Hair to dye for the Mer’s.

Hair to dye for the Mer’s.

After a long pause from felting to work on the Guild Library survey (why did no one tell me data analysis was so much fun?) with interruptions to torture incent unsuspecting flax plants, I am now back to working on the Mer’s.  Shark Boy is coming along nicely but seems to be missing something… hair!! They will all need hair, but I want it to work with their tail colours too.

Well, I should have some locks or at least some bits of fleece that might work for long hair, because what Mer would not want long hair? All that floating along behind them in the water, looking flowy, and lustrous. Gorgeous tresses, getting in their eyes when they are hunting. ok maybe a braid might be better or another somewhat controlled hairstyle but long, defiantly.

I am imagining picking up bits of colour from the body may be a base of black or dark gray with streaks and accents of some of the body tones. Since Hair should be different than skin, I want to use a different fibre than the Corriedale I have used for the body. Something with a bit more body, (without the use of styling products or heavy conditioners).

In 2019 I picked up a couple of “Coarse” fleeces from the Wool Growers Co-op. Both are quite soft but are more towards a wavy hair than a fluffy crimpy type of sheep. Both are off white to light gray. I also have a reddish-brown Shetland fleece that might be interesting overdyed. I collected a sandwich zip lock bag of each from my stash and turned to the problem of changing their colour.

I need hair dye! Well, I have threatened my hair with that if it didn’t do something interesting as it’s progressing back to the “blond” I was born with. (Ann says it’s a shade of light gray, I claimed it’s just transforming to blond a very light shade of blond that I hope one day will be white) so I don’t have any hair die and none in greens and blues. Humm.

 1 I don’t have any hair die

I do have some old Ritz dies in the basement but they are for dyeing medieval gowns so a bit too much for small samples of fleece. I have heard rumours that you can use food colouring to dye with. Yep, checked youtube, they seem to show only dyeing yarn but it should work with what you make yarn with! Ok, check the kitchen, no food colouring.  I have a plan! Ask Glenn to pick some up on his way back from work! Thanks, Glenn.

So I had collected samples of the two coarse fleeces and a bit from one of the Icelandic. My final fibre to add was horsehair to give a bit more body. I have some dark and light tail hair but unfortunately, it was clumped together and tangled. I was able to extract some and got them laying parallel, held together with a bulldog clip.

Now what do I cook all this in. it’s a bit small for even my smallest pot. Hummm. I am not using the plastic organizer trays I was using for saucers on some of the outdoor plants. I wonder if they would go in the microwave? They don’t say that they don’t go in the microwave!

 2-3 Plan B

I am likely too impatient but I soaked the fibres in warm water and vinegar to prep them for dying. I realized I could fit most of my samples in one organizer and left one sample in the other.  I let it soak until the fibre seemed quite saturated and removed some of the excess water.

  4-6 Soaking in water and vinegar

When I could not stand the wait any longer, I dripped in drops of strait blue die on one end of the containers.

 7 Dye just sitting there

Well, that was disappointing. They just sat there, maybe I took out too much water. I think it needs a poke to inspire the die to migrate a bit. (One of the YouTube videos poked at their skeins in the dye bath) where did I put the spare take out wooden chopsticks? Found them! Why are they with the plastic straws? (maybe filed by the similarity of shape?) Poke, poke, stab, poke and the die is migrating along the top. Ok, let’s add some green and see if we can get a bit of migration and mingling. This is starting to sound quite social. I should put out cookies and make drinks! Again, green drips just sat there. Maybe a bit more water, AH! Yes, now it’s mingling better. More poking but not stirring and I have a nice blue-green, not the Prussian blue I was hoping for but it’s not the right base blue I suspect.

8-9 Poked with chopsticks then tipped the container to migrate the dye

Next, I dripped in some yellow to both samples and worked that in with more poking. Finally, I tipped the containers and got the unattached die to migrate towards the undyed parts. I assessed how it looked and deemed the blue was not quite what I wanted. Maybe a bit of red to get the blue a bit more towards purple would be better?  Let’s try that on the samples with the darker one. A few drops! Oh, my! Red is an aggressive colour! Well, I’m not sure you would call that blue but it is investing. Let’s see what it looks like when it’s dry.

