söndag 23 juni 2013

Gute, a cat, some goats

On my trip to Sweden for the spinning fest I saw sheep I thought I'd never see: Gute! Gute sheep, once called Gotländskt utegångsfår, are the origin of Gotland sheep. They are strong, hardy sheep, mostly to be found on the small island Fårö in the Gotland archipelago, a thousand kilometers south from where I was. This is the only Swedish sheep breed where both ewes and rams are horned. If "Fårö" sounds familiar: this is the island where some of Ingmar Bergman's films were made. It means "Sheep isle". He was first going to film in Orkney, but after visiting Fårö he stayed there for the rest of his life.

There seems to be some confusion about the name "Gute" in the English speaking world, as it's also used for Gotland sheep, a thing that was new to me until I discussed Gute on a Ravelry forum and couldn't understand what the others were talking about (and they couldn't understand me either). Gutefår and Gotlandsfår are two different breeds. Those of you who have seen Gotlands will notice many things that are different in Gutes when you look at my photos below. The horns, the shedding, the short double coated fleece, all this distinguish Gute sheep from Gotland sheep.

I was excited! Sheep from way back in history, from Viking times, still very real and grazing in the field only 100 meters from the cottage where I and a few of the other spinners lived. It was a small flock, a family with a few ewes, a ram, and lambs. The lambs also had horns already, even if they were so young, about months I estimated.

The adults were shedding their old wool, while new had already grown from underneath. Shedding is not usual among modern sheep, in fact I don't think there are any modern sheep that are able to do that, they are all sheared. I didn't dare go in to the sheep to collect some wool, but if I had, I could have shown fleece with both soft undercoat, wool, and harsh overcoat, hair.

One of the ewes:

The ram:

For those of you who are on Ravelry and take part in Tour de Fleece: check the ravatars of Team Nordic Spinners! Many use a photo of this ram's head very nicely edited into personal ravatars by kristinnitsirk, the blogger who shows her awesome works here. Here's the original photo:

He's so beautiful! I fell in love with that calm, kind ram. One of the small ram lambs tried his horns on his father, who only went on ruminating and looking content with life in the green, sunny field.

I stayed for one night at the house of one of the spinners, and there I met an impressive Birma cat that was enjoying himself in the sun:

I saw the Angora goats that provided the mohair for our bouclé at the get-together:

There were angora rabbits also:

And hens and a cock:

I'm perfectly content now. I have been longing to see Fårö because of the sheep. I have seen them, I don't have to go there. I can go on dreaming of Shetland full time :)

torsdag 13 juni 2013

Spinning in Sweden

I was spinning with Ravelry friends in Sweden last weekend. It was absolutely wonderful! I took the old new ferry from Vaasa across the Gulf of Bothnia to Umeå, and it was so fun! In the 80s we took the ferry ever so often, but when Finland and Sweden joined the EU the ferry was sold because new tax rules and higher ticket prices forced people to stop traveling so often. She has sailed somewhere in southern Europe until this spring, when she came home and was repaired and put back in traffic. There is no tax free onboard, but it doesn't matter. The important thing is to be able to travel cheap across the Gulf, and so far it is cheap.

Here she is, Wasa Express, behind the ferry terminal:

Here we wait for the ramp to be let down so we can go ashore in Umeå:

I met the most exciting travel companion on the boat. He saw me reading an English magazine and so we started talking in English. He was an Englishman living in Finland since many years, and it appeared that he was researching - now sit down, hold on to your chair and take a deep breath: work songs, like spinning songs! The four hours to Umeå felt like four minutes :) You can see him leaning on his bike in the photo above.

There were 14 spinners at the meeting, one a completely new spinner. I want to show the second yarn she spun, her very first real skein:

Have you ever seen a beginner's yarn like this? I haven't.

