Flax processing at home

I have grown flax in our townhouse flower bed since 2014. It is only one square meter and I call it my experimental flax patch. Every fall I have taken last year’s retted flax to the Flax Days at Skansen Outdoor museum to process. It has become a tradition that I look forward to every year. This year was different. The Flax Days were cancelled due to the pandemic. Luckily I now have a complete set of flax processing tools, so I did my flax processing at home.

Ripple

During the late summer I have presented my flax processing tools, but I was missing a flax ripple. My friend Cecilia made a beautiful ripple and I decided to make one myself. I bought wire nails from Swedish eBay and nailed them into a board I found on the attic. It is not the prettiest ripple I have seen, but I have made it.

I rippled this year’s very sad flax harvest with my new ripple. It works so much better than putting the dried flax in a pillow case and trying to remove the seed capsules with a rolling pin, I can promise you that. I just placed a sheet on the lawn and held the ripple fast on the ground with my feet and rippled away. The seed capsules danced off the stems and rolled together into puddles of beads on the sheet. When I was done I placed the rippled flax on the ground to ret.

Break

The gem of all my flax processing tools is my break, dated 1821. The wood is smoothed where skilled hands have held it. When I broke my flax from the 2019 harvest I imagined all the people who had used it before me. I got goose bumps.

While I was standing there my neighbours came by and wondered what I was doing. It can take a while to explain the process to someone who has never thought of where their flax shirts, skirts or trousers come from. A few hours later they came back and I was still working with my flax ( a very small harvest). Once again I sent a thought to all my predecessors who had processed whole fields of flax.

Breaking flax can be quite straining, especially with a break that has been made in a time when people in general were shorter than I. The break breaks the cellulose core that is surrounded by the long fibers. It takes quite a few beats to break the core of a bundle of flax sufficiently. I understand why flax processing must have been something a whole village or community did together. It is hard labour. I do my flax processing at home just like they did, but with just a teeny, tiny harvest.

An in-between step

When I have processed my flax at Skansen Outdoor museum there has been another step after the breaking and before the scutching. In this extra step the broken pieces of cellulose core are further removed from the fibers. At Skansen I have used a tool for this called draga (“puller”) that looks quite like a break. You can see me use this tool in this video. I have also seen pictures of a hand tool for this purpose, called stångklyfta (“cleft bar”, also used instead of a scutching board and knife). You hold the tool and control the “mouth” with your hand, pulling the scutched fibers through the jaws.

Stångklyfta, cleft bar, from digitaltmuseum.se

Scutch

My scutching board and scutching knife are a bit younger than the break. I have seen so many beautiful antique scutching knives – perfectly shaped to fit the hand, ornamented with flowers and perfectly fitting a right hand. I would sacrifice my flax harvest for an antique scutching knife made for lefties. But I doubt I’ll ever find one. The ones I have works well and is made to fit both lefties and righties and of course I’m grateful for that. But still.

Scutching removes the broken cellulose bits from the flax fibers. This is where the retting will be revealed – if the flax hasn’t been retted enough the cellulose won’t separate enough from the flax fiber. And if it is over retted I imagine the fibers will break in the process (if not sooner).

Rough hackle

My first flax processing tools were two hackles, one for rough hackling and one for fine hackling. They are both quite old and I use them with great respect of their age and their potential to hurt me (I only got one hackling injury this time!). Hackling takes care of the remaining bits of cellulose (if the flax is retted enough), removes the short fibers and aligns the fibers.

Fine hackle

In the final step, the fine hackle, the fibers are aligned even further and short fibers removed. Two hackles has been quite common, but sometimes three have been used, with the addition of one or two flax brushes just before dressing the distaff.

When I was done with the fine hackle I looked around for a second bundle of hackled flax. But I found none. This was it, just a tiny bundle. There is a lot of waste in flax processing! Well, not waste per se, all of the flax is used for something – the short fibers (tow) are used for coarser yarn or insulation and the cellulose bits becomes food for the chickens. But the yield of finer spinnable fibers is quite low.

The remaining flax after the second hackling. It isn’t much, but it is mine and a result of flax processing at home.

When I look at the resulting skein of flax I can evaluate last year’s harvest and retting. When I harvested this flax (2019) I knew it wasn’t top quality, so I was prepared for that. I can also see that it may have been slightly under retted. Some pieces of cellulose remain in the flax.

A flax odyssey

I like to bring out all my flax to see the progress (or not) from year to year. The first year, 2014 (to the far left) I only got a rat’s tail, but I was immensely proud of it. 2016 was the year of under retting. 2017 quite successful, but 2018 was really good, both when it comes to quality and regarding the amount of flax ( I had a second patch that year). And 2019, well very little, but a decent quality.

Flax harvests: 2014 (less than 1 gram), 2015 (4 grams), 2016 (5 grams), 2017 (17 grams, new flax seeds), 2018 (53 grams from two patches) and 2019 (7 grams).

I’m fascinated by the different colours. All my flax has been grown in the same place and retted the same way, but still the colour varies significantly in all shades of dew retting.

This year was a disaster and I’m not sure the result will be more than a rat’s tail. But the goal with my experimental flax patch is to learn and I do learn a lot every year through all the parts of the process, both growing and processing.

The retting of the 2020 flax harvest is finished after 19 days of dew retting.

This week I checked my retting flax and decided it was finished, after 19 days of des retting. When I broke the stems the fibers separated easily and in all its length from the cellulose core. Next year I will learn know if it was right to finish the retting when I did.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Know your fleece

This is it! I have pushed the publish button. Drum rolls and fanfares – My new online course Know your fleece has officially launched! Make sure you enroll in tonight’s free webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage to get access to special course offers!

