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 How to set the wheel up to spin linen?
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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2005 :  2:54:48 PM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
I'm such the Spinning Fool.

I just finished whipping out a load of corriedale singles and I was feeling cocky. It went so well that I thought I'd try my hand at the bag of linen I bought awhile back. Well, I apparently don't know what I'm doing.

How do I spin linen? How is the tension, etc., supposed to be set? I think I'm over twisting it and it is causing it to break. I've adjusted the tension, but that doesn't help. I've moved the belt to a larger diameter (forgive me, I'm not sure of the name) gear thingy. Didn't help. :(

Is the single supposed to end up smooth, or will it have the little bits and pieces of the ends of the linen fibres poking out? What in the world will I do with it if I ever get it into a yarn form? I've given up at the moment and I'm back doing some wool fibre I bought in Taos. WHICH, by the way, is like buttah.

Can someone give me some pointers on the linen? It is 8 oz. of bleached Irish linen. I'm using a double treadle Lendrum, if it might matter....

Valk_scot
Permanent Resident

United Kingdom
1281 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2005 :  03:44:15 AM  Show Profile Send Valk_scot a Private Message
I`ve never spun linen, only read about doing it, but I have two thoughts.

1) You`re supposed to wet your fingers as you spin linen fibres in order to smooth it down, I think. Not the fingers holding the fibre mass, just the fingers that are controlling the twist. Old flax wheels sometimes had a little indent somewhere for a bowl for water.

2)In the olden days you spun from a dressed flax distaff, not a mas of fibre. I don`t know how modern bagged fibre preparations compare with this, but it might be worth finding out?

I did have a Google around for info, because I recall an interesting article in a back issue of Spin-Off about this. I couldn`t find a directly informative site about spinning, but there was a tiny snippet in this article, about spinning flax in the opposite manner to wool, ie spin the singles S-twist, then ply Z-twist.

http://www.ealdormere.sca.org/university/flaxspinning.shtml



Val.

[img]http://smileys.smileycentral.com/cat/26/26_9_21.gif[/img]
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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2005 :  04:20:04 AM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
Hey Val. Thanks for the info. I'll try wetting the fiber and see out that goes...

Thanks again!


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Fivefibers
Permanent Resident

USA
1131 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2005 :  9:12:32 PM  Show Profile Send Fivefibers a Private Message
If you have a distaff available for use, it is not at all hard to dress it. You spread the flax out, LIGHTLY spray it with water, and roll the 'cage' over it as though you were rolling up cotton candy. (sorry, best I can do with an explanation)

If, however, you have it in a somewhat muddled bundle, try dampening it lightly and keep it in a rolled towel on your lap as you spin. Instead of moistening your fingers with spit, have a small (very) container near the orifice of the wheel and dip your fingers into it every so often. Adding a bit of glycerine to the water may also help the fibers stay put. You can spin flax dry, but it will appear to be somewhat hairy.

Fivefibers
2sheep; 3goats; 5bunnies
(so far)
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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  06:01:56 AM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Fivefibers

If you have a distaff available for use, it is not at all hard to dress it. You spread the flax out, LIGHTLY spray it with water, and roll the 'cage' over it as though you were rolling up cotton candy. (sorry, best I can do with an explanation)

If, however, you have it in a somewhat muddled bundle, try dampening it lightly and keep it in a rolled towel on your lap as you spin. Instead of moistening your fingers with spit, have a small (very) container near the orifice of the wheel and dip your fingers into it every so often. Adding a bit of glycerine to the water may also help the fibers stay put. You can spin flax dry, but it will appear to be somewhat hairy.

Fivefibers
2sheep; 3goats; 5bunnies
(so far)




Wow. Okay! Well, the linen is in a long thingy, much like some wool fiber is. Does that make sense? Wool is sometimes then wound into a ball. The linen in a sack, but kinda stays together in this long 1.5 inch wide mass. Perhaps not enough coffee yet and my brain isn't working correctly. I just can't think of the term/word for what I'm trying to say.

