Spinning flax

Flax should be wet spun. In the past the flax was kep wet by the use of saliva, either running the thread through the mouth as it was spun or licking the fingers. This can be rather unhealthy and lead to ‘spinner’s mouth’ and goodness knows what germs may be lurking in the flax. Saliva, as well as helping ‘glue’ the flax together, started the process of bleaching the flax. If you want a healthy alternative to wet spinning then you can spin with a little bowl of water within easy reach and dip your distaff fingers into that whenever you need to.

Sit or stand with your flax on its distaff so it is just above your shoulder on your distaff side. Take a small amount of flax hanging off the bottom and draw it down, away from the distaff, twisting it with your hands. Use the same motion you learned in getting started, pushing away with the thumb and in with the second finger on your spindle hand. This ensures you are twisting your first bit of thread in the same direction as you will be spinning it.

When you have a long enough bit of flax with enough twist to hold together tie the end of it around your spindle a little above your whorl. Pinch the thread at the distaff end to ensure twist don’t creep up into your fibre supply. Now simply spin your spindle using the motion you learned in getting started. At first you may find it helpful to rest your spindle on a surface but practice holding it in the air too as this way you will be able to spin standing or walking around. When you need to add more flax to the length you are spilling, gently pull it away from your distaff with your distaff hand then smooth your fingers along the thread back up to the distaff. Move your spindle hand away from the distaff to maintain tension on the thread.

Once you have an arm’s length of thread spun you’ll ned to wind onto your spindle. Then you can spin another arm’s length, and another!

I often prefer to store a little spun thread at the top of my spindle which give me longer before I have to wind on.

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One thought on “Spinning flax

  1. Pingback: How to spin 15th Century Style | Cathelina di Alessandri

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