Buy the course here!

Know your fleece

After a lot of hard work and a long launch period it is finally Launch Day. I wanted to make a course in wool knowledge that takes its starting point in the characteristics of the fleece you have in front of you. A breed can have typical breed characteristics, but it is the fleece you have that you will work with and get to know.

In this course you work with a fleece that you have chosen. With the help of inspirational video material and structured assignments you will explore, analyze, empower, plan and experiment with your fleece to get to know it. You work with your fleece, at your skill level, with the tools you have access to and as extensively as you like. I provide inspiration, my experience, my perspective on wool and a structure to work within.

When you have finished the course you will feel more confident in handling raw fleece and planning the process from fleece to textile. You will know how your fleece feels, behaves and how it wants to be spun.

A glimpse of the course curriculum of the new online course Know your fleece.
A glimpse of the course curriculum of the new online course Know your fleece (the image is a screen shot from the course curriculum page).

Five sheep breeds

Through the course you will get to know five Swedish sheep breeds – Gotland sheep, Gute sheep, Klövsjö sheep, Helsinge sheep and Dalapäls sheep. Three of these breeds are presented as webinars that I have streamed during the past couple of years. You may have seen them, but for the course I have edited them and added pictures, keywords and captions. For the two remaining breeds I have made new videos where I present how I prepare, spin and use them.

In one of the sheep breed videos I present Helsinge sheep and look for the main characteristics of the fleece I got.
In one of the sheep breed videos I present Helsinge sheep and look for the main characteristics of the fleece I got (the image is a screen shot of the video).

Championships tour

I will also take you on a tour of the Swedish fleece championships of 2019 together with my spinning friend Anna Lindemark. We go through the fleeces in the championships, category by category, and look at what is unique to the breeds and to the individual fleeces.

A visit to a shepherdess

Another friend of mine is shepherdess and spinner Lena Hansjons. She has a flock of Dalapäls sheep and in one of the inspirational videos of the course I visit her while she shears her sheep and talk about the endangered Dalapäls breed.

Dalapäls sheep are also presented in one of the breed study webinars that is included in the inspirational material.

Know your fleece: Course outline

The course is organized in five themed modules which include the inspirational videos. Each module also presents an assignment you will work on with your fleece and document. When the course is over you will have produced a wool board with samples and swatches to use as a guide for when you process and spin the rest of the fleece.

When you sign up for the course you will get

  • over 5 hours of video material
    • presentations of five Swedish sheep breeds
    • a tour of the Swedish fleece championships
    • a visit to a shepherdess
  • a pdf ebook of the course
  • checklists for each assignment
  • a list of the tools I use
  • useful links to further reading.

The videos (except the visit to the shepherdess) are in English. All the videos are fully captioned in English.

Requirements and material

To take this course you need to be comfortable spinning yarn and you need basic knowledge of wool preparation. When it comes to material you need

  • a washed fleece*
  • tools for wool processing
  • knitting needles
  • notepad
  • time.

*it is up to you if you want to work with washed or unwashed fleece, but I don’t provide washing instructions in the course

This is not a course in spinning or wool preparation, it is about wool knowledge and with your fleece as a case study. You work with your fleece, at your level and with the tools you have. The work and time you invest in exploring your fleece now will bring you closer to the essence of your fleece and to making it shine.

Should I buy the course?

Buying a course is an investment. Many students of my free five-day challenge Fleece through the senses have expressed a feeling of transformation in how they look at fleece after having taken on the challenge. I hope this course will do the same for you if you buy it.

I have tried to describe the course as extensively as possible. To help you decide I have made several things available for you:

  • The course page provides information about the course. You can also see the themes and headers of the lectures in the course.
  • The course promo is available on the course page. In the promo I show you glimpses of the video material and talk about the content, purpose and goal of the course.
  • The introductory video of the course is available as a preview before you buy the course.
The introductory video of the course Know your fleece is available as a free preview.
The introductory video of the course Know your fleece is available as a free preview (the image is a screenshot of the video).

Webinar: The hand spinner’s advantage

(the webinar has already taken place)

Another way to help you decide about buying the course or not is tonight’s webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage. I will stream it live today Saturday, September 19th at 5 pm CET (world clock here). In the webinar I will talk about

  • what a fleece can teach us
  • how we as hand spinners can make the superpowers of a fleece shine
  • a mindful approach to working with fleece.

In the webinar I will also talk about the online course Know your fleece. Towards the end of the webinar I have made special course offers for you that you don’t want to miss. The offers are time-limited.

Two yarns in ten different colours. As a hand spinner I have the advantage to make the most of the fleece I work with
Two yarns in ten different colours. As a hand spinner I have the advantage to make the most of the fleece I work with. I will talk about this in the webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage.

The webinar has already taken place

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

New online course and webinar

Last week I told you I would have a big announcement this week, and I do: This Saturday, September 19th I will launch my new online course Know your fleece. It is a course in wool knowledge that is presented in five themed modules. The same day I will host a free live webinar where I talk about the handspinner’s advantage. In the webinar will also talk about the online course and give you a special offer.

Preview of the course promo for the online course Know your fleece. Enrollment opens on September 19th.

Close to 300 of you have taken the five-day challenge Fleece through the senses that I launched two weeks ago (the challenge is evergreen and open for enrollment). Last week I wrote about how participants in the challenge have appreciated the mindful approach to wool that is presented in the challenge. In addition to that, a lot of the students who accepted the challenge say they have gained a new way to look at fleece after the challenge.

