The Anti-Spinning Feline Overlord!
How I overcome her naughty ways* and everything else in my determination to spin flax!
How do I thwart the evil ways of Feline Overlord?
I put a screen door between me and her. I do most of my spinning out on my porch while The Evil One is in the house. And don’t say I should squirt her with water or firmly tell her no or give her a thwack on her butt. I’ve done all that. She is singularly UNIMPRESSED and refuses to recognize my authority. So Its banishment to the porch for me.
How do I keep the flax wet enough to spin?
As I mentioned in a previous post, flax has to be wet to be spun. I’ve come across all sorts of suggestions for how to do that including:
- stopping to wet my hands every so often
(Umm.. that messes up my drafting.)
- getting a specially made “flax spinning bowl” to run the fiber through
(I would if I could.)
- and spitting on my fingers and/or the flax
(No. Just no.)
But it occurred to me that flax fiber is processed in water. After the plant has been harvested it has to be retted. That is to say, it has to be rotted. The inner stalk is rotted away leaving the outer fibers of the plat stem. Retting is done in a pond or in a stream. I think in damp climates you can get by with just setting the flax out in the dew and rain. In any case the flax is wet, thoroughly soaked at that point.
Then its broken and scutched and hackled. So, I’d bet you a zillion dollars that back in the day the flax harvest was processed and then set out to dry but not dried out all the way. When it reached that sweet spot of 30% water by weight, all the spinners in a village got to work and spun flax. They got it done before it dried out and couldn’t be spun.
And there was no spitting.
So I decided to try re-hydrating the fiber. Vegetables can be re-hydrated right? I figured flax could be too. I put the flax in a heavy-duty ziplock bag with a wet sponge. I sealed it up and put it in my refrigerator. (I put in the fridge because I was concerned about mildew.) I took it out every evening and spun with it but it wasn’t really wet enough, or wet all the way through, until the fifth day. Then I got rid of the sponge. I keep it sealed up and in the fridge when I’m not spinning it.
Here is what I’ve learned about spinning flax (so far):
- “Its not cotton, Jenn.” I put waaaaay too much twist in my first mini-skein. I was in the plant-fiber mindset I guess and cotton in the only plant fiber I’m familiar with. I ended up with something that’s closer to rope than yarn. Oops.
- When its too wet is doesn’t draft at all. All those fibers are just mushed together. When its too dry it drafts great! But it doesn’t take the twist. There really is a sweet spot for this stuff.
- It easier to spin it from the fold. That is probably because I’m working with tow flax (the cheaper kind) and not line flax. Also I don’t have a distaff to wind the fiber onto. I tried it worsted style and that was okay. But from the fold just worked better for me.
I’m working it up in small, 50-yard skeins. I usually do that with any new-to-me fiber or technique. As I improve, the weight of my yarn keeps changing. My latest, on the right, is 14 wpi (wraps per inch) which makes it about fingering weight. Ignore that first skein on the left; its my over-spun rope-like stuff. I’m keeping it around because its so bad it makes me giggle.
Lots more to do! How are ya’ll doing on your vintage project?
* The back story on that little video of Her Wickedness: I was only try to spin a few yards, just enough to test the wetness of the fiber on that particular evening. But she was not having it. She leaped up into my lap and started bitting on my flax. But… BUT once I stopped spinning, she was perfectly content. She was content to let me scooch my chair over, grab the web cam, set up my light tee (while sitting, that was a feat), and start the recording. She sat on my lap and purred through all that. But just as soon as I started spinning again.. well. You see how she is: BAD.