10 3 drops of red

11-13 Heating it up, then letting it cool

Now on to the microwave, let’s guess a minute at a time. Two minutes total gave a nice hot dyebath but still a lot of suspended die. I cooked both for 2 minutes covered with cling wrap and remembered to take the mettle bulldog clip off the horsehair before I stuck it in the microwave. Now let it sit covered until it cools down on the stove and see if I have suspended dye left in the wool.

 14 one leaked but it did seem to have survived the microwave

Usually, I am much better at this patents thing, maybe I will go make some oolong tea. In addition, one of the last of the season’s butter tarts made by Ann. She is amazing and her butter tarts are Really good!

15-16 Oolong with one of the last tarts of 2020.

17 Cooling fibre on the stove

Enjoyed the Butter tart, drank most of the tea and worked on the computer….. Then went to drain and rinse the wool samples. Looking good!! I added some soap and re-rinsed, seems to have mostly stopped leaking blue.

18-19 Rinsing in the sink

So a light squeeze and draped over a chopstick and paper towel to dry.

  20-21 set out to dry

Went back to the computer (played Rune scape) then back to the kitchen to check on the wool and start dinner (miso and ginger soup with shitake mushrooms, onion and noodles). The wool seems to have left a few spots on the paper towel but is looking very colourful.

22 a bit of staining on the underside of the paper towel

  23-24 dyeing made me hunger for dinner

  25-26 Dry and ready to use

It was interesting to see how little die the white horse tail hairs picked up. I may get better results by letting them simmer overnight in a die bath but there is a bit of colour and they may still work.

It has been years since I got a chance to dye anything and this was a lot of fun. I will have to keep an eye out for variegated grey fleeces in 2021 and consider doing some dyeing outdoors next spring. (Glenn does have that second forge but it might make the dye bath a bit too hot. So maybe I can use the barbeque.)  Have fun and happy felting!

27 now on to more butter tarts!

Posted in color, Dyeing, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

Time for a New Hat.

I don’t know whats happened to my last year’s hat. It is probably at the back bottom of the deep shelf in my hall closet. I don’t feel like cleaning that out so I am taking it as a sign I should make myself a new hat.  I think I will make it to go with my new cowl. https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2020/11/16/the-cowl-is-finished/

I know it will be a purple wool base and have the orange/gold silk lap on it. I am not sure about the leaves. I am thinking of several possibilities for the hat.

You will have to excuse the very crude drawings but my drawing ability is very small.

The first option has a brim like this hat. The brim folds up twice but stands away from the hat. I was thinking of putting the silk fibre on the inside so it would show when rolled up.

The second thought was to elongate the brim on one side so that I could cut it and make a rosette on one side but still have the other side just folded up.

The third option is to make it with a normal turned up brim and the elongated part for a rosette. In the picture, I did it so it would have a very turned up brim but maybe a regular slight turn up would be better with the rosette.

Forth option( not pictured) is to just do a normal brim with some silk on the underside.

The leaves. I am not really sure they wouldn’t make the hat too busy. Maybe I could felt a couple by themselves and add some vanes on the sewing machine and then tuck them in behind the rosette.

Then there is doing a swirl or rings with shaping on the crown.

So many options, now tell me your thoughts on this hat. I am open to suggestions.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Holiday Card Exchange

Each year on the forum, we have a holiday card exchange. It’s always lots of fun to see all the different cards created and to receive one in the mail. If you’d like to see other cards, you can see them here. Make sure to scroll down and then look at all the pages in this thread to see the ones posted so far. 

I was getting a bit concerned about the card that I sent to Janet in Canada. I sent it out on November 4th and she didn’t receive it until November 27th. That is one of the reasons that we have people send their cards early so it has more time to arrive safely during the busy holiday season. But at last, she got it! So now I can tell you how I made the card.