The hand spinner’s advantage

As hand spinners we have the opportunity to look for the essence of a fleece and make the most of it. We can choose to divide the fleece on the basis of colour, fiber type or staple type or make one yarn quality from the whole fleece. We can investigate and find the superpowers of the fleece and make it shine.

We have an advantage, a privilege and an opportunity to get to know the fleece. By exploring a fleece we can make choices for preparation and spinning that are based on our knowledge and experience as spinners.

To me, this is a happy place. I want to be with my hands and my mind in the fleece and discover its hidden treasures. The joy of finding the soul, the essence of a fleece is what drives me to create this course. To me, working with a fleece gives me as much joy and peace of mind as spinning. It is not just something I go through to get to the spinning part. The degree to which I get to know the fleece determines how well I can portray it in a way that makes it justice. The sheep has given me the fleece and I want to make it shine. This perspective is what I want to share with you.

New online course: Know your fleece

Know your fleece, a new online course. Enrollment opens on September 19th.
Know your fleece, a new online course. Enrollment opens on September 19th.

In the course Know your fleece you will join me on my journey from fleece to yarn with the help of five Swedish sheep breeds –Gotland sheep, Gute sheep, Klövsjö sheep, Helsinge sheep and Dalapäls sheep. I invite you to investigate a fleece of your choice through five assignments. This means a lot of work for you but at the same time lots of opportunities to learn more and get a deeper understanding of working with fleece in general and your fleece in particular. I invite you to explore, investigate and be curious about the fleece you have in front of you. There is no right or wrong in this. Your fleece is unique, just as your skill level and the wool preparation and spinning tools you have available.

The purpose of this course is for you to feel more confident in handling raw fleece and planning the process from fleece to textile. The goal is to produce a wool board to use as a guide for preparing and spinning your chosen fleece.

The course is organized in five themed modules with assignments where you work with your fleece and document your findings. After the course you will be able to use your wool board as a guide when you process the rest of the fleece. The work and time you invest in exploring the fleece now will bring you closer to the essence of your fleece and to making it shine.

Requirements

To take the course you need to feel comfortable in spinning yarn and you need basic knowledge in wool preparation. This is not a spinning course and not a course in wool preparation. It is a course in wool knowledge.

Material

You need:

  • a washed* fleece to work with during the course
  • Tools for wool processing – hand cards, combs, flick cards etc. You don’t need all of the tools and not from the start. Perhaps you can borrow some from a spinning friend or from a nearby guild or buy along the way.
  • Knitting needles
  • An area to work by where you have room for your fleece.
  • Time! Invest time in this course to work with your fleece.

*You can by all means choose to work with an unwashed fleece. However, the course doesn’t cover fleece washing.

What you will get

When you enroll in the course you will get

  • videos with five Swedish sheep breeds
  • a video tour of the Swedish fleece championships
  • a video where I visit a shepherdess
  • five assignments
  • an ebook version of the course
  • downloadable assignment checklists
  • useful links to further reading.

The total playing time of the videos is over 5 hours. The videos are fully captioned in English.

Launch webinar

Two yarn types in ten colours from one single fleece. The hand spinner has the advantage to find the superpowers in a fleece and make it shine. Register for The hand spinner’s advantage – a live webinar about what a fleece can teach us.

(the webinar has already taken place)

The course launches on September 19th, which also happens to be World wide spin in public Day! To celebrate the launch and the special day I will host a live webinar for you! The theme is The hand spinner’s advantage. In the webinar I will talk about

  • what a fleece can teach us
  • how we as hand spinners can make the superpowers of a fleece shine
  • a mindful approach to working with fleece.

I will also talk about the online course Know your fleece. There will be a special course offer in the webinar. The offer is time-limited and you might want to stick around until the end of the webinar to get access to the offer. But regardless of whether you buy the course or not I hope you will enjoy the theme of the webinar!

The webinar streams live on September 19th at 5 pm CET.

The webinar has already taken place

So, to sum up– here are ways to help you decide whether you want to buy the course or not:

I hope to see you on the webinar!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram. I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Challenge accepted

Last week I launched a free five-day challenge I call the Fleece through the senses challenge. Every day for five days the students get a text lesson where I reflect over an aspect of working with fleece, some examples and a task to fulfill with their own fleece as a case study. The lesson and the task takes around 15–30 minutes a day to finish. In the challenge I inspire the students to take notes of what they find when doing the tasks.

Challenge accepted

Over 200 people have enrolled in the challenge and I get new students every day. This is mind-blowing in itself – I am so thrilled that so many people are taking this opportunity to spend time with their fleeces. But in this case there was something more going on than an accepted challenge.

Comments

What I wasn’t prepared for was the response in the comments. So many students have shared their thoughts and experiences with the rest of the class. They read and get inspired by each other’s comments and I learn so much about what people are struggling with and what background they have with fleece. The classroom is packed with knowledge and experience!

It seems like students have been inspired by the previous comments to write more than they thought they would. My impression is that many students have taken the tasks seriously and spent time and energy to do the tasks thoroughly and mindfully.

A Swedish Åsen fleece, ready to be explored.
A Swedish Åsen fleece, ready to be explored.

The teacher in the classroom

When I teach in-person classes I love being the teacher. Discovering each student’s learning style and watching them develop and blossom fuels my teacher’s engine. As a course creator, though, I spend a lot of time creating the course, but once I launch it the students are to a large extent alone in the classroom. However, from the comments in this challenge I have been able to take part of the students’ individual journeys through the challenge. I get to be with them as they discover their fleeces and I get to be the teacher in the classroom! So thank you for letting me in!

