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Author Topic: Learning to Spin - Flax  (Read 2513 times)

Holdasown

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Learning to Spin - Flax
« on: April 13, 2012, 11:24:44 am »
So I was thinking of learning to spin for two reasons: 1. Frau Holda is my matron and 2. my husband and I both sew and having linen to work with would be nice. Does anyone do this already? How did you start? Where do you get materials? I will eventually grow flax myself if I get into it. I was going to try the distaff and spindle method to learn. It's much more economical than a wheel.

HeartShadow

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2012, 11:33:59 am »
Quote from: Ula;50002
So I was thinking of learning to spin for two reasons: 1. Frau Holda is my matron and 2. my husband and I both sew and having linen to work with would be nice. Does anyone do this already? How did you start? Where do you get materials? I will eventually grow flax myself if I get into it. I was going to try the distaff and spindle method to learn. It's much more economical than a wheel.

 
From everything I understand, you want to start with long-staple wool.  I've actually just been playing with it a little - my attempts are .. um.  Amateur. :D:

As far as materials .. there's ALWAYS the internet!  I know http://www.knitpicks.com has fiber and spindles - don't know about quality, but there stuff tends to be decent.

Jenett

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2012, 12:05:11 pm »
Quote from: Ula;50002
So I was thinking of learning to spin for two reasons: 1. Frau Holda is my matron and 2. my husband and I both sew and having linen to work with would be nice. Does anyone do this already? How did you start? Where do you get materials? I will eventually grow flax myself if I get into it. I was going to try the distaff and spindle method to learn. It's much more economical than a wheel.

 
I drop spin (wool, mostly): I've never tried flax because of a particular complication with it, which is that it lets off a lot of little tiny particles in the processing and spinning (which is not a good combo for someone with asthma and existing lung damage, namely me.) In other words, this is something you really want to consider carefully as far as working space, pets in the household, etc. even if neither you nor your husband have particular lung issues.

(I believe the advice I've seen includes having a well-ventilated space, running appropriate filtering. Some people only spin with damp flax, which makes a smooth yarn - the water reduces airbourne particles. Ideally, one does it outside.)

I'd definitely see about learning the basics of spinning with a long-staple wool first (or if you have wool allergies, cotton is a lot more slippery, but can be okay, or alpaca doesn't trigger allergies in some people, if the allergy is to lanolin.)

If you're not already on Ravelry (social networking/discussion site for fiber arts), I'd suggest checking in there: a quick search on flax found me a number of forum posts, forums, etc. that could give you additional help.
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LiminalAuggie

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2012, 12:18:34 pm »
Quote from: Ula;50002
So I was thinking of learning to spin for two reasons: 1. Frau Holda is my matron and 2. my husband and I both sew and having linen to work with would be nice. Does anyone do this already? How did you start? Where do you get materials? I will eventually grow flax myself if I get into it. I was going to try the distaff and spindle method to learn. It's much more economical than a wheel.

 
What a coincidence! I've been looking longingly at spindles for a while, but tomorrow I'm going out of town to a sheep and fiber festival and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to resist (relatively) local supplies bought in person.
I know next to nothing about flax though, unfortunately. Spinning has a heck of a learning curve, AFAIK, but one of my coworkers got into it...two years ago? She went completely wild with it and now has a collection of spinning wheels, including an 18th-century replica she uses for historical reenactment weekends.

I'll second HeartShadow's knitpicks recommendation and add that they have some really excellent customer service, and I think some good instructional spinning videos online as well. :)

Holdasown

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2012, 01:08:55 pm »
Quote from: Ula;50002
So...
Quote

 
Thanks all. I have read on a few sites to learn with wool due to flax being harder. I have found spindles but the distaff are no where to be seen. I'll keep looking. Thanks again. I will let you know how it's going once I get it up and running.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 01:09:17 pm by Holdasown »

yewberry

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2012, 02:53:40 pm »
Quote from: Ula;50002
So I was thinking of learning to spin for two reasons: 1. Frau Holda is my matron and 2. my husband and I both sew and having linen to work with would be nice. Does anyone do this already? How did you start? Where do you get materials? I will eventually grow flax myself if I get into it. I was going to try the distaff and spindle method to learn. It's much more economical than a wheel.

Oh, hai!  :)

I spin both on a wheel and with a drop spindle, but I've only spun flax with the latter and a distaff (well, I've played around on a wheel, but not seriously).  I'd recommend starting with some nice, long-staple wool before moving to the markedly-trickier flax.  This will give you some muscle memory before you have to start fiddling with wetting your fingers and dealing with a distaff (assuming you go the distaff route--there are other ways to spin flax).

I prefer a fairly heavy, bottom-whorl spindle for flax, but I've used a top-whorl too.  While I'm doing the aforementioned fiddling, it's nice to have a slow, steady spin going, and a bottom whorl does this well.

If you haven't already joined Ravelry, I recommend it.  There's tons of spinning info there, and you can chat one-to-one with people like Abby Franquemont (who's a total spinning rock star).

Brina
« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 02:55:01 pm by yewberry »

yewberry

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2012, 02:59:10 pm »
Quote from: Ula;50002
I have read on a few sites to learn with wool due to flax being harder. I have found spindles but the distaff are no where to be seen. I'll keep looking.

