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Spinning Hemp and Flax on a Distaff

Both flax and hemp are usually sold in roving form or tow, where the flax has been heavily processed into short 2-4 inch lengths. The flax or hemp roving has often been bleached or dyed. This type of flax and hemp are quite easy to spin as a roving, using a short draw. A distaff is not needed to spin this type of flax or hemp. The flax needs a light to medium twist to hold it together. When I spin the flax roving, I spin it wet, as I have a small dish of water beside me, and wet the fiber with my fingers while spinning. This helps to soften the natural pectins in the fibre and smooth the rough ends together.


Both Flax and Hemp also come in long line strick form, though this is quite often hard to find. The flax fibres are long, 2-3 feet in length, as they are in the original flax plant. The flax comes in a strick, where the long fibres are twisted and rolled together and often tied at one end, in order to hold them in place.



Distaff
Distaff spinning is used when spinning the long line flax or hemp. The distaff holds the long length of fibres in place, so that you can easily draw a few fibre lengths at a time from the tied bundle as you spin.
I don’t own a flax wheel with a distaff attachment, but I made a small modication to my Kromski Sonata wheel, so that I could attach a distaff to it. I purchased the Kromski distaff that is designed for the Kromski Minstrel wheel.
The Minstrel wheel distaff comes in 2 pieces, one is the distaff itself, and the other is the piece that attaches the distaff to the wheel.
The hole in the attachment piece is too large to fit the Sonata wheel, so I used a bit of wool roving to stuff into the hole to make a more secure fit. I also used a few rubberized washers to raise the height of the distaff slightly on the wheel.

Dressing the Distaff
To dress the distaff, or to tie the long line flax to the distaff, open up the flax bundle and shake out the fibre so it is loose. Examine the fibre to determine which is the easiest end to spin from. One end will be a bit more tangled and knotted together and the other end will be easier to draw fibres from. Lay the fibre onto the table and open it up a bit. Place the distaff on top of the fibre with the top of the distaff at the more tangled end.
Use a length of cord or ties, about 2 meters in length, fold it in half, and lightly wrap it at the top end of the distaff, to secure the fibres to the distaff.
Loosely wrap the flax fibre around the length of the distaff, so that the fibres are all running straight along the distaff.
Then loosely wrap the remaining lengths of the cord around the flax fibre and down the length of the distaff.
Then place the tied flax distaff onto the distaff attachment on the wheel.

Spinning from the Distaff
Because the fibre length on long line flax or hemp is very long, you don’t need a lot of twist in order to hold the fibre together. I spin this on the lowest ratio on wheel. To start spinning, run your hand along the length of the flax that is on the distaff, and select just a few strands from the very end of the tied flax and gently pull these out and begin to spin. You will find that you need to draw this length of fibre out quite a long way, (2 or 3 feet) before you reach the end of that fibre length, and then draw out another few fibres from the flax bundle.
As with any hand spinning, how many fibres you draw out, will determine the thickness of your yarn. To spin a fine flax or hemp yarn, draw out only a few at a time, to spin a thicker yarn, draw out more fibre.
I have a small dish of water beside me, and I dip my fingers into the water to moisten them, and run my finger along the length of the fibre I have just spun, to wet it, before I let the length spin onto the bobbin. This helps to soften the fibre as you are spinning.

Both Hemp and Flax long line fibre can be purchased in my Etsy shop or my Spin Flora website.

 

 

Brother Electric Drum Carder

A few days ago, my new Little Brother Electric Drum Carder arrived. It is wonderful and it is a beautiful thing to look at as well as to use. The craftsmanship is superb. The woodwork has all been well made and polished. The motor is surprisingly quiet to operate. I have used electric carders in the past, and after a few minutes of use, the drone of the motor would get very irritating. And it is very easy to use. The carder has a variable speed motor that operates smoothly and easily with a gentle turn of the button. The drum carder also has a reverse function, that makes it simple to remove the completed batt from the back of the drum.
The drum carders come in a range of widths and sizes. I purchased the smaller one – the Little Brother. I has an 8 inch drum width and will make an 8 inch x 22 inch batt. The amount of fibre that it will hold can vary depending on what type of fibre you are using and how well you pack it in while carding. So far, I have managed to card about 50 grams onto the drum, but I think I could add more (perhaps 100 gr) if I card and pack carefully.

