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 Eric and Barbara Goodchild

Hello

FIBERuary   Day 19  Eric and Barbara Goodchild -Handspun Yarn

HANDSPUN

Hello.  We are Barbara and Eric Goodchild of Barberic Farm in Shelburne, MA.  We are going to tell you about our handspun wool yarn.

Handspun yarn is yarn that is created by “hand” using just fingers, simple sticks, or more complicated machines run by people power, to twist fibers into heavier string than the original fiber.  This twisting holds the many short fibers together to create a stronger and longer “string” to make items from.

On our farm, handspun starts with our Romney sheep.  Care is taken all year to keep the wool on the sheep as clean as possible.  The sheep are fed from pastures free of high weeds and grass, with seeds that could get into their fleece.   In the winter, once the sheep are off of pasture, and in the barn full time, we put coats on the sheep.  A sheep coat is much like a dog coat.

Extra nutrition is given to the ewes (female sheep) when they are nursing their lambs, to keep the fibers strong while there is a big drain on the ewes natural resources as she feeds her lambs and grows her new fleece.  If a sheep becomes under-nourished or sick, this can cause the wool fibers to become thin or brittle.  This will cause a weak spot in the fiber that will break while being made into handspun.

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Shearing time on our farm is in March, about 4-6 weeks before lambing.  At that time each fleece is skirted to remove the dirty fleece and vegetable matter, weighed, measured, and labeled with the sheep’s name.  Fleeces are stored in brown paper bags until they are sold or sent to Still River Mill in  Eastford, CT to be made into roving.

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Roving is a continuous  length of washed, combed fibers that we use to spin into handspun.  The spinning of the yarn is done on our Ashford spinning wheel, which is powered by a foot pedal that causes the fly wheel to turn that powers the spinning apparatus.

Handspun wool yarn can be spun fine, medium or thick.  Just like commercially made yarns, the yarns thickness is defined by a number system.  Lace is #1. Sock is #2. DK or light worsted is #3. Worsted is #4. Heavy worsted is #5. And Bulky is #6.  These weights allow the knitter to know how best to use the yarn.

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Once the yarn is spun, we can ply 2 or more strands together to make a thicker or variegated colored yarn.  Once the bobbin on the spinning wheel is full, we remove the yarn and put it on a kniddy-knoddy.  This stretches the yarn to prevent tangles, and makes what is called a skein.  After plying each skein is soaked, drained, squeezed to remove the water, and hung at full length with a weight at the bottom to dry.  This process sets the twist of the yarn.

After the yarn is fully dry, we measure the skein’s length, weight, and thickness.  Now it is ready to be made into beautiful wool garments or crafts.