Category Archives: Flax and Linen

Tow flax, linen, ramie weaving yarns for warp and weft and spinning bast fibres and blends.

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.

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

Spin Flora Roving on EBay

Madder Root Dye

Madder Root Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples
Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

Madder Root Dye Recipe
for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Indian Madder Root powder – Rubia Cordifolia
Put Madder Root dye powder into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Indian Madder on Linen and Cotton
Indian Madder on Linen and Cotton

Himalayan Rhubarb Plant Dye
Eucalyptus Leaf Plant Dye
Brazilwood Plant Dye

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Plant Dyed Wool Yarn
Plant Dyed Wool Yarn

Natural Dyes
Anne Georges
Wild Colours

Natural Dye Books

Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

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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 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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Spin Flora – Bamboo Top and Staple

Bamboo fibre for handspinning is now available in 2 forms – one is a smoothly combed viscose top and the other is a rougher staple fibre. These require different methods of spinning.
Bamboo Viscose Top
Bamboo Viscose top is produced from Bamboo pulp (like other viscose pulp fibres). The bamboo is crushed and made into a pulp. Natural enzymes, hydrogen peroxide and chemicals are added to further soften the fibrous pulp. The resulting pulp is wet spun and forced through a spinneret to produce fine bamboo filaments in the same way as other pulp based fibres. The bamboo fibre is white and silky in appearance and is a cool as a result of its high absorbency, due to the fibre being full of cavities.

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As this bamboo top is very smooth and silky, similar in handle to the previous Rose viscose tops that I spun, I used a similar spinning method for this yarn.

I spun this yarn with a tight twist, using the smallest whorl on my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel, 14:1. This top is quite slippery so I loosened the tension on the brake in order to slow down the takeup speed as much as possible, so that I could spin finely without having the roving fly away on me. I also turned the bobbin around, so that the brake was around the smaller whorl of the bobbin.
I used a worsted drafting method, taking care not to let the twist enter the drafting zone and go into the unspun roving.
I plied this as a 2 ply yarn, changing the wheel ratio to 9:1 in order to create a soft yarn.
A more detailed explanation on how to spin fine yarns can be found in my previous article on how to spin rose fibre.

Handspun Bamboo Viscose Top
Handspun Bamboo Viscose Top

Handspun Bamboo Viscose Top
Handspun Bamboo Viscose Top

Ivy Natural Dye Recipe
I have seen several references to dyeing yarns with Ivy vines, but none of them seem to have any detailed instructions. Since Ivy is very plentiful in the neighbouring fields and paths near me, I thought I would give it a try.
I picked a small shopping bag full of Ivy leaves (about 150 grams) and chopped these up and put them into my dye kettle. I added enough water to cover the Ivy and put it on to simmer for a few hours. A murky greenish colour did emerge from the Ivy leaves so I was hopeful they would yield some colour. I turned off the heat and left the Ivy stew to sit overnight.

Ivy Leaves Dyepot
Ivy Leaves Dyepot

The following day, I strained the dyebath liquid into one of my slow cookers that I use for dyeing only. I put the leaves into an organza mesh bag. Many plants react to different pH levels, so for this bath I thought I would try a high pH. I added about a tablespoon of Soda Ash to the liquid, to change the pH to 9. The liquid immediately turned to a dark olive shade.

I had premordanted the handspun Bamboo overnight in an Aluminum Acetate mordant. I put the Bamboo handspun into the dyebath along with the Ivy mesh bag. I turned the heat on the dyebath and allowed it to warm up. I put the lid on the slow cooker and let it simmer on High heat for a few hours. When I checked the yarn, I was happy to see there was some colour coming through onto the yarn – not a true green, but perhaps a very light avocado shade?

Bamboo Dyed with Ivy
Bamboo Dyed with Ivy

I turned the heat off the dyepot and let it sit overnight, hopeful that the yarn would absorb a bit more colour. The next day the colour was a bit greener but still very pale, so I let it sit for another day. The natural dye process is a slow one and is not to be rushed.