Confidence to start

Many students in the challenge say that they haven’t felt they have had the confidence to start working with a fleece. This is something I have seen on a larger scale too. Some say that a fleece has felt overwhelming. Others say they have spun from fleece but have seen the pre-spinning part as something they want to skip to get to the spinning part.

I think that this feeling is quite common, especially if you have learned to spin with commercially prepared fiber. But spinning from fleece is a wonderful way to get to know the fiber, regardless of your spinning skill level. When I started spinning eight years ago I didn’t know anything about spinning. I certainly didn’t know a thing like commercially prepared fiber even existed. I got a box of newly shorn wool in my lap, a spindle and a pair of hand cards. Now, getting to know the fleece is to me an integral part of spinning that I love just as much as shaping the fibers into yarn. I can’t have one without the other.

During my spinning career I have made lots of mistakes. But I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t made those mistakes. Doing something that looks good tells me that it looks good. But by making a mistake I can learn why the mistake happened and how I can avoid it in the future. I have said it before and I say it again: Your mistakes are a map of what you have learned.

Sweet Rya lamb's locks waiting to be discovered.
Sweet Rya lamb’s locks waiting to be discovered.

Respect your learning process

It is easy to get frustrated by a perceived lack of knowledge. But there is knowledge! All the students in the challenge are spinners at some level. They know how to spin and how to work with the wool. Working with fleece is an opportunity to get to know the wool from the very start. And when you do take the time to get to know it, it will teach you how it wants to be spun. Or, as a student wrote, “To jump in where you are and begin learning Is the best place to start.  This means right now today”.

Teaching intermediate students means dealing with the frustration many students can express when they think they should know one aspect of a field just because they are experienced in another. But I think it is important to respect your own learning process – you can’t know all about a field from the start. You can build on what you know but you can’t take your knowledge for granted over the whole field.

Read your mind

Many of the students in the challenge have been fascinated by what they read when they take notes of what they discover in their fleeces. This happens to me every time I write a blog post. By making notes of my thoughts I need to articulate them. The thoughts become more clear in writing and when I read what I have written I make more realizations. This seems to have been the case for the students too. They have been very clear in their descriptions of how they experience their fleece and by that they have been able to make conclusions or explore further aspects.

Shades from white to dark grey and staples from crimpy to wavy in one single Värmland fleece.
Shades from white to dark grey and staples from crimpy to wavy in one single Värmland fleece.

Transformation

During the course of the five-day challenge many students seem fascinated by the transformation of the fleece from a mass of locks to something that can actually teach them something. By listening to the wool they discover the potential in the fleece and learn to understand it.

In this there also seems to be something of a personal transformation. A lot of the students say they have a new way of looking at fleece after the challenge. They see the potential of the fleece. Or, rather the potential of a potential that they will discover if they take the time to explore it. This new perspective will have a significant influence on how they look at fleece in the future. Students say they will continue to take the time to listen to and get to know the fleece and let it lead the way.

I hold this transformation particularly close to my heart. The seed to this course is the love of fleece and what it can teach us. If the challenge has helped only one person to this transformation I am over the moon.

Elin the Gestrike fleece is full of potential.
Elin the Gestrike fleece is full of potential.

Confidence to continue

While many students have expressed a lack of confidence to take on a fleece in the first lesson of the challenge, they also say they have a new confidence in the fifth and final lesson. I feel they have gained a new respect for themselves as learning beings. With open minds they show a curiousity about what their fleeces can tell them. They know that every new fleece is a journey of learning that they now are more than happy to make. And that truly warms my woolly heart.

My friend Sara wrote a blog post about her participation in the challenge together with her Gute lamb Elvis. You can read the post here.

Are you tempted to join the challenge? Find a fleece and come to the Fleece through the senses classroom!

This it what you will see when you come to the course page of the five-day challenge Fleece through the senses. This is a screenshot.

Next week I plan to make a big announcement!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Five-day challenge

Listen to the wool. It has a lot to teach us.

Lately I have been working a lot with course creation. I have a number of things in the pipeline, but first up is a free five-day challenge! I call it the Fleece through the senses challenge.

The challenge of a fleece

I love working with fleece. It gives me the opportunity to discover its characteristics layer by layer. From the questions people ask me I get the sense that many spinners are afraid of doing things the wrong way when it comes to working from a raw fleece. My usual answer to questions about how to do this or that is to try, compare and see what happens. Experiment and analyze, let your hands explore and see what information they can get from listening to the wool.

I know that there is so much to learn from really digging deep into a fleece. Every time I meet a new fleece I learn something new that helps me understand how wool works in general and the fleece that I work with in particular. I want to share the joy of working from raw fleece all the way to a spun yarn. At the same time, I realize that the thought of approaching a fleece can seem a bit daunting if you haven’t done it before. To offer some support and structure I have created this five-day challenge where you work with your own fleece (or part of a fleece) as a case study.

Listen to the wool. It has a lot to teach us.
Listen to the wool. It has a lot to teach us.

Fleece through the senses

I call the challenge the Fleece through the senses challenge. I do believe in experiencing a fleece through looking, feeling and especially listening to the wool and all it can tell me if I just let it. This challenge is intended for both spinners who are curious about working with a fleece and spinners who do work with fleece and want to try a new approach.

Five-day challenge

In the challenge you will get five text lessons over five days. Each lessons has a theme where I write about an aspect of working with a fleece through the senses. In each lesson you will also get a task to work with. My recommendation is that you work 15–30 minutes with the task, but nothing stops you from working longer than that of course.