No distaff to use. I can get some glycerine. So, does linen require lots of twist? Won't it mold if I leave it damp on the bobbin for a day or two or three? Do I take it off the bobbin within a certain time to let it dry? Do I boil it at some point? Where did I read that....

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Fivefibers
Permanent Resident

USA
1131 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  12:05:03 PM  Show Profile Send Fivefibers a Private Message
You only need enough dampness to keep your fingertips moistened. You aren't exactly getting it soaking wet, is what I am trying to say. Believe me, most spinners won't be filling a bobbin in a day! I spin it as fine as sewing thread. The spun thread should be as smooth as a baby's bottom and not full of knots and bumps.

The wheel should have only enough tension to draw it from your fingers. If it kinks up, you are putting too much twist in it.

Although glycerine is not a necessity, I have always liked to dribble a bit of it in my water when I begin to spin. I think this keeps the fingertips moist longer. The moistness helps the threads to latch on to one another and although the spinning can be done dry, the dry spin will leave you with slightly fuzzy thread. Moisture helps smooth the fuzzies down.

I have never boiled the spun flax, but you may do that with spun cotton. Also, even though the bleached fibers are available, I personally prefer the natural shade; this is just a personal preference, though.

I wish I could help you more. I did take classes in flax preparation with Tom Knisely at the Mannings some time ago. The only books I could think of right now which would show good how-to pictures are out of print. Do you have access to Allan Fannin's book on spinning? How about Mabel Ross' 'Encyclopedia of Handspinning'?

Fivefibers
2sheep; 3goats; 5bunnies
(so far)
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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  1:02:31 PM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
RE: Access to Spinning books. Alas, no. I might try interlibrary loan, however. Thank you for the book titles.

Fivefibers, what do you do with the linen when you are finished spinning it?


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yarnlover
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1752 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  1:38:37 PM  Show Profile Send yarnlover a Private Message
I'm not a flax spinner, but my spinning guild had a 2-session workshop a few months ago. I have notes on the various ways to spin flax, but I didn't like it at all, so did not finish, and stashed my fiber and notes somewhere. Right at the moment I can't remember where, but I do remember part of the discussion on boiling the yarn. It was recommended that it be boiled for up to a couple of hours. The suggestion was to get some wide pvc pipe with holes in it, or drill holes in it for a bobbin so the water can flow through the yarn from inside and outside the bobbin. I think the boiling softened the yarn, and as I recall there was a difference in the before and after samples.

We had samples of french and belgium flax, tow and another type of preparation whose name escapes me at the moment.

The spinning techniques recommended were spinning from the fold, or drafting with a drafting triangle, or using a towel to contain the fiber. Different techniques for different type of fiber/preparation of fiber. I remember the recommendation to draft with the right hand instead of left (assuming a right handed spinner who uses the left for the drafting triangle) and the reason made sense to me, though again I can't remember enough to explain it. I tried this and didn't find it as difficult as I thought it might be.

For one type of flax, we layed it in a large towel and folded the towel over it, then rested the towel over the shoulder to draw the fiber to spin. This was a dry technique, and I didn't try it. The other was using water to keep the fingertips moist, and that is what I tried. I found it pretty easy to spin, but just don't like these kind of yarns (cotton, linen, etc.) so I only tried it because I had the opportunity. The boiling part of the process confirmed that this wasn't something that I was going to pursue, but I'm glad I tried it. If I find my notes in the next day or so, I'll post anything that seems significant. By the way, another spinner brought some hemp to the meetings, and said she found it easy to spin without all the mess of the flax. Can't give my personal opinion as I didn't try it.

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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  2:46:36 PM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
Yarnlover, Thanks for your help! I have a feeling linen won't be a repeat in my spinning future. However, I don't want to waste the linen and the money spent on it. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it if I ever get it finished. Maybe a HUGE facecloth or something... :)

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Lanea
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USA
5189 Posts

Posted - 12/27/2005 :  06:42:27 AM  Show Profile  Visit Lanea's Homepage Send Lanea a Private Message
I've never spun linen on a wheel, but I've had decent results wet spinning with a drop spindle. I used a linen spinning bowl (this strange contraption that really wets the tow), which really did wet the fiber, so I wouldn't want to spin it with my wheel for fear of damaging the wood. A couple of friends of mine and I have some big linen-spinning plans for the spring, so I'll let you all know what I learn.

