Whenever I visit Sätergläntan Institute of Crafts, I see a love for all things craft everywhere I look. It is a place dedicated to education and to the people who have a passion for making. Students, teachers, and staff who come to Sätergläntan are there for the joy of crafting.
Sätergläntan is a craft and education center in the county of Dalarna in Sweden. Students can enroll in one- to three-year programs, immersing themselves in weaving, sewing, woodworking, and forging with opportunities to specialize in a certain field. The center also offers shorter five- to seven-day workshops in a wide variety of crafts, such as basket weaving, bodice sewing, embroidery techniques, spoon carving, or rya weaving. Sätergläntan attracts students and teachers from near and far.
Teaching in a Pandemic
In June 2020, I taught a short spindle-spinning class at Sätergläntan; it was my third time teaching there. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students canceled their applications, and the center canceled classes, following the rules for public gatherings. But my class, A Spindle a Day, was lucky enough to be held; I had five students ranging in age from nineteen to sixty-nine years old.
In the class, we focused on four different spindle types, one type a day for the first four days: suspended spindles, Navajo-style spindles, in-hand or grasped spindles, and supported spindles. We dove into each spindle style and the spinning technique used for that type of spindle. We also took a look at the whole process of spinning, from fleece to yarn.
I started this class the way I always do: with the fleece. The students learned about different wool and fiber types and how they could prepare them to enhance certain characteristics. By preparing their own wool with handcards and combs, the students got to know the fiber and how it behaved. They learned to listen to the wool and to analyze their preparation and spinning. Whenever they found a lump or thin spot in the yarn, I encouraged them to go back to the preparation to see what they could do to improve the prep.
The process of preparing wool by hand and spinning with spindles takes time, which allows students to slowly explore the steps and techniques. So much of the mechanics of spinning is in the body of the handspinner, especially when spindle spinning. Speed, twist insertion, take-up, and tension are, to varying degrees, governed directly by the sensitive fingertips of the spinner. The wool, the spindle, and the motions rely on the spinner’s hands over and over again. The wool will softly whisper to the hands, and the hands remember. The spinner just needs to trust the wool and listen to it. In my eyes, spinning with spindles brings the spinner closer to the craft and provides the spinner with a deeper understanding of the process.
The Mindfulness of Spindle Spinning
The fifth day of the class was dedicated to mindful spinning. I invited the students to take part in a “wool tasting,” and they received five different wool samples to work with, one at a time. Students investigated the wool, took notes, prepared and spun the fiber, and analyzed the results. To keep their creative flow uninterrupted, they did this in silence. After fifteen minutes, they moved on to the next wool sample and repeated the process. During the wool tasting, I sat and absorbed their diligence, focus, and excitement in putting their new skills and understanding to the test. My heart sang with joy as I found the key to each student’s individual learning style, saw them develop and use their skills, and watched them grow. This is what fuels me as a teacher. After the fifth wool sample was completed, each student’s wool-tasting chart was full of notes and samples, and the spinners went home with a map of what they had learned.
The very last thing we did in the class, before we went home, was a spinning meditation. I guided the students and did my best to bring their attention to the act of spinning rather than the resulting yarn. Their focus was on the process and being present in the here and now. For the last few minutes of the spinning meditation, I asked the students to close their eyes and trust that their bodies knew what to do. And they all did, even the student who was just a beginner when she came to the class a few days earlier. Afterward, she said the yarn she had spun during the meditation was a bit lumpy, but the part she had spun with her eyes closed was the most evenly spun yarn she produced during the workshop. Another student decided there and then that she would keep a wool basket dedicated to spinning without expectations, just for the love of spinning.
At Sätergläntan, love of craft is everywhere I look. I can’t wait to go back.
To learn more about Sätergläntan, visit saterglantan.se.
Josefin Waltin started spinning in 2011. She is a spinning teacher and offers workshops both online and offline. Josefin publishes instructional and documentary-style videos, and she manages a spinning blog from her home in Sweden at waltin.se/josefinwaltinspinner.
This article was published in the Winter 2021 issue of Spin Off.