The course page of the Fleece through the senses challenge.
This is what you will see when you get to the course page (this is a screen shot).

Each day of the challenge the lesson will be available at the challenge page at midnight UTC. If you enroll in the challenge after that you will get access to the lesson the next day. 15 hours after the lesson has become available to you you will get an email about it.

You need a fleece or part of a fleece (washed or unwashed) to go through the challenge and around 15–30 minutes a day to work with it. You also need pen and paper to take notes of your findings.

The purpose of the challenge is for you to learn more about the knowledge you can get access to if you give yourself time to discover a fleece with your senses. The goal is to peel the layers of a fleece of your own and write down what you have found. My hope is that after you have finished the challenge you will get a sense of what working with a fleece can be like or, even better, you want to continue approaching fleece the way I have come to love.

Enroll in the five-day challenge here!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Opening up the twist

By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.

Earlier this week I got a question from a follower on Instagram. Shelly asked: How do you avoid overuse injuries to your back, shoulders, wrists and hands since you use all these repetitively and so frequently when spinning/knitting? I see people like you posting constantly and seemingly unaffected by strain. Do you have a special practice to avoid issues when spinning with a drop spindle/Turkish spindle?

I have several replies to this interesting and important question, but my focus will stay on opening up the twist for the sake of this post.

But first, a few shorter replies to Shelly’s question:

  • I am not a monogamous crafter. I have a need to craft and I have lots of projects going on at the same time. When my body reminds me that I have been working in one technique for a long time I take a break and do something else. Preferably this will include a walk or some other way to engage different muscle groups. If I still have a crafting need I may change to some other technique, tool or craft.
  • Instagram posts shows things that have happened. It doesn’t say when it happened or things that happened but were not instagrammed. I love sharing pictures of spinning and other crafts, but it is not what I do all day long. My goal with posting on Instagram is to inspire others to craft and find the joy in the process of making. My wish is that my followers see it as inspiration and not as something that leads to stress for not spinning 24/7. Listen to your body when it tells you to stop.
  • When I spin on spindles I always spin clockwise with my right hand as spindle hand and counter-clockwise with my left hand as spindle hand. With this system the fingers always pull the spindle towards the palm of the hand (as opposed to pushing it away), which is better ergonomically. In all my spindle spinning classes I therefore make my students learn how to spin with both hands. You can read more about pulling and pushing in this blog post or watch this webinar on spindle ergonomics. In the article The Flick that I wrote for PLY magazine’s supported spindle issue I write about pushing and pulling too.
In the article The Flick in PLY magazine's Supported spindle issue I talk about pulling the spindle towards the palm of the hand and how it is better ergonomically than pushing it outward.
In the article The Flick in PLY magazine’s Supported spindle issue I talk about pulling the spindle towards the palm of the hand and how it is better ergonomically than pushing it outward. The thumb and index finger is turning the yarn against the twist direction to open up the twist.

Twist engagement

In the beginning of 2019 I wrote about a theory I call the Twist model. The model focuses on how the presence of twist engages the fibers into the draft and how we can take advantage of this when we spin. With no twist the fibers will pull apart when we pull in each end – nothing stops the fibers when pulled. The fiber is unstable. With a lot of twist nothing happens when we pull in each end – the high twist stops the fibers from moving. The yarn is stable. But there is a point between stable and unstable in which the fibers are semi-stable and will slide past each other without pulling apart. I call this the point of twist engagement (the term Point of twist engagement comes from the Swedish word dragläge which describes the point in a stick shift car where, when both clutch and gas pedals are engaged, the engine is running without moving).

The twist model
The twist model

Working with the point of twist engagement is a way to achieve an even yarn and a smooth spinning with a low strain on the hands, wrists and shoulders of the spinner.

Opening up the twist

When I spin I always work close to the point of twist engagement. In some techniques I keep the twist close to the point of twist engagement as I draft. Not until I have the thickness and evenness I want I add twist to get the final twist angle of the yarn. In others I open up the twist after it has passed the point of twist engagement. By opening up the twist I mean to turn the the yarn between the hands against the spinning direction with my spinning hand. The twist that was too much opens up and allows the fibers to glide past each other.

By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.
By rolling the yarn against the twist I open up the twist to allow the fibers to glide past each other.

Short draw

When I spin a short draw I open up the twist with my spinning hand to allow the fibers to slide past each other without coming apart.

In the video above I spin on a suspended spindle. At 1:18 you can see how the thumb and index finger of my spindle hand turns the yarn against the spinning direction to open up the twist. This way I ease the motion for my fiber hand – I don’t need to pull. Instead, it is the opening up of the twist that allows my fiber hand to move outwards.

In supported spindle spinning I open up the twist with the thumb and index finger of my spindle hand by turning the yarn against the twist direction. You can see this in the video, beginning at 0:22. Turning the yarn against the spinning direction with my spindle hand – opening up the twist – is what allows my fiber hand to move outward.

To be able to open up the twist between the hands they need to be close enough to each other so that the twist opens up all the way between them. I usually keep my middle finger under the spun yarn. The way the yarn is bent over the finger the twist from the spindle is momentarily prevented from traveling up through the yarn too fast.

The yarn lies over the middle finger of my spinning hand, which prevents the twist from traveling up too fast.
The yarn lies over the middle finger of my spinning hand, which prevents the twist from traveling up too fast.

Longdraw

An example of keeping the twist close to the point of twist engagement is the English longdraw, either on a Navajo spindle, a supported spindle or a spinning wheel.