Here’s the layout. I used a piece of white prefelt for the background and then added short fiber merino in blue green for the sky. I left patches very thin to make it look more snowy. I used “white” mixed 56’s for the snow but it wasn’t very white so I added a bit of white cashmere fiber that I have been saving. It was very white. Then I added silk noil to create a more snow like effect on the ground and in the sky. Finally over top of this, I added white prefelt tree trunks. I started with only one layer of prefelt but decided to add another layer over the trunks in the sky section as I felt that the blue green was going to bleed through too much.

Here it is after felting. I liked how the tree trunks overlapped on the top so I left them for awhile.

Next up was to add a little free motion machine stitching. I used an off white thread to give a slight shadow and more texture on the trunks. It’s kind of hard to see here but you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Then I added a dark grey thread to give the characteristic birch tree look. I don’t use black for this because it feels much too stark. I think the grey looks more natural. Then I had to decide whether to crop or leave it as is. I finally decided on the cropping because it was just slightly too big to fit on my 5″ x 7″ card. I trimmed it up with a rotary cutter and attached it to a greeting card to send to Janet.

So here it is. I do think it looks very wintery which was the goal. I am going to have to make some more of these to sell as small art pieces.

And this is the wonderful card that I received from Janet. This is Janet’s first attempt at making a fiber/felt card and didn’t she do an awesome job? Thanks Janet for this beautiful card.

Posted in Free Motion Stitching, Holiday exchange, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Fourth Quarter Challenge

Although I don’t normally make a big deal out of Christmas the one thing I’ve always enjoyed, and can’t imagine not doing, is decorating my tree. The bigger the tree the better….in fact if it doesn’t touch the ceiling it isn’t up to the job! At this point I will come clean and admit that, as the trees got bigger and bigger, I made the shift from real trees to an 8 foot artificial one. I can hear the groans from those who wouldn’t dream of buying artificial, that used to be me, but it is what it is!

Most of my tree decorations have been homemade or received as gifts with some of the quirkiest, and most meaningful, coming from my Aunty Das who sadly isn’t with us any more. These lovely wooden decorations were gifted from Das to my partner who’s hobby is flying.

And these are a few I’ve made in the past…..

These rosette paper baubles took hours to make and won’t be repeated! The dark one is 17cm diameter and was made from black and white photos cut from magazines, the other two are 11cm and made from an old book.

With a big tree there’s always room for more baubles and with the fourth quarter challenge being Christmas Decorations it was the perfect excuse to make more. I found some 10cm and 8cm polystyrene balls locally and covered the large ones with four coordinating cream/black fabrics and the small ones with four green/red fabrics.

Some of the balls have been cut into eight segments and others have had extra horizontal cuts to create a patchwork effect.
I’ve found a stash of old baubles in the loft and these are getting a makeover this year, drawing on them with the hot glue gun and then covering them with Matt emulsion.

One of the first wet felting workshops I attended was run by Robyn Smith who taught how to make these gorgeous fairy boots…..I’ve made them as gifts every Christmas since then. With more time on my hands this year, and prompted by the Challenge, I’ve made myself some plus a few extras to sell.

As it’s the season to be jolly, and gnomes have always made me smile, I’ve had a go at making some of those too. The Scandinavian gnome is typically associated with the Winer Solstice and Christmas season so I thought I’d have a go at making my version of a Scandi gnome.

The gnomes came about by accident really. Spurred on by the challenge I’d ordered some 14cm high polystyrene cones online (by this time we were in lockdown) with the intention of making Christmas Tree shaped table decorations. When they arrived every one of the ten cones was damaged.

Rather than send them back, the challenge now was, what could I make with them that didn’t need to be a perfect cone shape? That’s when the gnomes came to mind….the wonky cones would make the perfect base!