The drums also come with a range of carding cloth sizes.
54 TPI (teeth per inch) – good for carding art batts and thicker wools, 72 TPI, 90 TPI, 120 TPI and 190 TPI (for super fine fibres). If you work with different weights of fibres, you can also add additional interchangeble drums.
I purchased the 120 TPI size, because I mostly work with finer fibres, such as merino, alpaca, silk and also the vegan viscose fibres such as Bamboo, soya silk, tencel and other cellulose tops and roving.
I found the carder extremely easy to use, first time. The soft bamboo and soya silk that I carded tend to be very light and fluffy, and some of the fibre was catching on the small licker drum. The distance between the licker drum and the larger swift drum is easily adjustable. I unscrewed the 4 bolts and gave the adjustment screws a slight turn, to add a bit more space between the drums. This solved my problem of the fibre grabbing onto the licker.
For my first set of batts, I blended some dyed bamboo, soya silk and Pearl Infused Cellulose. I rolled these into small punis, and will be spinning this as a singles, and Navajo plying the yarn to add extra texture.


The flowers are in full bloom in my garden right now. A small patch of Petunias and Nasturtiums gave me the inspiration for my second blended batt. I used Commercially dyed Bamboo, hand dyed soya silk and some tencel for this fibre blend.

Brother Drum Carders
Gabriel at Brother Drumcarders was extremely helpful when I placed my order. The carder was shipped almost immediately. There was however, a very long delay with USPS postal service, as it took about 2 weeks to move the carder from Oregon to the International shipping location of San Francisco. Once there, the carder was onto the plane and arrived at Heathrow the next day. Then a few days delay at Parcel Force while they determined the standard VAT customs duties I had to pay.
The carder does come with an adapter so that it works on UK 220 power outlets. I switched the 2 prong plug that came with the unit, to a cable that had been on one of my old printers – so it now plugs in correctly into 3 prong UK plugs.

 

Spin Flora Dot Com

When I was asked by the AGWSD to teach a workshop on spinning flax this coming summer at their Summer School, I started to do some research on spinning with plant fibres. Never did I expect to fall down such a large rabbit hole! I started by ordering a few small sample packs of different flora fibres, flax, hemp, ramie and a few of the new plant-based fibres such as banana and seacell that have recently come onto the market. I fell in love with the variety and the textures that these plants have to offer. Spinning flora took over in my studio. As I used up my plastic crates filled with wool, they quickly filled up again with a delightful assortment of flora fibres.

Spin and Weave Flora

Spin and Weave Flora


I generally like to use acid dyes for dyeing wools and silk, but of course, the acid dyes won’t work on cellulose fibres. So I decided that really – plants should be dyed with plants. I rummaged through my dye stash and found a supply of madder root, indigo, osage, and other natural dyestuffs. And began to experiment.
Indigo Fructose Dye Vat

Indigo Fructose Dye Vat


Each of the fibres have their own unique characteristics. Some are soft and slippery, some feel like the finest of silk, some are a bit rough and coarse. They all need to be spun with a slightly different spinning technique. They can also be blended with each other or with wool. Handspinning with flora fibres are also a lovely alternative for those who are allergic to wool or who prefer not to use animal fibres.
Spin Flora grew and it was time for it to have its own website – a place where you can explore this world of Flora and also purchase a few samples of your own to experiment with.
I hope that you will visit Spin Flora not Fauna

Fungi Dye: Pisolithus arhizus

Pisolithus arhizus Mushroom Dye

pisolithus dyed yarn

Pisolithus arhizus – Brown, gold
Also known as the Dyeball
FI – Hernekuukunen

Alum Mordant

3 litres water
25 grams alum
10 grams cream of Tartar
Bring to boil and then let cool
100 gram wool yarn tied in skeins
Rinse the clean washed yarn in cool water
Add the yarn into the cool mordant bath and bring it to 80-90 C degrees
Simmer for 1 hour
Remove and let cool

Fungi Dye Bath

If using dried mushrooms soak them in water for a few hours until soft.
100 grams dried mushrooms
5 litres water
Bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 hours

Let dyebath cool
Strain the liquid and store the cooked mushrooms. They can be used again in an afterbath
Add mordanted yarn to strained dyebath liquid

Add mordanted yarn to dyebath
Return to heat and simmer for 1 hour at 80-90 degrees Celsius or longer for stronger colour.
Remove from heat source and let cool
Rinse in water that is of similar temperature as dyebath to avoid shocking the yarn and causing felting to occur.

Fungi Dye: Phaeolus schweinitzii

Phaeolus schweinitzii – Mushroom Dyes
Karhunkaapa (FI)

mushroom dye phaeolus577.jpg, 14358 bytes

Phaeolus schweinitzii – Yellow, gold

Alum Mordant

3 litres water
25 grams alum
10 grams cream of Tartar
Bring to boil and then let cool
100 gram wool yarn tied in skeins
Rinse the clean washed yarn in cool water
Add the yarn into the cool mordant bath and bring it to 80-90 C degrees
Simmer for 1 hour
Remove and let cool

Fungi Dye Bath

If using dried mushrooms soak them in water for a few hours until soft.
300 grams dried mushrooms
5 litres water
Bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 hours

Let dyebath cool
Strain the liquid and store the cooked mushrooms. They can be used again in an afterbath
Add mordanted yarn to strained dyebath liquid

Add mordanted yarn to dyebath
Return to heat and simmer for 1 hour at 80-90 degrees Celsius or longer for stronger colour.
Remove from heat source and let cool
Rinse in water that is of similar temperature as dyebath to avoid shocking the yarn and causing felting to occur.

