FIBERUARY 2018 SPINNING FLAX-NOTES FROM THE HANDSPINNER-LISA BERTOLDI

Spinning Flax Notes from the Handspinner   Lisa Bertoldi

 

The handspinning of flax gives me great satisfaction.  Giving me even more satisfaction is using the handspun thread as the weft in handwoven kitchen  towels.  The resulting fabric has a rustic look and a substantial hand.   Over time the linen thread lightens in color. and with subsequent numerous washings the thread becomes somewhat thinner.

I am buying flax for handspinning now from three interesting sources.

One is Taproot fiber Lab in Nova Scotia.  Patricia Bishop and her colleagues growing flax, retting it in the field, and preparing it in their workshop.  One may dye their dark flax and spin it up.  Imagine flax grown in Nova Scotia!  I have had good luck spinning it, and weaving with it.  The dark color washes quickly away.

Another source is Black Cat Farmstead in Wisconsin.  Weaver and spinner Andrea Myklebust grew a good crop of fax and drove it to Taproot Fiber Lab to have it processed.  Flax grown in the United States!  I am spinning it up into thread just now, a single about 8/1.  Soon to be i the weft ofkitchen towels.

The third source on which I rely on heavily is coming from Scandinavia.  I buy mine at Vavstuga Weaving School in SHelburne Falls.  It may also be available from other shops in the United States.  It is pale and on the fine side, supple.  My mainstay.

I spin what is called wetspun thread.  I keep a small water bowl handy near my left hand at the spinning wheel.  The water binds the fibers a bit and nicely smooths down the surface of the thread.  Some people swear by spittle, and spin their flax using only that.  I prefer to use water!  The other option is dry spun thread which is exactly as it sounds one spins the flax using dry fingers.  The resulting thread is a bit hairy as a result.  For certain applications this is a perfecty good choice.

I am currently practicing to spin a finer thread this winter.  By uing a distaff I find I can achieve  more uniform and even thread, which is my goal.  BY slowing down I am able to spin a bit finer with greater control.  Aiming toward a consistently thinner thread I find I need to take more frequent breaks, so that I can do finger stretches with a rubber band and squeeze a ball of a sort of putty (given to me by my physical therapist)   I soak my hands then in some hot water get a breath of fresh air and a sip of water and I am ready to continue.

Handwoven Goods | Whimsy & Tea | Handwoven Tea Towels

Lisa Dertoldi

http://www.weft.us

Weft Handwovens

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FIBERUARY HANDWOVEN KITCHEN TOWELS BY LISA BERTOLDI

 

                                 HANDWOVEN KITCHEN TOWELS  by LISA BERTOLDI

Kitchen towels!

 

I love big, thirsty, durable, substantial kitchen towels.  They speak to me of comfort, of meals prepared with caring and thoughtfulness.  Of hot corn bread carried to potluck suppers.  Picnics in fields.

 

When I was a child doing kitchen chores, I always had certain towels for which I reached.  Often they were decades-old linen towels.  One I have in my mind’s eye was a threadbare rag, so beloved for its softness and its generous size.

 

For the past nine years I have been weaving those towels.  Always in twill, for the maximum number of threads packed in per square inch, and always in cottolin and linen.  Cottolin, a Scandinavia invention from around the time of World War II, is a terrific thread:  it combines the strength of linen with the forgiveness, the stretch of cotton.  As a warp, it is nearly perfect.  And a weft, or crossing thread, of linen singles, gives gloss, gives absorbability.  I utilize threads from Sweden because they are of very high quality.

I weave these towels on a 160 centimeter Swedish loom, called Glimakra.  It’s a workhorse.  It behaves dependably and admirably, and I love it.  We are used to each other.  I know how the beater should sound, how the treadles should feel with each and every pass of the weft thread.

 

Each individual warp has a sweet spot, an inch or two in which the weft threads flow like water, and flow dependably, and each beat with the overhanging beater is perfect and satisfying.  That sweet spot is one of the great joys of weaving, for me.

 

The weaving, or weaving off, of the fabric is about one-third of the effort of the creation of new cloth.  One must design, then plan the warp;  wind the warp threads;  make the warp chain from those threads;  dress the loom;  then make the all-important sample.  Finally one weaves off the fabric.  Still not done!!  Hemming, then finishing of the fabric.  The final step is inspection of each towel.

 

I sell these towels to an enthusiastic public.  Women and men collect them year after year, in various color ways.  They are given as gifts for weddings, birthdays, house warmings.  I weave them large, nineteen or twenty inches wide, by about twenty-nine inches long, so they can be truly useful in the kitchen or at the picnic. They look great.  They become very buttery soft and yet more absorbent with time and use.

 

I have chosen to focus my weaving on one item, to make that item the best it can be.  Utility is foremost in my mind:  I want to supply superbly absorbent kitchen toweling.  Durability is critical:  I use strong, well made threads from a respected company.

 

I have a limited line, in a sign, which utilizes as a weft thread handspun linen.  I spin this linen thread myself, out of the highest quality flax stricks.  The thread is glossy, strong, lovely.  It is a slow and very satisfying process, and the resulting towels are special:  they look a bit rustic, they are a bit heavier, and the drape is exquisite.  They age marvelously.

 

Each year I perform experiments with rags made from my towels, to see how much use they can withstand.  They hold up really well, and can take many dozens of washings, they can take abrasion, they can take it all.

Weft Handwovens

 

www.weft.us

 

Lisa Bertoldi

51 Conway Road

Williamsburg MA 01096

Landline 413.268.7485

Bertoldi@crocker.com

Lisa also sent us some pictures of a recent Dye Party in Worthington last summer

Thanks Lisa for showing some naturally dyed yarns.  What a fun dye party that must have been,