Spinning wheel

In the video above where I spin English longdraw on a spinning wheel I have a sequence that I repeat:

  • I treadle to build up the twist in the yarn on the bobbin side (yarn pinched to keep the twist from entering the rolag)
  • I make the draft in one smooth motion. At this stage the twist travels up the fibers. As long as I can draft with the fibers still semi-stable I am at the point of twist engagement. If I need to, I can manipulate the yarn slightly with my front hand to open up the twist.
  • When I am happy with the thickness and evenness of the yarn, I treadle some more to add the twist I want for the final yarn.

Navajo style spindle

On the video above where I spin on a Navajo spindle I do the same – I work close to the point of twist engagement. If there is too much twist for the fibers to glide smoothly I manipulate the yarn with just a slight roll with my spindle hand thumb. This opens up the twist just enough for the fibers to slide a little smoother. You can see this at 2:17 in the video. When I feel I have the thickness and evenness of the yarn that I want, I add more twist.

Supported spindle

Spinning an English style longdraw on a supported spindle is not very different from the Navajo spindle. I flick the spindle to build up twist, make the draw. As I make the draw I use the thumb and forefinger of my spinning hand to open up the twist. This allow the fibers to glide more smoothly. You can see this at 1:22 in the video above. When I’m happy with the evenness of the yarn I add more twist and roll on.

Spinning students

When I teach spinning I always talk about opening up the twist. In fact, it is one of the first things I bring up in the class. To me, the point of twist engagement is what explains drafting, be it to a beginner or intermediate spinner.

The students open up the twist when they learn how to spin on a Navajo style spindle.

The students work with opening up the twist and get the theory. Usually, though, I find myself picking at their grip and wonder what I need to understand to get them to ease their grips. During my last five-day course A spindle a day I realized that I need to connect the opening up of the twist (spindle hand) with how to hold the fiber (fiber hand).

A soft grip

When I learn a new practical skill I usually hold on to the tool or material for dear life. It is like I believe holding it harder will somehow make the skill morph itself into my hands through the tool or material. I see the same tight grip in my students’ hands – they compress the fiber and pinch the yarn.

Listen to the wool

The wool knows how it wants to be spun. As spinners we just need to listen to what it has to say. It is like the movement the fibers make when they slide past each other forms a signal with information. We can listen to the fibers through opening up the twist – the fibers can keep sliding past each other and set themselves into the twist. But if we hold the fiber preparation and/or yarn (usually and since both hands tend to want to keep the same firmness) too tightly the fibers won’t be able to move – the signal will die. With a gentle grip of both fiber and yarn the signal is free to move between the spinning hand and the fiber hand. This way the wool communicates with us while it also helps the hands communicate with each other.

No pain in the classroom

As a teacher it is my job to make sure my students can spin without strain and pain. To help them ease the grip of the fiber I ask them to see the prepared fiber as a baby bird. It needs to be held firmly enough to prevent it from taking off but loosely enough not to crush it.

I observe my students in the classroom. By this I try to make sure they spin with as much muscle economy as possible. They are there to spin and to enjoy the process and I need to make sure they can without strain. When the fibers slide past each other the fiber hand doesn’t need to pull. Instead the opening up of the twist by the spinning hand allows the fiber hand to move outwards without force, enough to just keep the yarn stretched.

I hold the rolag in a very gentle grip. Basically the yarn just goes over my thumb and rests in the hand. Photo by Dan Waltin
I hold the rolag in a very gentle grip. Basically the yarn just goes over my thumb and rests in the hand. Photo by Dan Waltin

Drafting or pulling?

If the fibers are not opened up enough between the fiber hand and spinning hand the fiber hand needs to start pulling. And with a pull from the fiber hand comes a counter-pull from the spinning hand and both hands end up using more muscle power than they need. Spinning this way may lead to strained hands, wrists or shoulders.

A grip too firm will reveal itself in other ways too – if there is just a bundled-up mess left in the fiber hand when a top or rolag is almost finished it is a sure sign that it has been held too tightly – the outermost fibers of the preparation have slid with the gripping hand hand to the end of the preparation. A fiber preparation that has been held gently has the same shape at the end as it did in the beginning.

I hold the fiber in a gentle grip to keep its original shape. Through the gentle grip and the opening up of the fibers I put the least strain on my body.

A positive result of opening up the twist is that the resulting yarn will end up much smoother than if it were pinched and pulled. Provided of course that the wool is well and evenly prepared. That, however, is another blog post.

Thank you Shelly for this interesting and important question. I gave you a rather short reply on Instagram. I hope this longer reply makes sense to you.


The fall issue of Spin-Off magazine is out now. In it I have written an article called Sliding hooks and textile heritage where I explore antique Swedish spinning wheels with sliding flyer hooks while at the same time discovering my textile heritage. It is a very personal story and I am very happy with the article. As usual, my husband Dan took the wonderful pictures.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Flax harvest 2020

My flax crown will remind me of what I learned from the flax harvest 2020.

I have an experimental flax patch in my townhouse flower bed. It is about one square meter. My goal with the flax patch is to learn. And every year I do learn – what works, what doesn’t work and what is for the weather to decide. The flax harvest 2020 taught me a lot.

Sow

Last year’s harvest was ok. Better than the first years but not the best harvest. This year I sewed my flax quite early. So many sources say so many different dates for sewing flax. The most obvious date is the Karolina Day on May 20th. This is a traditional date for sewing the flax. Preferably by a long-haired young woman without underwear, dressed in at least three white garments and walk with bare feet in high strides.

Karolina Day aside, I try to sew when the soil is manageable. I was a bit late this year, but still a lot earlier than Karolina Day. Previous years I have managed to spread the seeds unevenly and to avoid that I was very focused when I spread the seeds over the soil. In hindsight I realize I may have used too much seed.

