Daily flax

Last summer I mustered up the courage to spin flax. I had got some very long 80 year old Swedish flax from a relative of a relative. To manage it more easily I rehackled it, and spun it whenever I could spin outdoors. This year I am rehackling again – with 80 year Austrian flax from the Berta’s flax project.

It was a mixed feeling when I unraveled the Austrian flax from Stephanie Gumpenberger. I was both eager and scared to spin it. It had such a significant history and I wanted to be sure I could do it justice. But then again, just spinning it at all would do it so much more justice than seeing it burnt, as so many flax chests of the time had been.


Stephanie’s flax has been neatly stored in a chest for many years. As with any flax I like to rehackle it right before I dress it on the distaff, just to give myself the best possible spinning conditions.

80 year old Austrian flax, ready for rehackling.

I have one rough hackle and one fine hackle and so that’s what I used. As I opened the strick I was amazed at the quality of the flax and the condition it was in. Long, smooth and shiny. Almost no tangles. Still, it had been compressed for many years and would do good with rehackling.

I divided the opened strick into smaller bundles to be able to work as gently as possible in the rehackling. The rough hackling took some shorter fibers and a just a few tangles. This first rehackling opened the bundles up a bit and aligned them.

The fine hackling took even less fibers but there was still a significant improvement from the rough hackling. The fibers were even smoother and a bit loftier.


In Ångermanland, a small part of Sweden, but an important place of flax husbandry in the past, a flax brush was often used after the fine hackling and just before dressing the distaff. Sometimes two or even three brushes of different fineness were used – the finer the fibers the finer the brush.

Last year I managed to get my hands on a flax brush on Swedish eBay – a real hog-hair brush with a tar handle. I don’t know if it’s considered a rough, medium or fine brush. It does its work though, and it feels very special to be able to use it on my flax. After the brushing all the short fibers are gone and the flax shining in all its glory.

Dressing the distaff

By distaff I mean maple stick I have carved and shoved into a parasol stand on the terrace. Despite its origin and makeshift construction it works very nicely as a floor distaff.

To prepare the flax for the distaff I make a fan of it. I place the flax on the table in front of me and draft out one thin layer at a time into a fan, until I have fanned out the whole bundle. The fibers are now criss-crossed across the surface so that each fiber easily can catch on to a nearby fiber. You can watch how I create my fan in this video.

Sittin’ in the morning sun

I have been spinning the Austrian flax daily when I haven’t been away. I spin the flax on our terrace, either in the pale morning sun or in the shade in the afternoon. The wind catches both my hair and the flax on the distaff, giving the spinning an extra dimension.

As I slowly draft the fibers from the distaff into the twist I find a sweet rhythm – draft, treadle, draft, treadle, occasionally mixed with wetting my spinning hand fingers or moving the draft across the flax. I feel every fiber go through my hands as I think about why they were grown, the land they grew on and the connection to Austria and my own Austrian heritage.

Switching hands

It’s really hard to stop spinning flax. As there is quite a lot of fibers dressed on the distaff I can alway spin a little more before I take a break. When I finally do I realize that I have been spinning for over an hour, just treadling and drafting.

I work a lot with switching hands, both for reasons of ergonomics and to teach both my hands to understand the roles of both spinning hand and fiber hand. With the knowledge that I often spin for long periods when I work with flax, I find it extra important to switch hands.

My daily flax session on the terrace is one of focus and joy. Having the flax going through my hands right in front of my eyes makes my heart sing. And my hands with it.

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 missanything!
  • 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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.

Liked it? Take a second to support Josefin Waltin on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

5 Replies to “Daily flax”

  1. It always makes me smile to wake up to a new blog post from you. The whole process of rehackling and then spinning this old flax sounds both daunting and rewarding. Thank you for talking about your process. I’m pinning this post so I can reference it when the flax strick in my fiber basket works it’s way into my spinning cue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.