Flax vs Spindle, Round one

So the next obvious portable part of the Big Stupid Project(tm) (BSP) is to get the flax spun up for the strap. I’m sure there’s many who would say that wood carving is totally portable, but not gonna lie, I’m still working up the nerve to figure out what to do with wood, so spinning. I can spin.

It has been a very long time since I spun flax. Long enough that those same brain weasels that are having a heyday with the notion of wood carving made a stab at freaking out about the flax. Which is, by the by, patently ridiculous. I’ve spun flax before, it wasn’t amazing, but it was possible, and that was easily 15 or more years ago, and I’m a helluva better spinner now!

So in a bid to ignore the rest of my to-do list (productive procrastination ftw!), I poured some water into a dish, grabbed flax and spindle and off we went.

Flax can be spun either wet or dry, although wet spun flax is generally considered to be smoother and stronger. We’re not talking soggy here, but wet fingers smoothing over the flax and little dribbles end up everywhere. There is also popular assumption that flax must be spun S-twist (it’s Traditional! For Reasons! Because the flax plant likes to twist around things clockwise!), but as the archeological record shows that no one told the Norse that, they spun it Z. My habits are to spin Z and ply S, and that’s what the flax is getting too.

 

My flax is exceptionally dry and brittle, it’s been hanging out in stash for I have no clue how long, and it’s still closer to winter humidity than summer humidity around here. Flax staple length can be measured in feet rather than a small handful of inches. It has all the quirks of long staple spinning, all the irritation of silk’s desire to catch on everything, all the obnoxious of unending fuzzies like mohair, all the lack of felting like cotton (Why do you catch on everything EXCEPT when I’m trying to connect a broken spot!?), and all the stubborn cussedness of linen. (That last one.. not exactly surprising).

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I got thread!

In an effort to try and tame the flax a bit, I poured some water in the bottom of a plastic bucket, stuck the flax in a tupperware container and floated the tupperware in the bucket, the lid pinned down by a C-clamp. (Feel free to envy my high class fibre tools.¬† Between toy wheel spindles, pvc pipe niddy noddies and various buckets, boxes and dowels, a fully functional spinning set up is under 10 bucks and a little time with a saw.) I haven’t had time to try spinning my humidified flax yet, but just the feel of it is so much nicer, for that alone, it’s totally worth the bucket trouble. Mother nature seems to be insistent on trying to keep my flax more damp for me by providing unendingly rainy weather, but honestly.. sunny and dry any time now.. I am happy with the bucket tactic!

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Flax in its tupperware.

The next task is to try and spin a little less fuzzy and a bit thicker. The prospect of weaving with sewing thread is one that I’m willing to do, but not excited to do. Hopefully practice makes for more perfect, or even just less sucktastic.

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