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.
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.
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.
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.
Older flax posts
You can find earlier flax related posts here:
- Harvest day in the experimental flax patch
- Spinning flax on a spindle, with video
- Flax processing, with video
- Flax retting
- Flax Day
- Flax timeline
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