A distaff is basically just a stick.  You can make 'em out of any old broom-handle-ish hunk of wood.   a video on how to dress them the traditional way.

Brina
« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 02:59:39 pm by yewberry »

yewberry

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2012, 03:16:03 pm »
Quote from: yewberry;50028
A distaff is basically just a stick.


Whoops. I was going to post pics of a primitive distaff:





So find thee a forked branch and off you go!  :)

Brina

Holdasown

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2012, 07:47:53 pm »
Quote from: yewberry;50034
Whoops. I was going to post pics of a primitive distaff:





So find thee a forked branch and off you go!  :)

Brina


I was thinking making one would be easy. Thanks for more info I will check out the sites mentioned too.

savveir

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2012, 10:08:43 am »
Quote from: yewberry;50034

snip

Brina

 
I've never heard of a distaff before, i'll need to look into it.
A while back my sister picked up a couple of spinning wheels from an oppshop and mine's still sitting around since I have no idea how to spin and I think a drop spindle or distaff might be better to start with.
"I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."
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yewberry

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2012, 10:39:58 am »
Quote from: savvy;50250
I've never heard of a distaff before, i'll need to look into it.
A while back my sister picked up a couple of spinning wheels from an oppshop and mine's still sitting around since I have no idea how to spin and I think a drop spindle or distaff might be better to start with.

A distaff is used in conjunction with flax (and maybe other linen-like plant fibers, like hemp), isn't a spinning apparatus on its own.  It just holds the fibers in alignment for spinning.

I'm not sure drop spinning is really any "easier" than wheel spinning, but it certainly gives you a feel for spinning in general (drafting, twist, etc.).  It's also a lot more affordable than springing for a wheel right off the bat.

Brina
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 10:40:42 am by yewberry »

Wickerman

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2012, 11:54:23 am »
Quote from: yewberry;50034
Whoops. I was going to post pics of a primitive distaff:





So find thee a forked branch and off you go!  :)

Brina
Not sure where you are in the US, and I suppose that any national forest would do, but if your close to Arkansas, I have a lot of small Ash on the farm that would work wonderfully. The reason that I am offering is that a while back I bought the wife a huge floor loom, with the impression than some of the crafty folks in the area could teach her to use it. In short they all flaked out and now we have this loom that we don't know how to use. Spinning would be the first step of course. I also do wood working, so If you have plans for a wheel, or can point out where I could get them cheaply, I could help you build one. I raise meat sheep, which don't need to be sheared, they just shed in the spring, the staple is not long though, and the fleece has a lot of guard hairs in it, don't know if it would work or not.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 11:57:06 am by Wickerman »
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yewberry

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2012, 12:49:10 pm »
Quote from: Wickerman;50272
The reason that I am offering is that a while back I bought the wife a huge floor loom, with the impression than some of the crafty folks in the area could teach her to use it. In short they all flaked out and now we have this loom that we don't know how to use.

Caveat:  I'm not a weaver.  But if I were, I'd probably .  I learned to knit that way, and I can't overstate the usefulness of being able to replay a given section over and over (and over) again until I figure it out.  I'd find it difficult to ask an actual human being for that kind of repetition.

Quote
Spinning would be the first step of course. I also do wood working, so If you have plans for a wheel, or can point out where I could get them cheaply, I could help you build one. I raise meat sheep, which don't need to be sheared, they just shed in the spring, the staple is not long though, and the fleece has a lot of guard hairs in it, don't know if it would work or not.

There are wheel plans available:

It might be worthwhile for you and your wife to try out a few models and see which features you prefer.  I love my double-drive wheel and have never been crazy about Scotch tension spinning, but lots of people disagree and love their Scotch tension wheels.  There are also wheels that operate both ways.  I don't know in what area of Arkansas you live, but you may be able to find a local spinners or fiber guild.  Most wheel spinners are thrilled to show off their wheels and give basic instruction in their operation.  I bought my refurbished antique wheel on Craigslist for $150, but that was after a lot of shopping around and eventually jumping on a fortuitous bargain.

As for the quality of wool you get from your meat sheep, there are lots of uses for courser wool.  Any lined or not-next-to-the-skin projects are well suited to this kind of wool.  You'll definitely want to remove as many of the guard hairs as possible.  This helps with both the ease of spinning and the quality of the finished yarn.  You'll probably also want to purchase or build hand carders, a drum carder, or wool combs to process the fiber prior to spinning.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 12:50:42 pm by yewberry »

Wickerman

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Re: Learning to Spin - Flax
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2012, 12:57:03 pm »
Quote from: yewberry;50277
Caveat:  I'm not a weaver.  But if I were, I'd probably .  I learned to knit that way, and I can't overstate the usefulness of being able to replay a given section over and over (and over) again until I figure it out.  I'd find it difficult to ask an actual human being for that kind of repetition.




 Thanks. There are supposed to be local guilds, but so far no one has attended their meetings and so forth. I guess they are too busy elsewhere. They meet, or so their fliers say at some of the local craft stores, but when we show up, we find that we are the only ones there. I will check out the U-tube thing though as well as the plans.
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