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pjkite
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1198 Posts

Posted - 12/27/2005 :  11:51:47 AM  Show Profile  Visit pjkite's Homepage  Send pjkite a Yahoo! Message Send pjkite a Private Message
Linen fiber comes in two basic forms - strick and tow. A strick will be a long mass of combed fibers, and individual fibers will range from 24-40 inches in length. Tow will be more like the top we're all used to seeing, and fibers will be shorter - about 4-8 inches.

You spin tow very much like wool, with similar wheel ratios and take-up. Wetting your fingers as you spin will help cut down on the hairiness of the yarn, but won't completely eliminate it.

Strick or line linen (which is technically flax until spun, by the way) is spun from a distaff of some sort. I like to wrap about an inch-thick portion of the strick in a towel and spin from my lap, but many people prefer a distaff of some sort. You'll spin this very differently from wool, due to the length of the fibers. Set the wheel up with your largest whorl - too much twist is easy to put in - and prepare to spin some of the finest stuff you've ever seen. Don't pull more than 2-3 fibers at a time from your choice of distaff. If spun with damp fingers, this will make a beautiful smooth yarn. Singles linen is lovely stuff to use on a loom, or to knit lacey items. Stiff at first, it will relax into a beautiful fabric with washing and wear.

Linen is lovely stuff to spin, but spins quite differently than wool, cotton, silk, cashmere or alpaca. It isn't particularly difficult - just different. Keep playing, flutebabe. At the very least you can make a beautiful linen tote for summer knitting!

Pamela Kite
East Tennessee
http://fiberlife.blogspot.com/

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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/27/2005 :  12:50:33 PM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
Hey Pamela! THANKS! It must be Tow. I think maybe I should wait until I have developed sufficient patience before attempting it again, especially if I'm only supposed to use 2 or 3 fibers at a time. I swear each fiber is only about 1.5 inches long.

I don't have a loom. Yet. ;) So, I'll have to knit it into something.

I also have some purple ingeo and natural cotton that I need to figure out. Maybe in a few months....

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pjkite
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1198 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  08:55:07 AM  Show Profile  Visit pjkite's Homepage  Send pjkite a Yahoo! Message Send pjkite a Private Message
Whoops! If it is tow, and that short, you'll want to spin it pretty much like wool, flutebabe. So don't try the 2-3 fibers thing unless you want VERY fine singles! Go for more like 8-12 fibers in the drafting triangle - about what you'd use for merino or other fine, short wool.

Pamela Kite
East Tennessee
http://fiberlife.blogspot.com/

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flutebabe
Seriously Hooked

968 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  10:36:56 AM  Show Profile Send flutebabe a Private Message
Will the damp fiber cause the oriface to rust on my Lenrum??? Any thoughts on that???


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pjkite
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1198 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  12:11:03 PM  Show Profile  Visit pjkite's Homepage  Send pjkite a Yahoo! Message Send pjkite a Private Message
It's never done my wheels any harm. I've done linen on an Ashford Traveller with a metal oriface, and on my Symphony (as well as the Rose, which has a delta oriface). No problem. And it's slow spinning, so I've also never had any problem with mildewed yarn on the bobbins or water-staining on my wood bobbins - seems the yarn has time to dry before you get the next layer on top of it. There's a difference between dripping wet and slightly damp, and you pretty much want the yarn closer to the former than the latter. If all you do is dip your fingers into a bit of water every couple of minutes, the fibers won't get sopping wet.

I must admit, though, that if I were planning to run the yarn through a cup enroute to the oriface (as is suggested in some texts), I'd definitely use the Rose just because I don't think it would be good for the wood bobbins. The oriface is usually either well-polished stainless steel or brass, though, so no real problem should exist.

Pamela Kite
East Tennessee
http://fiberlife.blogspot.com/

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