Tag Archives: flax

Sparto Weavers Spanish Broom

Sparto (Sparta) Spartium junceum also called Spanish Broom or Weavers Broom is an almost forgotten textile plant that is native to Mediterranean countries. Spanish Broom was introduced to North America and other countries where it has spread in many areas and has become a menace. However, Sparto was once a very useful textile plant.
There are references to weavers broom plants being used for making ropes, footwear, nets, mats, cloth and stuffing for pillows. The flowers are fragrant and can be used for making scented soaps and perfumes. The flowers are also a good source for yellow dyes.
It is thought that the use of Sparto as a textile plant diminished because the fibre is more difficult to process by mechanical means, compared to flax.

Sparto - Spartiumjunceum
Sparto – Spartiumjunceum

The Sparto plants grow along the rocky seasides of coastal Corfu, Greece.

I go on holidays to Corfu every year, where I have a chance to visit with my friend Agathi the weaver. Every time I visit, she pulls some wonderful textile treasure from her many shelves and tells me about it. This time, it was a bedspread made of hand spun Sparto that was made as part of her dowry.


As Agathi does not spin, the Sparto yarn was hand spun by a friend of hers, using a drop spindle. The bedspread was woven on a narrow loom and neatly stitched together in long panels. The handspun Sparto yarn was used as weft along with cotton yarns.

Agathi explained how the Sparto was collected and processed for hand spinning. The process is very similar to that of processing flax fibre.
The stalks of the Sparto plant are cut and then laid to ret in sea water along the shore. Rocks are placed on top of the fibres to keep the Sparto from floating away. This retting process usually takes 3-4 days. The warm salty water breaks down and softens the fibre so that it can be removed from the plant.
The fibrous part is on the outer core of the plant and the woody stem is in the centre. After retting, the fibre is dried and then beaten with a rock or wooden mallet (or scrutched) to help break up the woody core. Agathi described the fibre that is removed as being ‘soft and cottony’ The fibre is then hackled or combed and spun with the drop spindle.

Agathi said that the best time to collect Sparto is in May or June when the stalks are tender and green. I took a short foraging trip along the coast line to see if I could find some of these plants. In September, most of the Sparto have dried and are in seed, but I did find a few plants that were still green. I cut some stalks and brought them home for sampling.
(In the UK, you can purchase Spartium lyceum plants but they are not very hardy in our climate.)

As we live by the seaside, we took a short trip to collect some seawater for my experiments.

Sea Water Collection
Sea Water Collection

I had collected about 400 grams of Sparto stalks, so I placed these into a large bucket of sea water. The stalks are quite long so I had to fold them to fit them into the bucket.

I will leave the Sparta fibre to ret for a few days and check them daily to watch progress.

Well, it took more than a few days to ret the Sparto – more like a month. I suppose England is not as warm as the mediterranean sea.
The soaking bucket fermented and the Sparto stalks have softened.
I removed them from the bucket and rinsed the stalks with the garden hose. The stalks are now drying in my airing cupboard.

References
Sparto – A Greek Textile Plant
Helen Bradley-Griebel

The Revival of Sparto
University of the Aegean, Dept of Product and Design Engineering
A research study on the potential of a forgotten natural fiber in today’s world

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Distaff Spinning

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.

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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.

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linen weaving: aa022002

I love linen. Here are a few photos of some fabulous linen towels that were recently sent to me by Maureen.

vintage linen towel
Linen Sauna Towel
Woven by an elderly Swedish woman.

linen towel

Grace’s Towel – Linen Sampler

Woven by Grace Tonseth, a 14 year-old girl living and being homeschooled on a farm in eastern Washington. She also raises sheep, sheers them, cards, spins and weaves the wool and sews her own clothes!

More about Linen

Flax and Linen
Linen Yarns
Twill Tabby Towels
Hemp Towels
Towel Weaving Patterns
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Linen Weaving Books

Linen from flax seed to woven cloth
Learn about flax cultivation, processing and spinning, natural and synthetic dyeing, and weaving and finishing linen cloth.
UK: Linen from flax seed..

How to weave linens
UK: How to Weave Linens

Reflections From A Flaxen Past : For Love of Lithuanian Weaving
Flax tools and faces from archival photographs; textile images and patterns.
UK: Reflections from a Flaxen Past

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Doukhobor weaving: aa062198

>Living in the Kootenays in British Columbia, I am fortunate to have experienced some of the rich heritage that the Doukhobor community provides. The Doukhobors are a pacifist Christian sect originating in Russia in the 17th century. In 1899 about 7400 Doukhobors immigrated to Canada, settling in parts of Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and later moving to the Kootenay region of British Columbia.
They lived off the land, many still cultivating their farms and growing their own vegetables and fruits.

The Duokhobors grew flax and hemp, spinning the fiber and weaving their own cloth. Wonderful weaving treasures, old spinning wheels and looms can still be found in antique shops and the occasional garage sale.

There are several museums and cultural centres throughout the province, that have displays of Doukhobor handwork and craftsmanship.

skein winder

Kirilovka Doukhobor Village site The Doukhobor Collection is a great source of information, digital archives and images of the Doukhobor in Canada.

Be sure to visit the Doukhobor Village if you are in Castlegar. In the Grand Forks settlement as in other communities, they operated on a moneyless system, producing their own goods and trading as needed. A tannery, blacksmith shop, jam factory, sawmill and weaving all enabled them to be self sufficient.