We were invited by Lillemor (Ravelry name zassh) of Limmo-design. She kindly opened her studio in Vännäs to us, and the neighbor's studio also. When everybody had arrived and spread their tools, the rooms where crammed with spinning wheels, wool combs, hand carders, drum carders, spindles, people, and a funny cat that came several times a day to talk to us and beg for hugs.

One theme was wool from a Swedish landrace, Värmlandsfår. We took a closer look at how you can prepare three samples of the double coated Värmland: combing and carding. At home we can do proper studies of how the different preps can be spun, and what kinds of yarn you get.

The other theme was a bouclé yarn where the looping ply was spun from mohair sold by Ingrid (Ravelry name Melica), Mina Getter och Kaniner. It's a great joy to see hand combed mohair turn into perfectly circular loops!


There was much talking, much laughter, good food, delicious strong coffee just as black and thick as I want it, lots of fibers and yarns to explore in Lillemor's shop. For some reason I had figured I could manage with a big suitcase (I had lots of equipment with me) and backpack, but guess what - I didn't. Parcels will arrive in due time from Lillemor and Ingrid.

There was wool everywhere. There was wool behind the corner! Someone found this heap that had been thrown away, and what can you do when you find a treasure? You save it. It was good wool, soft and quite clean after lying in the snow the whole winter. Much of it went home with happy spinners, some was scoured in Lillemor's studio and dried outdoors in the sun and wind. There was wool on the tables, floors, in the fridge. Yes, in the fridge :)

There was fiber and tools to buy:

There was beads for little girls :)

Many photos were taken:

It was warm, almost hot, sunny and lovely. I think we all had a great time. I saw lots of animals, will show you in another post very soon.

Wasa Express leaving Umeå, and the weather is still warm, sunny and no wind!

And there's some unpacking to do...

söndag 2 juni 2013

Spinning at Stundars again

I have been spinning with school children twice in May. The home for my guild Björken (The Birch) is here: Stundars. Every spring the staff at Stundars arrange craft days for 1400-1600 children.

This is Frida Paulin, a crafter I admire very much. Her main craft is bobbin lace, but she is also a skilled spinner and weaver. She's well over 80 now, but still spinning. She's surrounded by old Finnish spinning wheels, the oldest from 1818.

Frida had two bobbin lace makers with her in the big farm house. One of them later said it's quite comfortable to undo mistakes while making lace in public, because no one will know whether you're going backwards or forwards!

This is what she made:

And here's the other lace maker:

Beautiful laces, aren't they! I have made bobbin lace in my youth, so after a bit of practice I could do now also, but not as complicated lace as these two are making.

I was spinning here this time:

This is part of Gråbyn (The Grey Village), a part of Stundars with small crafters cottages. They are grey because they have never been painted. This was typical for areas inhabited by the poor in the old days (not so uncommon in our days either...)

In our cottage it was warm and cosy. There was a fire lit for us, because even if it looks warm outdoors it was still quite cold in the nights, and the cottages were damp after the winter because they had not been heated.

My company this year was Doris Bengs, who is a skilled decorative painter. Here she is surrounded by interested girls.

Some of Doris' work, and the beautifully coloured interior of the cottage:

The sheep where out, and this year there's a Finnsheep ewe with three lambs. They already graze and eat grain, but mother's milk is better!

The ewe will be sheared when the nights get warmer, which means any day now. She has a lovely wool, but the winter wool is not the very best as you can see. Lots of vegetal matter, and it's worn and fragile and has some shorter wool among the longer. The lambing hasn't made it any stronger. Three lambs takes a lot of strength from the ewe, so often there will be a weaker spot in the wool that grew during the pregnancy and while she was producing milk. But in the autumn she will most probably have a very good fleece for spinning.

When you're one of the crafters you can't go and see the others working in the area, which is something that most of us are sad about. But working here is one of the peaks each year. I was here for the first time in the 90s, when I first started spinning in public. I had to pause for many years while my job took most of my energy, but now that I'm retired I feel free to participate again.