Originally I thought about making flat felt for their clothes but then decided to use the same cream/black fabrics I had used for the large baubles, plus a few others. Being in lockdown and wanting to get straight on with them I searched around for something to make the beards out of and found an old cardigan at the back of my wardrobe that had a faux fur collar…..needless to say it doesn’t any more! The first beard I cut didn’t look right. With trial and error I’ve discovered that the way to cut faux fur is by working from the back and only cutting the backing fabric, not the fur itself, using a scalpel blade. That way you get a nice shaggy beard.

The females have Merino wool plaits and both sexes have felted button noses. I’ve machine sewn their outfits but if you were making these with children they could be made just with the glue gun for a quicker finish.

The clothes are simply a triangle for the hat, a semicircle for the jacket and a circle for the dress and/or gents undergarment.

The dress circle is simply hand stitched around the circumference, put on the cone and then pulled tight and the thread knotted. The front of the dress is then pulled up to approx 10cm from the base and hot glued in position.

I decided to use a belt and braces method to attach the nose as I was afraid it might get knocked off (really??) It’s been hand stitched to a strip of white fabric and that in turn is glued onto the cone. Thinking about it now, was this over engineered? Definitely!

The waistcoat was finished with a metal bead and the Merino fibre plaits attached either side of the nose using hot glue. The oversized hat has been glued in several places to create the sloppy look. To finish them off I’ve stood each gnome on a slice of wood.

I’ve had fun making these and I’m keeping a male and female on a shelf in my studio because I can’t look at them without smiling! Besides, a gnome isn’t just for Christmas!

Whatever you get up to over the Christmas period have fun and stay safe!

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Finishing the Flax  2020 Flax study group

I promise we are almost done, but I suspect you wanted to see the culmination shots from this year’s harvest!

This year we had planted two rows of flax, which did not look too excessive until we started to harvest it. Even with the flax being shorter this year, we still doubled the number of stocks we were dealing with. So, it took 3 Saturdays to finish the processing of the line this time. We did not finish all the tow into batts, there is a small bag of hackle waste left. This year we kept the best feeling drum carder waste to try combing the tow into top.

We were chilly but from Cathy Louise’s research, we needed dry, low humidity conditions for the final part of the process. Other than Remembrance Day on the 11th, which often rains, it is usually dry and cold in November here. Thus, we waited to work on it.  Sure enough, day 3 was about 4 degrees Celsius, which was quite nice in the sun but quickly lost its illusion of warmth when the sun hid out behind clouds.

Day 3  the plan – get the last of the Line through the hackles and finish tow from the hackle waste with drum carders.  We had Ann’s drum carder with the blue metal base from last week and Glenn had pulled out my two. One is chain driven; the other is belt driven. One is a bit coarser than the other but both are in the medium range.

 1 all 3 drum carders to finish the tow

To work on the line we had a coarse, medium and fine set of homemade hackles using nails. They had a hardwood base that had been predrilled before the nails were added. We also had an antique one that was between the medium and fine ones. The old one had blacksmith-made nails that tapered and had tin on the base.

 2 all the hackles

3-6  The New Hackles

    

7-11 the old hackles

While we worked, we compared last year’s line to this year’s. The colour is different and this years is finer (last years is in the plastic bag).

   

12- 19 working on the line and tow

The team worked hard until lunch arrived (more pizza). Glenn joined us after stopping at the farmers market to pick up butter tarts from Ann, it was very busy so he was running late and just in time for pizza.

 20  in the foreground; Cheese and mushroom pizza, mid-ground; flax going from the course to the medium hackles and in the background; the hackle waste to go to the drum carder.

The Cow supervisors were enjoying the weather and just generally looking cute decoratively draping themselves around the field beside the coverall barn.

 21 the Supervisors taking a break

Back to work finishing the last bit of line and deciding to leave the last of the hackle waste.

  

22-24 the last of the line

It was time to clean up the drum carders then gather and weigh the culmination of our summer’s work. Henry had brought the air compressor over to help clean the drum carders. It was a brilliant idea.  I do not think my carders have ever been so clean.

