I spent most of last week on a workshop in Devon at the studio of Susie Gillespie. I do quite a lot of teaching now and I feel it is really important to be on the other side of that sometimes too. The workshop was all about growing, processing and spinning flax into yarn and then weaving with it. It was a really stimulating workshop in a lovely location and I felt very lucky indeed to have had the opportunity to be there.

There is a lovely vocabulary that goes with this activity: retting, rippling, combing, breaking, scutching…

It is quite an involved business to get this small hand full of fibres ready to spin. I quickly developed a huge respect for peoples of the past whose only way to have cloth was through this series of processes.

I’ve not done any spinning before, although I do have my Granny’s spinning wheel in the cellar. I’m hoping to use it now I’ve had an introduction. The linen yarn I spun was very hairy and more like rough string than beautiful linen thread, but it is a start and I am looking forward to improving my spinning skills.

It was also good to see a little of the surrounding landscape with walks along part of the River Dart and a windy bit of the coast at Man Sands.

We did some natural dyeing, ending up with a lovely colour palette of linen threads to play with and incorporate into our weaving. I was asked to lead a stitching session on one of the days: we used the dyed threads and a host of items we collected on our walks.

I will be teaching with Susie in April and August this year and I’m really looking forward to returning to this lovely pocket of Devon.

16 thoughts on “flax

    • The long fibres are so nice to work with once you get your head around the coordination required for spinning (it felt a bit like learning to drive!)

    • It is quite safe! My cellar is dry and I’m looking forward to getting to know the spinning wheel better…

  1. What a wonderful way to spend a day! As a longtime handspinner I often spin flax to use in my artwork. Spinning flax with wet fingers will produce a smoother yarn/thread. Handspinning is my passion, so lovely to hear someone else discovering it.

  2. love reading this blog post. growing flax, processing, and using it is very satisfying, and your view as student helps me (who is usually teacher these days) to see through your eyes. as an aside, this past winter i made paper from both prepared unspun flax and linen canvas offcuts. flax and linen (cloth) paper are as special as are the textiles.

    • Thanks Velma. Your hand made paper sounds lovely. I’m more often teacher than student these days but I love to be on the other end of it and learning all the time from both ends!

  3. the colors of your linen threads are so lovely. so are your pencil drawings, across the fold. speaking of flax spinning vocab – you probably know this – ‘pop goes the weasel’ refers to a sound made when the spinner has stepped back far enough? I think.

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