Last weekend I had the opportunity to take part in a flax spinning workshop. Our instructor was Ruth Blazenko who is also an instructor for the Master Spinner Program at Fibre Week at Old College. For those of you who don't know, flax is the plant that is used to make the textile linen. Linen is one of the oldest textiles in the world, and has been used to make aprons, bags, towels, napkins, bed linens, tablecloths, and clothing. It is know for its coolness and freshness.
In our course we learned how flax is taken from the plant form and transformed to create the fibres used for spinning. Below I have a picture of a hank of strick which is a sample of flax that has been processed and is ready to spin. The colour of the strick below is natural. For those of you who are accustomed to thinking of linen as being white, this is done through a bleaching process which removes the natural colour.
We received information on flax fibres and their lengths. In the photo to the right you can see several different forms of flax fibre. To the far right is the hank of strick pictured above. To the left of that is some line sliver which has been bleached to a nice white, and below is a sliver of tow which has been dyed in a light blue. The fibres in the strick are the longest of the three and can vary in length from 18-55 inches. The line fibres tend to be shorter and tow is the shortest. The longer the fibre is the finer the fabric created.
We started off working with the blue tow. We hand carded it with some wool and then spun a sample 2 ply of Linsey/Woolsey. I use this term loosley since traditional Linsey/Woolsey is woven, and typically was made up of a linen warp and a woollen weft.
Next up we tried spinning some of the tow by itself, and then proceeded to work up a mini skein of line as well. I spun the last three skeins wetting the fibres as I went. Flax is spun wet to create a smoother yarn. The water helps tuck all the little ends in as you go.
We had a lovely time, and a lot of fun playing with flax. Below are some of the wonderful ladies in my guild having a little adventure untangling some flax that got out of hand.
Our next workshop is going to be on Silk Fusion! I'm really looking forward to that one and will try to post some photos and details after the workshop!