Handspun Bamboo dyed with Ivy
Handspun Bamboo dyed with Ivy

Handspun Bamboo dyed with Ivy Leaves
Handspun Bamboo dyed with Ivy Leaves

Yes, I think this is a green tone – a creamy shade of avocado perhaps?
There is still a lot of colour left in the Ivy dyebath, so I think I will sit it outside and let it ferment – and try dyeing something else in a week or two.

Handspun Bamboo Top dyed with Ivy Leaves
320 M/100 Gr
14 TPI
25 WPI

Handspun Bamboo dyed with Ivy Sample
Handspun Bamboo dyed with Ivy Sample

Aluminum Acetate Mordant

Aluminum Acetate 5% Solution
Dissolve Aluminum Acetate (5 grams) in hot water and add to dyepot. Add 100 gr yarn into the mordant pot and simmer on warm for an hour. Do not bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the yarn to sit in the mordant overnight.
I re-use my Aluminum Acetate mordant solutions rather than discarding them each time. After you have mordanted a skein of yarn, there is always some mordant residue left in the water. It is difficult to tell how much, but I estimate that perhaps half has been absorbed into the previous yarn. So I dissolved another half (2 grams) in hot water and added this to the existing mordant bath and then topped up the mordant solution with more warm water.

Look for bamboo spinning fibre in my Etsy Shop.

Bamboo Staple
Bamboo staple fibre is produced mechanically via a retting process, similar to flax production. The woody bamboo stems are crushed and natural enzymes break down the stems so the fibres can be combed out and spun. This is a very labour intensive process.

Bamboo Staple Fibre
Bamboo Staple Fibre

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Bamboo Textile – Wikipedia
About Mechanically Processed Bamboo
Bamboo as a Renewable Textile Fibre

Spin Flora

Spin Flora – Banana Viscose Fibre
Spin Flora – Rose Viscose Fibre

Spin Flora Fibres can now also be purchased in my Paivatar Yarns Web Shop.

Handspinning Books
The Practical Spinner’s Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Practical Spinner’s Guides)
Spin Flax & Cotton: Traditional Techniques with Norman Kennedy
The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning: Being A Compendium of Information, Advice, and Opinions On the Noble Art & Craft
Natural Dye Books
Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes
A Heritage of Colour: Natural Dyes Past and Present by Jenny Dean (2014-06-10)
Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

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#3 Shaker Signed JH antique spinning Wheel Sabbathday Lake Maine

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Early Antique Spinning Wheel

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Ashford Kiwi-3 Spinning Wheel - Unfinished, Folding Treadles - FREE Shipping

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Flax: blclipart11

The Westminster Series
A. Barker
Constable & Company Limited



Flax Retting

Flax Retting

Flax Drying

Flax drying

Flax Spreading

Flax spreading

Flax Scutching

Flax scutching
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Linen Fair

linen fair

More Clipart

Page 1: Drop Spindles, buttons

Page 2: Dye vats, Mechanical looms

Page 3: Clipart- Silk Moths

Page 4: Clipart -Yarn balls, cotton bolls

Page 5: Clipart -Tapestry weavers

Page 6: Clipart – WPA posters

Page 7: Clipart – Weaver at a loom

Page 8: Clipart – Weaving room, Distaff Wheel

Page 9: Clipart – Icelandic Spinning Wheel

Page 10: Clipart – Silk Reeling, Cotton Gin

Page 11: Clipart – Flax Retting

Page 12: Clipart – Lowell Mill Girls

Page 13: Clipart – Salish Woman – Emily Carr

Page 14: Clipart – Backstrap Loom

Page 15: Clipart – Spanish Woman Carding Wool

Page 16: Clipart – Hopi Basket Weaver
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Nettle Yarn

Function with Beauty
by John Dunsmore
The fibre from the Nettle plant has been used as clothing in many cultures. In Nepal, the Himalayan giant nettle was processed and used for both fine clothing and for sailcloth. The fibre from the inner part of the plant was removed. The bark is stripped and can be used for basketry. To soften the fibre, the inner bark was simmered overnight in a solution of water and wood ash. The fibre is then beaten and rubbed with oil to make it easier to separate and tease for spinning. The fibre is dried in the sun and handspun with a hand spindle.