Flax harvest 2020

In the end of July when we got back home from a week in a rented log cabin I found plants that had simply withered and yellowed. Others were really low and thin and the overall quality was very uneven. My analysis is that the seeds were too close together, which resulted in some plants dying and some not getting enough room to grow.

Two pairs of flax bundles crossed over a fence
My sad little flax harvest 2020.

When it was time to harvest I was quite reluctant. I knew the quality wouldn’t be good and the thought of pulling the flax made me quite sad. To make some sort of sense of the harvest I started with the highest plants. I was out of those after only four bundles. With pouty lips I paired them up to dry and left the flax patch to its destiny for a couple of days. The remaining flax was far too low and yellowed to make any decent spinning fiber out of.

Not very long and not very even, but the best I could get from this year's harvest.
Not very long and not very even, but the best I could get from this year’s harvest. These bundles have been drying for a couple of weeks.

Processing and retting

For the past few years I have gone to Skansen outdoor museum on their Flax and wool days to process my flax. This year I have all the equipment I need (apart from a seed rippler) to process my flax at home. Also, the Flax and wool days have been cancelled due to the corona pandemic just as many other events. So I will process last year’s harvest one of these days.

Last year a follower asked me to blog about when to do what in flax husbandry and processing, and I thought it was a lovely idea. You can read my flax timeline here.

I haven’t started retting my flax harvest 2020 yet, though. The past week has been very hot and dry and as far as I can see it will continue for a while. I’ll wait until it cools down a bit to give the dew a chance to help me ret my flax.

Crowns

A grass crown is a hanging ornament made of some sort of plants, usually grass, tied around a twig frame. I use a fresh rowan twig for the frame. This year I have made eight grass crowns in different materials – grass, lavender, and onions. The grass crowns were beautifully wild, the lavender sweet and tidy and the onion crowns just goofy.

Some of them hang indoors, others outdoors and four of them have been gifted to friends – a grass crown to my parents for midsummer, another grass crown for the log cabin landlord, a lavender crown to a friend for house sitting and another lavender crown to a neighbour after bad news about her cancer treatments. They have all been very warmly received. There is something special about a hand made gift. I love the perishability of grass crowns. They will change over time and eventually perish. But the material is free to use and new crowns can be made.

A flax crown

As I melancholically watched the remains of my sad flax patch I realized that I could make a grass crown from the medium height plants. I figured they would be flexible to work with and not break in the bend like some of the lavender types did. And I was right. Tying the flax crown was just a lovely activity. Even though I didn’t get to spin gold out of it I got to spend time with the sweet straws while thinking of flax seasons to come.

I made a grass crown of the medium length flax plants.
I made a grass crown of the medium length flax plants.

Every time I look at my sad stricks of flax I think of my beautiful flax crown. It will remind me of what I have learned from this year’s flax harvest.

My flax crown will remind me of what I learned from the flax harvest 2020.
My flax crown will remind me of what I learned from the flax harvest 2020.

The flax crown will also be a symbol of and tribute to the work and experience flax husbandry requires.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Distaff pins

I used to go the Skansen Outdoor museum every August to process my harvest from my experimental flax patch since I didn’t have any tools. The past few years I have managed to get hold of flax processing tools of my own. In this summer series of short blog posts I have presented my flax processing tools. Previous presentations have been about my hackles, flax break and scutching knives, scutching board and a flax brush. This week I present a bonus: Two distaff pins.

Recently I reconnected with my second cousin Cecilia. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 40 years, but now we are close friends and chat almost every day. Family things tend to come her way and every now and then she shows me forgotten treasures.

A wooden family mystery

A few months ago she sent me a letter with two wooden items carefully wrapped in paper. She had found them together with old photos and letters in a family chest of drawers. The wooden items were signed with my grandfather’s name and therefore she had sent them to me. She thought they might be some sort of letter openers or perhaps book marks.

Wooden items, probably distaff pins, made by my grandfather to his mother and aunt. The message says "Greetings to aunt Hildur from Eje".
My grandfather Georg, Eje, made these as gifts to his mother Berta and her sister Hildur. The message says “Greetings to aunt Hildur from Eje”.

One of them had a name on it, Berta. On the other was written “Greetings to aunt Hildur from Eje”. Eje is short for Georg, my grandfather. Berta was his mother and also Cecilia’s and my great-grandmother. Hildur was Berta’s sister, Georg’s aunt. Georg was born in 1901, so my guess is that he made these around 1910–1915.

Distaff pins

I didn’t think they were letter openers or book marks, though. I believe they are distaff pins (Swedish: Rocksticka). A distaff pin is a thin wooden pin tied to the end of a ribbon that goes around a dressed flax distaff to make sure the flax stays on the distaff. A distaff pin was typically made by a young man as gifts to the girl he had his eyes on. A more elaborately carved distaff pin could be given to a girl in a proposal of marriage.

Elaborate distaff pin from Digitalt museum.
Elaborate distaff pin from Digitalt museum.

Eje’s aunt Hildur was a teacher of textile crafts and a distaff pin would make sense. Cecilia has found a spinning wheel in pictures of Berta’s home. Also, since distaff pins were usually made from boys to girls as a token of their affection it makes perfectly sense for younger school boys to make distaff pins for their mothers, perhaps for Mother’s Day.

Berta’s distaff pin sits happily in my dressed distaff. As my spinning patron she watches over me when I spin.

Regardless of what they were meant to be they were a very sweet gift from a little boy to his mother and aunt. And of course I use them as distaff pins. They do their job wonderfully well.