   

25- 27 Cleaning the Drum carders

Now it was time for the bagging and weighing. Cathy Louse had brought a scale and I had one of my wool washing buckets which we used to contain the fibre on the scale.  As Cathy Louse weighed it, Glenn wrote it down on the bag and Ruthann kept notes on the totals.

  

28-30  doing the math

We divided the line into 8 sections of 33 grams, bagged and labelled it.

31-34 Line bagged and ready to go

When the line was divided, we moved on to the batts of tow.

   

35-37 bagging the batts of tow

That left a bag of waste from the hackles that could be drum carded later and two bags of the waste from the drum carder. This we had set aside to try combing it since the test sample looked like it had potential.

Now for the Totals you have been waiting for!

Ruthanne said we got 271 grams of line, 556 of carded tow, 130 grams of uncarded tow and 573 grams of carder waste that we can try to comb and see what we get.

Cathy Louise and Henry calculated that we got 1530g of useable fibre from 400 square feet. Henry did the math and figured if we had done a full acre we would have had 29.52 Kg of line per acre and Carded tow 76.5Kg per acre.  If we tried an acre we would have to add Sundays as well as Saturdays or we would be working at it all winter! We would likely improve with all the practice but it’s still a lot of work!

We had a larger team than the final processing day. Some wanted to experience what it was like to process flax trying some or all of the steps. some were interested in the fibre to try spinning while others were not. It was a wonderful experience to be able to participate in.  It was especially welcome to look forward to seeing friends during the fibre work parties, especially during covid!  Thank you again to Cathy Louise and Henry for giving up a section of their Market garden, doing the ground prep and planting and the aromatic section of retting that we missed.  Thank you also to all the other members of the Flax Study Group 2020.

 38 the team for the final processing, Glenn taking the picture this time!

Posted in Fiber Preparation, Other Fibers | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Fingerless Mitts or maybe they are Gauntlets or Wrist warmers

I am super busy getting ready for our last farmers market of the year. We sold so many meat pies I will be frantically trying to make as many as possible for this Saturday. I thought you might like this fingerless mitts post I did a few years ago.

 

I decided I want to sell some fingerless mitts this fall. Or maybe they are gauntlets or wrist warmers? Does anyone know what the difference is?

First I have to make a pair of resists. I traced my arm from knuckles to almost my elbow.  then measured around my arm to see how much I had to add for depth. then I figured on 30% shrinkage.

fingerless mitt resist

Naturally, I picked purple wool. I used about 60 grams for the pair. mostly because that is what was in the ball of wool I grabbed.

100_7131

 

 

fingerless mitts ready to felt

Here they are finished

fingerless mitt finnished

They turned out fine and they fit me and my much thinner daughter so sizing is good.  I may add some stitching and beading.  I think they are a little heavy or thick. I was going to put a thumb hole in but I think it would be uncomfortable with the thickness. Next time I think I will use 40 grams of wool and see how that goes.  I may try making the part over the hand pointed too. I think it would look nice.

 

Posted in Design, Experiments, Wet Felting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Snowman Ornaments Complete

Thanks for all the suggestions for completing the back of my snowmen ornaments. There were some great ideas which I might have tried except for the fact that this was supposed to be a quick project. I have seven ornaments and I already have thought of more than seven people that I could give them to as holiday gifts. So I really couldn’t do them back to back or I would have had to double my workload. I liked the idea of a cord around the edge or blanket stitch to snazz up the design, but again, that would take much more time than I have allowed myself for this project. So I took the easy way out and fused black craft felt circles to the back of each ornament. Before I did that, I stitched on a hanger with some black shiny cord that I have in my stash.

Here’s the back of one of the ornaments. I didn’t worry too much about an exact circle but just cut them to match the felted circles. You can definitely tell it’s hand crafted!

And here they are all together. I kept thinking I should be naming them like the Seven Dwarves, Happy, Bashful… But they were all fairly happy so I wasn’t sure I could come up with enough names meaning Happy.

I did use plastic over the last set of six while felting to see if there would be less transfer of black and red fiber to the snowman face. It was slightly less and definitely kept the surface of the felt a little smoother. The one on the bottom right is the one I didn’t use plastic on when felting and it is a little darker than the others, maybe.

