Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wet spinning flax and how to avoid being a spindster forever

Having abandonned the King Tut method of flax spinning, I'm going to stick with my tried and true personal favourite method.

For you wheel spinners, wet spinning is probably the best way to go. I'll get to spindle spinning in another post.

Starting with one of these – a twist of hackled flax, lay it on a damp towel on your lap and fan one end out while keeping the other tucked into the towel. If you're spinning from a strick, the unfanned out ends at usually tucked into your belt or tied round your waist with the strick ribbon.

If you need to stop spinning for any reason, wrap it up in the towel. That keeps the flax moist and reduces breakage if you're spinning a fine yarn.
Keep a pot of water close by and keep wetting your fingers as you spin. This keeps the yarn smooth and strong. It also helps to join in more fibre if the yarn breaks. Spit is always an alternate option, but I worry about the bacteria count of my frequently dropped flax.

I like to spin on my double treadle wheel with a 20:1 ratio, but you can pretty much spin flax on anything. Ideally, I'd use double drive so the pull on was smooth and not too harsh. However, I usually spin wool and prefer Scottish tension for that and I'm way too lazy to change the drive band between projects.

The yarn you spin will be great for weaving. It will be smooth – no hairy bits to catch in the warp. The more even you can keep the diameter and amount of twist the better. Linen is worse than wool (IMO) for twist running to the thinner sections. That can create overspun parts that look weird in the weaving and are a pain to deal with when you ply. Young women's marriage prospects used to be judged by the evenness of their linen spinning.

You can see from my sample that my spinning wasn't very even at all - I would have be destined to remain a spindster if a young man was using this sample to assess my worth as a potential wife!

I suggest getting some practice in with long fibres before you start spinning any of your precious crop this year. It will increase your chances of producing a fine heirloom, though I doubt it will enhance your chances of finding a partner these days.

You can practise at the field house on the flax fibre bought from Biolin. It arrived today, along with the flax seed, while I was out, so has been delivered to the post office for collection. I have yet to work out how I will get 10kg of fibre and 5kg of seed from Chinatown to the field house, especially while the New Year celebrations are ramping up, but hope to get it to McLean park by next week.


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