Mabel Verigin Doukhobor Master Weaver

Traditional Doukhobor Weaving

Canadian Doukohobor Society

Tarasoff Collection – BC Archives
The Canadian Museum of Civilization
had an exhibit featuring the life of the Douhkobors called “The Spirit Wrestlers”.

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Flax and Linen: flaxlinen

Borgs Weaving Yarn
Borgs Vavgarner in Sweden has a varied selection of weaving yarns, including tow and line linen yarns from 4/1 to 60/2 weights.

C. L. Blomqvist
Beautiful cottolins and tow and wet-spun linen yarns directly from Sweden.

Camilla Valley Farm
Camilla Valley Farm, located north of Toronto, Ont, has Belgian and Irish linen and cotton blends.

Eurolinens West
Flax is an extraordinary fibre, simple, exclusive, comfortable and environmentally safe. This page explains the processing of flax from growing, harvesting, and spinning to the care of your finished garment.

Flax Craft
Virginia Handy, Log Cabin Crafts has written a new book that covers the growing and processing of the plant for linen and the use of the fiber in spinning, weaving, and related crafts.

Mangling
Kerstin Froberg demonstrates how linens are mangled in Sweden.

R and M Yarns
R & M Yarns has a wide selection of mill-end wool, cotton, rayon and linen and acrylic yarns, suitable for machine knitting and weaving.

Rauma Lace
An excellent and detailed historical article about linen lace-making in Rauma, Finland.

Robin and Russ
Robin and Russ is always a great source for weaving yarns including linen. Their site is being worked on, but a catalog of their products can be ordered.

Yarn Barn
The Yarn Barn has lots of wool, rug yarns, cottons and linens in addition to their weaving equipment.

Weaving Books: Handwoven Lace and Linen

Linen from flax seed to woven cloth
Learn about flax cultivation, processing and spinning, natural and synthetic dyeing, and weaving and finishing linen cloth.
UK: Linen from flax seed..

How to weave linens
UK: How to Weave Linens

Reflections From A Flaxen Past : For Love of Lithuanian Weaving
Flax tools and faces from archival photographs; textile images and patterns.
UK: Reflections from a Flaxen Past

Handwoven Laces
Hand weavers can use a loom to quickly produce lovely lacy fabrics.

A Joy Forever: Latvian Weaving
Historic Latvian household textiles along with contemporary projects.

Huck Lace
All about Huck lace weave structure.

Lace and Lacey Weaves
86 Lace & Lacey Weave projects.
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Flax Weaving: aa041497

Of all natural fibers available, I think flax qualifies as truly a miracle fiber. It is environmentally friendly and is a renewable resource. All of the plant can be used. The seeds can be eaten or used to produce linseed oil. The fiber is processed into yarn and woven into cloth. The term “linen” is used for products that have been made from flax fiber such as linen fabric or tablecloths.

flax
Flax or linen fiber is strong, absorbs moisture, has no allergenic properties and softens with continued use. It has a wide variety of applications. It is used in clothing, furnishings, household fabrics, water buckets, yarn and rope.

Flax has been grown and used for cloth since 8000 B.C. Textiles found with the Dead Sea scrolls were identified as being linen (flax). The linen textiles found in the Qumran Cave 1 in 1949 were used as scroll wrappers, protective covers for jars and linen cord.

Flax growing was an important industry in Flanders for many centuries until the cotton industry and mechanization provided competition.
Flax is still grown in many parts of the world, such as Ireland, western Europe and Russia.

Textiles: Qumran Caves

Photos of linen cloth found in the Qumran Caves, that are thought to be wrappers for some of the Dead Sea scrolls.

From Flower to Textile
The Libeco site describes the process of turning the flax plant into linen fabric.

Irish Linen
Irish spinners and weavers create delicately woven cloth in intricate designs.

Flax Council of Canada
The Flax Council of Canada presents some interesting uses for flax.

Part 2 – Growing and Processing Flax
After harvesting, the flax fiber must go through several processes before it is transformed into the cloth that graces your dinner table.

Here are a few photos of some fabulous linen towels that were recently sent to me by Maureen.

Linen Sauna Towel
Woven by an elderly Swedish woman.

Grace’s Towel – Linen Sampler

Woven by Grace Tonseth, a 14 year-old girl living and being homeschooled on a farm in eastern Washington. She also raises sheep, sheers them, cards, spins and weaves the wool and sews her own clothes!

Linen Weaving

Linen from flax seed to woven cloth
Learn about flax cultivation, processing and spinning, natural and synthetic dyeing, and weaving and finishing linen cloth.
UK: Linen from flax seed..

How to weave linens
UK: How to Weave Linens

Reflections From A Flaxen Past : For Love of Lithuanian Weaving
Flax tools and faces from archival photographs; textile images and patterns.
UK: Reflections from a Flaxen Past

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Weavette Looms Buxton Brook Complete Small Loom Kit

$100.00 (1 Bid)
End Date: Tuesday Nov-26-2019 12:58:01 PST
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Kromski Rigid Heddle Loom 24 Inch

$325.00
End Date: Tuesday Dec-17-2019 6:40:13 PST
Buy It Now for only: $325.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Vintage Little Loomhouse 4 Harness Weaving Loom & 4 Treadle Table Stand BIN

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End Date: Monday Dec-9-2019 17:36:28 PST
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