Category Archives: Flax and Linen

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

Flax Scutching: aa072397b

When the retted flax has dried, breaking separates the inner core. A flax brake looks similar to a saw horse and consists of heavy hinged wooden blades that fit into wooden grooves in the lower part. Put a large cloth under the flax brake. Open the bundles of dried and retted flax plants. Lay the plants across the grooves of the flax brake and lower the upper part of the brake sharply in quick repeated blows. This breaks the wooden part of the core and should fall to the floor, leaving the clean strick or flax fiber behind.

If the flax fibers are breaking, the flax has been over-retted. The wooden part of the core, called the boon can be used for garden mulch, burned as fuel in your fireplace or can be used in making particle-board.

Scutching

flax scutching
If any boon is left on the fiber after the hackling process, it is removed by scutching. A bat-shaped or knife-shaped wooden bladeboard or blade is used to scrape the flax to remove the boon.

Hackling

Hackling separates the long line fibers from the shorter tow. A hackle is a bed of pins or nails. Secure the hackle firmly to a bench. Hold the flax firmly and one end and comb the fiber through the bed of the hackle. Be careful as the pins or nails are sharp. This is similar to carding wool. The longer fiber left over will be the strick. It should be shiny and uniform in length, with the fibers running parallel to each other. The fiber left in the teeth of the hackle can be removed and recombed to be used as tow.

The flax is now ready for your spinning wheel!

Part 1 – Retting

Weaving Linen Books

How to Weave Linens

Linen from flax seed to woven cloth

Reflections From A Flaxen Past : For Love of Lithuanian Weaving

Linen Heirlooms; The Story and Patterns of a Collection of 19th Century Handwoven Pieces With Directions for Their Reproduction.

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Ashford Spinning Wheel

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Rare Vintage Made In Holland Louet S10 Wooden Spinning Wheel Clothing Spool

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Louet Spinning Wheel S 50/51 Plus Stool And Skein Winder

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Flax Processing: aa072397

There are two general types of flax, one is grown for seeds, the other for its fiber. Linseed has been used for lamp oil, mixed into cough medications, laxatives and other medicinal teas. Linoleum was made from linseed oil and ground cork. The oilseed plant grows to a height of 24 – 30 inches and the root is larger.

The fiber flax plant produces a taller stem, growing to 30 – 47 inches. It is sown more densely, producing less branches and longer, finer fibers than the linseed oil plant.
The fiber flax plant grows in most well-drained and tilled soils except heavy clay or loose sand. It requires adequate daylight, cool nights and warm, damp weather. It is sown in March or April, when the soil is warm enough for germination. It has a fairly short growing period of about 100 days. It can be harvested in July or August.

About 30 days after the flax plants have bloomed, it can be harvested. The seeds are soft and yellow. Lower parts of the stems are yellow and some leaves are beginning to drop. The upper portions of the plant should still be green. Harvesting should be done on a warm, sunny day. If the ground is too dry to easily pull the flax, you can wet the ground slightly, but not the plants themselves. Pull(don’t cut) the plants by grasping below the seed bolls, and brush off the dirt from the roots. Stack the flax plants into bundles, keeping them parallel and try to separate them into bundles of a similar thickness and length for more even drying. Place the tied bundles, root side down against a fence in a sunny location to dry. Turn them occasionally so they dry evenly. When they are dry, the stems will be firm and the seeds will rattle within the bolls.

Rippling

Rippling removes the seeds from the stems. The dry plants are pulled through a rippling comb that is a wooden or iron device that has several rows of nails sticking up. The rippling comb is secured to a bench and the plants are held near the roots and pulled through the comb. The seeds fall off, and onto a cloth that has been placed under the table.

Retting

flax retting
Retting softens and separates the fibrous core of the plant from the outer layer. There are two common methods of retting flax, dew-retting and water-retting. Each affects the quality and character of the fiber in different ways.
Dew retted flax is laid out in thin layers on the ground and allowed to weather in the dew and rain. This can take up to six weeks. The flax is turned over 3 to 4 times during this time to ensure even retting. Dew retted flax turns a silver grey in colour.

Water retted flax is produced by submerging the flax stems in either stagnant or moving water. Water retting takes about three days and gives the flax a golden or pale cream colour. If retting flax at home, it can be laid out in a children’s wading pool. The flax has to be weighted down as it will float in water. After about 2 days, empty the water and refill. Check the fiber every 24 hours and change the water.

To know when the retting process is complete, the inner wooden core should swell and the fiber will be taut. Wind a stem around your finger. The fiber should separate freely from the core.

Rinse the fiber and then spread it out on the grass to dry and bleach in the sun for about a week. Once dry, it can be bundled and stored, or it is ready to be broken.

More…
Breaking and Scutching
Additional steps in the processing of flax.

Weaving Books: Weaving 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

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Vintage Grant Hand Weaving Supply Company Tabletop Loom; 60's to 70's

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Floor Weaving Loom

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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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Vintage Grant Hand Weaving Supply Company Tabletop Loom; 60's to 70's

$135.00
End Date: Thursday Mar-5-2020 17:30:16 PST
Buy It Now for only: $135.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Floor Weaving Loom

$250.00 (1 Bid)
End Date: Monday Feb-17-2020 6:07:54 PST
Bid now | Add to watch list

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