Mushroom Dyeing
A New England and Eastern Canada Edible and Medicinal Mushroom Resource
Mosswalks Blogspot
Basket dyed with Phaeolus schweinitzii “dyers polypore”
California Fungi: Phaeolus schweinitzii
Root Diseases: Chweinitzii Butt Rot
This fungus is considered to be a tree disease in British Columbia

Fungi Dye: Boletopsis Grisea

Boletopsis grisea
mushroom dye boletopsis574.jpg, 13207 bytes

FI – Sudenkaapa
SW -tallgraticka

Alum Mordant
3 litres water
25 grams alum
10 grams cream of Tartar
Bring to boil and then let cool
100 gram wool yarn tied in skeins
Rinse the clean washed yarn in cool water
Add the yarn into the cool mordant bath and bring it to 80-90 C degrees
Simmer for 1 hour
Remove and let cool

Fungi Dye Bath

If using dried mushrooms soak them in water for a few hours until soft.
200 grams dried mushrooms
5 litres water
Bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 hours

Let dyebath cool
Strain the liquid and store the cooked mushrooms. They can be used again in an afterbath
Add mordanted yarn to strained dyebath liquid

Add mordanted yarn to dyebath
Return to heat and simmer for 1 hour at 80-90 degrees Celsius or longer for stronger colour.
Remove from heat source and let cool
Rinse in water that is of similar temperature as dyebath to avoid shocking the yarn and causing felting to occur.

Fungi Dye: Hapolopilus Rutilans

Hapilopilus rutilans Mushroom Dye
mushroom dye hapalopilus576.jpg, 16375 bytes
Hapalopilus rutilans
FI: Okrakaapa
SW: lysticka

Alum Mordant

3 litres water
25 grams alum
10 grams cream of Tartar
Bring to boil and then let cool
100 gram wool yarn tied in skein
Rinse the clean washed yarn in cool water
Add the yarn into the cool mordant bath and bring it to 80-90 C degrees
Simmer for 1 hour
Remove and let cool

Fungi Dye Bath

Cut the mushroom into small pieces with a knife
50 grams dried mushrooms
5 litres wate
Bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 hours
Let dyebath cool
Strain the liquid and store the cooked mushrooms. They can be used again in an afterbath
Add mordanted yarn to strained dyebath liquid
Return to heat and simmer for 1 hour at 80-90 degrees Celsius
Remove the yarn from the dyebath
Add 50 ML ammonia to the dyebath
When using ammonia take precautions and wear protective gloves
Also avoid getting too close to the dyebath and breathing in the fumes

Test with litmus paper or a digital pH tester
The dyebath should be about 7 pH
Stir well
Add the yarn back into the dyebath
It should change colour to a violet or reddish shade
Let simmer for about another hour
In our sample dyebath we had problems keeping the pH level at around 7. So we had to remove the yarn a few times and add more ammonia
Remove from heat source and let cool
Rinse in water that is of similar temperature as dyebath to avoid shocking the yarn and causing felting to occur.

HTTPS Secure Server Migration

In this age of cyber hacking and concerns about security, I have decided to move all of this website to a secure server – Https not http. Although no personal financial information is collected at this site and I provide information only, you can’t be too careful. This has been done now. You will see that the top address bar now takes you to https://www.allfiberarts.com

However, there is still much work to be done at my end, to convert all of the pages to the https SSL protocol. This involves mostly changing all of the images and links within the site, so they don’t still pass information from the older http site. While this migration is taking place, you may still see some warning signals on your browser. Please don’t be alarmed by this, as it will take me several weeks to find and replace the offending links on several hundred pages.

I have had to remove the link to the old Delphi Forum, as this was an unsecure link.
Some of my older content will have to be removed as some pages may be too difficult to update.

Please note, that I do run advertising on this website, (such as: Google, Amazon, EBay, Interweave Press) as it offsets my costs of keeping this website alive. The ad networks will have cookies associated with the ads. These cookies allow the ad networks to determine which ads may be relevant to you, so that they can serve appropriate ads to your browser. I try not to allow annoying popup or full page ads – as I can’t stand them either.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

PAIVI

This page last edited on April 9, 2017

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All Fiber Arts by Paivi Suomi is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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