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And here they all are separately a bit bigger. All the faces were stitched with #5 perle cotton and the hat bands are sari silk ribbon. I don’t usually do “cute” so it was a departure from my usual style but I enjoyed creating the different faces on each one.

Have you created any holiday decorations this year? We’d love to see over on the forum, you can post any photos of your hand crafted holiday creations here (either past or present).

Posted in hand stitching, Stitching, Wet Felting | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Fun with Foils

Like many of you, I belong to some textile groups that would normally meet in person but this year have needed to find alternative ways to work together. One such group is the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild (EG). This EG group is quite unusual in that rather than inviting speakers to talk about their practice, we all take it in turns to teach each other new skills. Three months ago we started meeting via Zoom and I have to confess in some ways I actually prefer it! We aren’t a large group but when we meet in person I often end up only talking to the 2-3 people I am sat nearest to, on Zoom the whole group shares the same conversation which is nice and feels very inclusive. The other advantage is the lack of commute, for me, this means I get to eat before we gather and I can have a glass of wine while we play together 🙂

Last month Sue took us through a technique to create foiled pictures; I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a bit of bling! As we are approaching holiday season it also feels very appropriate to share this with you now, I think it would make some wonderful textile Christmas cards and gifts. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to have a go!

Although I have played with foils before it was only as decorative finishing touches never as the basis to create a whole textile picture. Even so, I still managed to make every mistake in the book but was pleased to find foils are remarkably accommodating, if you make a mistake, it can (mostly) be rectified with layering more foil over the top.

Unfortunately it did not occur to me to take photos of the process until I was half way through my picture, I apologise for the lack of photos covering the initial stages of the process. The first few photos are where I went back and reapplied the bondaweb on the beak as my initial application had not transferred completely.

This was the reference photo I used for inspiration:

Some useful tips before you start:

  • set your iron on a low to medium (1 to 2 dots) setting without steam
  • always use a sheet of baking parchment to protect your iron
  • work on an ironing board

1: Cut a piece of medium weight, iron-fusible interfacing / fabric stabiliser slightly smaller than the background fabric and iron it to the back of your fabric. We used black cotton velvet but most non-synthetic fabrics will work (synthetic fabrics are best avoided for this technique as they might melt when heat is applied).

2: Draw out your design with a pencil on the paper side of a sheet of bondaweb. If you aren’t confident drawing freehand, you can trace the design from a printed image. Cut out your design, either as one solid shape or in sections if you plan to create a stained glass effect. For the hummingbird I cut out the whole bird as a single piece.

3: Transfer the bondaweb design onto your backing fabric.

If you are using the stained glass technique you might want to transfer one piece at a time, foil it then apply the next bondaweb shape.

4: Once cooled, carefully peel off the paper backing from the bondaweb.

5: Lay a piece of foil (coloured side facing you) over the exposed bondaweb and cover this with a piece of baking parchment, using the tip or edge of your iron, apply gentle pressure to the areas where you would like that coloured foil to appear.

Allow the piece too cool before peeling back the foil backing.

Tip: you can cut out pieces of baking parchment paper to mask off areas where you do not want that particular colour to appear.

If there are areas where the bondaweb has not transferred so well, or you have already applied several layers foils and want to lay a different colour over the top you can reapply the bondaweb but cutting a shape to match the area, I did this for the edge of breast where I wanted the purple to form a solid line:

If you want a sharp edge in a specific shape, it is also possible to cut the foil to match the shape you desire:

6: Continue adding different coloured foils to your design. If using cotton velvet for the backing it is possible to build up layers of different coloured foils without applying more bondaweb.

Tip: keep the scraps of partially used foils, they can be used to overlay different colours on top of each other very pretty marbled colours.

It is possible to “draw” lines of foil using just the tip or edge of your iron, I used this technique to create the feathers on the wings:

It is not very easy to capture foils in a photo, especially the holographic ones so I shot a short video that I hope shows all the different colours more effectively:

Our group met again last night to add some embroidery to our designs, this is how far I managed to travel in the couple of hours we had together.