Nettle Cultivation
An exploratory study was done by FAIR-CT98 to reintroduce the cultivation of stinging nettle Urtica Dioica. The nettles are planted on trial fields of 10 hectares and the fibres will be spun into yarn and woven into fabrics to determine different applications.

Grado Zero Espace is researching the use of nettle as an environmentally friendly alternative textile. Nettle yarn was used in WW1 and WW2 as a substitute for cotton yarns. Stinging nettle has a hollow core making it a natural insulation. For warmer winter garments the yarn is spun with less twist so the hollow fibre can remain open. For summer wear the fibres are more tightly twisted, reducing the insulation . Nettles were also used as a natural dye. The leaves produce a green and the roots were boiled with salt or alum to yield a yellow dye.

Barhka Textiles
Village women knit wild nettle yarn into scarves.

The Wild Swan
“Look at the nettle that I hold in my hand! Around the cave where you are sleeping grow many of them; only those nettles, or the ones found in churchyards may you use. You must pick them, even though they blister and burn your hands; then you must stamp on them with your bare feet until they become like flax. And from that you must twine thread with which to knit eleven shirts with long sleeves. If you cast one of these shirts over each of the eleven swans, the spell will be broken…”
Hans Christian Anderson

Spinning Nettles – You Tube

From Sting to Spin

Gillian Edom writes about the historic use of nettles.

Exotic Yarns
Salish Blankets
Wooly Dogs
Spider Silk
Norse Yarn

Yarn Spinning Books

The Practical Spinner’s Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Practical Spinner’s Guides)

Hand Spun: New Spins on Traditional Techniques

The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn

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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Peat moss: aa072104h

While I was attending the Dyers Week workshop in Finland, I learned about the use of peat to create new and interesting yarns. Peat moss is gathered and carded with wool, and spun into yarn that can be woven or knitted into garments. Peat can also be made into paper or used in feltmaking with wool. Although the cottongrass or peat plant has white wool-bearing heads, that isn’t what is used for the peat yarn, Rather it is the peat moss on the ground that is found between the soil and the roots of the plant. Eriophorum vaginatum grows, dies and sinks into the marsh. After many thousands of years the peat industry has gone into the marsh to dig up the peat moss. From the moss, the fibres that the peat industry doesn’t need is made into the yarn. The peat yarn is a by-product of the peat industry.

Some of these links are in Finnish or Swedish:
If you are using the Chrome browser, you can change the Settings to translate the pages to English.

Sheathed Cottonsedge, Eriophorum vaginatum
A good description of the peat plant.

Swedish Peat Producers Association
Peat mosses fibre length is about 5 – 20 cm, is fairly soft and can be blended with wool. Because peat has a hollow structure it is twice as warm as wool. Peat is absorbent, light and comfortable and is considered to have antiseptic qualities.

Unfortunately, these businesses listed are no longer in business or have been purchased by someone else. I do not have further contact information for them at this time. If I find peat moss fabric suppliers again, I will update this page.
Kultaturve – Eriotex
Kultaturve is the only producer in the world of materials and garments made from ERIOTEX® natural peat fibre yarn.

peat yarn

peat fabric

peat yarn

peat415.jpg, 29351 bytes
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These links are in Finnish:
If you are using the Chrome browser, you can change the Settings to translate the pages to English.

Fungi Dyes

Mushroom Dye Workshop
Mushroom Dye Recipes
Natural Dye Workshop
Print Making
Peat Textiles

Fungi Dye Books

Let’s try mushrooms for color
The first fungi dye book by Miriam Rice.
UK: Lets Try Mushrooms for Color

Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments, Myco Stix
UK: Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments

Mushrooms for Color
Fungi dyeing by Miriam Rice.
UK: Mushrooms for Color
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#3 Shaker Signed JH antique spinning Wheel Sabbathday Lake Maine

End Date: Tuesday Mar-24-2020 7:04:29 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $225.00
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Early Antique Spinning Wheel

$125.00 (0 Bids)
End Date: Friday Feb-28-2020 12:09:38 PST
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Ashford Kiwi-3 Spinning Wheel - Unfinished, Folding Treadles - FREE Shipping

End Date: Wednesday Mar-4-2020 10:35:56 PST
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