design for the last three years. I have a huge stash of yarn, which is a hobby in itself. I have also tried dyeing some yarn at a couple of occations, because I didn’t like the original colors, but without really trying out dyeing.

The project

One sleepless night, late October 2018, I suddenly had an idea that it would be nice to take my hobbies one step further, and try to make a sweater or maybe even a traditional Norwegian kofte from scratch. This would include every step of the process, from sheering the sheep, preparing the fleece, via spinning the yarn, maybe dyeing it, designing and knitting a useable garment. I also wanted to do this with the traditional methods that people have been using for ages, if possible.

I figured out this would take me at least a year to accomplish. So here is the first update on my progress.

Learning to spin

I knew my colleague at work had been doing some spinning on a drop spindle, since she made some yarn for me a couple of years ago. I asked if she could teach me the basics of it. And she did. The first time I tried was quite disastrous, I couldn’t make more than half a meter of almost finger thick yarn without breaking it and dropping the spindle. Her spindle had the weight in the bottom and was quite heavy, so I figured that my failure had to be the equipment’s fault.

My colleague’s drop spindle with my first handspun yarn on it – totally uneven and overspun.

Spinning research

So I went home and did some research, and decided to buy a spindle with the weight on the top for myself. The one I bought from Spinnvilt in Oslo, was also a little bit lighter. After a few days I tried again, but it didn’t go much better this time.

Then I watched some YouTube videos in order to crack the spinning code, but I still couldn’t for the life of me understand how people was able to keep the spindle going at the same time as they drafted the fibers. Then I found one video, that helped a lot, at the channel MeganERiskTutorials:

The most important thing in this video, is that you learn that it is ok to stop the spindle while drafting, so that you can control the spin by holding on to the fibres in both ends and then let go. I figured that it would take me maybe two extra years of spinning when going so slowly, but it actually worked very well in order to make yarn that didn’t look too bad.

Spinning practice

The next thing I found out was that it helped changing the direction that I spun. Counter clockwise worked much better for me than clockwise, for some reason.

At the office (yes, I spin in my breaks at the office, since I have my own company) we only had some old white Norwegian wool, that had been stored for ages (since the 1980’s). It is not easy to spin from, since it is quite compressed. So I needed something easier for practice.

My first ball of plied yarn.

At home I had some single spun yarn that would make the columns of stitches lean very much to the right when knitting in the round, and therefore it was useless as knitting yarn (in my opinion – I know many people like to knit from single spun yarn). So I practiced spinning the spindle by plying two strands of this yarn together. I found this very much easier, since I didn’t have to worry about the fibres breaking all the time. I was therefore able to make the spindle spin evenly and to relax while plying, and I got some useful yarn out of it.

The next step was trying out spinning some other fibres. I bought a little bit of merino wool at AllYouKnitIsLove in Barcelona (one of my favourite yarn shops, by the way). This was a lot easier to spin from than the Norwegian wool. This is probably due to the fact that the merino wool is roving meant for modern day spinners that spin worsted – not woolen as you would normally do for a traditional Norwegian yarn. I was able to make a little ball of plied yarn, maybe 10 g, that is actually knitworthy.

The first yarn was not possible to knit with. My colleague and I made this together. Very organic!

Next update

I can’t say yet that I am a spinner, but I am now able to spin yarn that can be used for knitting. So now I am practicing spinning and knitting with the wool I am going to use for my project. In the next update, I will tell you more about this.


4 thoughts on “From sheep to human project – part 1

  1. Marianne, what a great idea! At some point I was also playing with the same idea, but then had to accept that I was never going to do it, or at least now it is not the time. But I admire your enthusiasm and determination, and will be watching your progress, by the speed you are going at, I think you’ll be done in much less than a year!


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