Who wouldn’t want to spin flax from a distaff dressed like this! The ribbon is tablet woven by me with commercial flax yarn.

When I look at my distaff pins I see Berta, my grandfather Georg (who died before I was born) and my dear friend Cecilia. It has been quite a while since I spun flax. Perhaps I will do it today!

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Flax brush

A flax brush is traditionally made with hog bristle. The bristles were usually bundled together at the end and tied with waxed linen thread for a handle and painted with a mixture of tar and resin.

I used to go the Skansen Outdoor museum every August to process my harvest from my experimental flax patch since I didn’t have any tools. The past few years I have managed to get hold of flax processing tools of my I used to go the Skansen Outdoor museum every August to process my harvest from my experimental flax patch since I didn’t have any tools. The past few years I have managed to get hold of flax processing tools of my own. In this summer series of short blog posts I will present my flax processing tools. Previous presentations have been about my hackles, flax break and scutching knives and scutching board. This week I present my last, and most rare tool, the flax brush.

A flax brush history

A rare tool for flax processing is the flax brush. It has been most common in the county of Ångermanland in the middle of Sweden but has been used in other parts of mid-Sweden as well. Some sources also show that brushes have been used in some parts of Belgium, Flandres and eastern Finland.

The flax brush was used for the finest flax and the most exclusive linen products. After the hackling and just before the spinner dressed the flax on the distaff they would brush it to get rid of any short pieces of tow. This would also give an extra shine to the flax stricks.

The left strick is unbrushed and the right brushed with my flax brush. A bit shinier, a bit more organized.
The left strick is unbrushed and the right brushed with my flax brush. A bit shinier, a bit more organized.

Ångermanland has been the epicenter of flax husbandry in Sweden. Brushing the flax was a mandatory step in the flax preparation process for the fines flax fibers. In some cases three different hackles were used, followed by two flax brushes for the very finest fibers. The most common combination was two hackles and one brush.

The brush is traditionally made with hog bristle. The bristles were carefully tied together with waxed linen thread and covered with a mixture of tar and resin to form a handle.

A flax brush is traditionally made with hog bristle. The bristles were usually bundled together at the end and tied with waxed linen thread for a handle and painted with a mixture of tar and resin.
A flax brush is traditionally made with hog bristle. The bristles were usually bundled together at the end and tied with waxed linen thread for a handle and covered with a mixture of tar and resin to form a handle.

Source: Linberedning och linborsten i norra Ångermanland, by Örnsköldsviks museum

My flax brush

I didn’t know about flax brushes until I visited the study collection at Sätergläntan craft education center a couple of years ago. Marie, the weaving teacher at Sätergläntan showed me the collection brush and told me what it was for. When I found one at Swedish eBay this June I knew I needed to get it.

Helena Myhrman, Sollefteå, Ångermanland is brushing her flax with a flax brush.
Helena Myhrman, Sollefteå, Ångermanland is brushing her flax with a brush similar to mine.

When the brush arrived in the mail the seller had attached a lovely photo of a spinner brushing her flax with a flax brush. There is a name on the back of the photo, Helena Myhrman, and where she was from. I don’t know when the picture was taken, but my guess is the beginning of the 20th century. From the picture it looks like she has been doing this for a long time. Her elbow comfortably on the table to get a good height on the strick of flax without straining her arm. The brush in a light grip and a swinging motion. Her relaxed but focused gaze. She knows her stuff. I wonder who she was, how long she had been spinning and growing flax and what happened to the textiles that were woven from it.

A flax brush made of hog bristle.
Imagine that a hog bristle brush can be such a treasure!

Older flax posts

You can find earlier flax related posts here:

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Scutching board

The scutching board was made by P P-son (probably Persson or Pettersson) in 1979.

I used to go the Skansen Outdoor museum every August to process my harvest from my experimental flax patch since I didn’t have any tools. The past few years I have managed to get hold of flax processing tools of my own. In this summer series of short blog posts I will present my flax processing tools. Previous presentations have been about my hackles, flax break and scutching knives. Today I present a scutching board.

Scutching

After breaking the cellulose core you need to separate it from the spinnable fibers. You do this with the scutching knife agains a scutching board. I did accidentally get a couple of scutching knives when I visited a yard sale at a weaving guild back in March, and I figured I would use them against the back of a chair or the flax break. I would figure something out. After all, I started out scutching with a spatula against a wooden flower bin, so I was already in a better place scutch wise.

A simple scutching board.
A simple scutching board.

Craft sale

In June I got an ad about a garage sale. Craft Stockholm was moving their storage and needed to get rid of a lot of stuff to fit in the new location. They had lots of crafting tools and materials and the sale was only across the bridge from me, less than three kilometers. This was too good to be true! And indeed it was – I was at Sätergläntan teaching when the sale took place, 250 kilometers away.

I had marked Facebook event out of curiosity. On the day of the sale lots of pictures were posted on the event page. One of the pictures presented a simple scutching board from 1979. I sent a message to one of the organizers, a friend of mine who lived close to the sale venue. I said I was interested but that I wouldn’t be back in Stockholm for a few days and. She replied that she would take care of it and that the board was $10.

The scutching board was made by P P-son (probably Persson or Pettersson) in 1979.
The scutching board was made by P P-son (probably Persson or Pettersson) in 1979.

When I had returned home after the course I took a walk across the bridge, chatted a bit with Maria who had helped me and walked back with the scutching board over my shoulder. It was very petite and perfect for my little collection of flax processing tools.

Older flax posts

You can read earlier flax related posts here:


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.