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.
FIBERUARY MASSACHUSETTS SHEEP AND WOOLCRAFT FAIR MAY 27 & 28, 2017
Shepherds are getting their sheep and fleeces ready, vendors are getting wool, yarns and crafts ready for you to see and workshops are now in place. Come and join us at the fair. Located in the beautiful town of Cummington, Massachusetts, at the fairgrounds. Good food will be available bring the family for a day of fun. Sheep shows, Dog trails and lots of demos will await you.
We are pleased to present our workshop schedule for 2017. We host great teachers from near and far. Bruce Engebretson writes for Spin Off Magazine, and teaches at Marshfield School of Weaving. He was trained in the Scandinavian tradition of fiber work. Katherine Johnson will teach us about Naalbinding, spelled variously: in English it is needle binding. Emily Gwynn enlightens us on using charts for knitting! Dotty Taft will be bringing her fleet of drum carder for us to experiment on.
On Saturday the cotton expert Joan Ruane of Bisbee AZ will be demonstrating how to spin cotton. On Sunday, Bruce Engebretson will demonstrate. Other guests will be joining us for various demonstrations.. Check out the Website for times and days. masheepwool.org
A potluck supper will be held on the fairgrounds dining room at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. Everyone is welcome. Please bring a prepared dish or salad sufficient to feed your family to the kitchen by 4:00 p.m. NO BREAD PLEASE! Rolls, beverages, and place settings will be provided. Both refrigerators and a warming are available on the grounds.
The Dog Trials are always an exciting event
See you there
FIBERuary Day 20 Green Mountain Spinnery
Green Mountain Spinnery is a cooperatively run woolen spinning mill located in the southeast corner of Vermont. It was founded in 1981 with three goals: creating yarns of the highest quality, supporting regional and breed specific sheep farming, and developing environmentally sound ways to process natural fibers. We work exclusively with US sourced fibers and are one of the only certified organic yarn mills in the country.
You can learn a bit more about the founders by listening to Woolful podcast episode 41. David, Claire and Libby share their memories of starting the Spinnery as well as their perspective on how it has evolved over the decades.
Today we balance our production between manufacturing yarns for our direct customers and processing fiber for others. Shepherds, dyers and weavers have come to rely on our gained expertise to created finished products that maintain their fibers’ natural characteristics and charms. These custom projects extend the range of fibers that we normally work with in our yarns (wool, alpaca, mohair, cotton and Tencel) to include some unusual fibers such as yak, bison, angora and camel.
Our mill resides in a converted gas station just off the northbound exit of I-91. A tour through our facility will give you a unique chance to travel back in time thanks to the vintage machinery used in our manufacturing process. For example, our extractor and several parts of our carding machine are over 100 years old.
Maintaining these machines and finding ways to re-use and recycle our fibers and water attests to our ongoing commitment to making our yarns with as minimal an impact on our local environment as possible.
And our yarns reflect our passion.
As the fiber is transformed from raw material to skein, it is handled and inspected over 20 times. This ensures that there are many of us confirming the quality of our yarns at every step along the way. And this attention to detail is valued by our customers who have come to trust the reliability of our products.
We hope that you’ll visit the Spinnery when you are in our corner of New England. We’d love to walk you through our mill and share with you how fiber is transformed into yarn and from there into heirlooms that will be as functional as they are beautiful.