…and a little sneak peek of my most recent foiled “painting”.

Have you tried making foiled paintings?

Posted in embroidery, free motion embroidery, Mixed Media, Surface Design, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Year 2 Flax Study Group, The Violent bit’s at the end!

A review of year 2 so far

This year the flax study group planted the seed we had harvested from last year. We had enough to double our planting and had 2 rows planted this year. We had 2 covid-modified weeding parties at 4 to 6 inches of growth but without the wonderful cake to celebrate successful weeding!

 1-2

The first part of the summer was very dry and hot so the flax was ready earlier than anticipated. We left the harvested bundles of Flax resting against the garden fence to dry.

 3-5

Then the weather turned and it rained and rained and rained. (I should not have been trying to wash those fleeces in the side yard! See the blog post about sentient weather.) The flax started its retting while it tried to dry. Once it had finally dried enough, we were back out (August 29th) to extract seed from stock. The seeds this year are MUCH smaller than last years, and lighter in weight. The seed pods were definitely ready to pick but the dry weather was hard on the plants (shorter in stature and smaller seeds). We used a number of seed extraction methods.  The double rakes were great and the pillowcases and rolling pins were effective too. Unfortunately, winnowing (using the wind to seperate chaff from seed) was not working, not much wind and the seed was as light as the chaff) we had the best success with Henrys Sieves from the grain silos. (Brilliant idea Henry!!)

6-13

Next the Flax, now de-seeded, went to the spa. (large trough of water with therapeutic cinderblocks to hold it under!) With the retting complete, we were ready to move on to the violent part of the process; Brakes, Skutching and the lovely Hackles! We set a date in November that we hoped most of us would be available to meet again at Cathy Louises’ coverall barn (the part the cows don’t live in! They are very cute cows but I don’t want to have to share the flax with them)

 14 supervisors

Now that we are all caught up again, let’s get to the best part of Flax processing; the vicious violent bits!

11/07/2020 Covid canceled our Guild sale but that leaves the Saturday free to start in on the flax. We met at the coverall barn on a fabulously wonderful un-fall-like day. It was so nice we worked in front of the barn, enjoying mild weather, the sun and no rain!

  15-16

Step 1 Braking;

The first step was braking the flax stocks to loosen and start the removal of the outer stock covering (the boon) from the long inner fibres which will become the linen. Bernadette, Ann and Cathy Louise experimented with hand braking before sending it to the brake but that was not as helpful as we had hoped.  If you did not have access to a flax brake this may be an option for you but it would take a lot of working the stocks to loosen the boon.

 17-18

Glenn and Gord were our main brakers this year. Glenn’s knee has been bothering him (postal work has not been diminished by Covid) so he quickly gave up on standing and has perfected the seated braking position.

 19-20

We had a couple of flax videos posted on our OVWSG flax study group Facebook page they were unfortunately in German (about Hackling) and in Russian about braking. From the video, Glenn modified his technique on the second Saturday to add scraping movements to the end of the braking. This seemed to make the next step a little easier.

  21-22

The technique seems to be to hold the root end, start at the tip (where the seeds were) and brake towards the roots flipping which side of the bundle is facing up. This first pass was done vigorously. Then work from the tip towards roots a little at a time still flipping the bundle but scraping gently each section as it is finished. Then flip and work the roots, which often broke off.

  23 the fibre is handed off to the next step

Step 2 Skutching;

As we got going, we had two primary brakers and 2-3 skutchers and the rest of us were on Hackle duty or taking photos. Skutching is a percussive movement hitting or flicking the stocks to loosen and remove as much of the outer layer as possible. The Skutching team were finding that splitting the bundle (by gently tugging on the ends) then reorienting the stocks parallel and continuing to skutch was effective.

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   30 fibre is sent to the next step

There was an intermittent breeze that kept depositing fibre into the shrubberies. (Sort of like pre-Christmas tinsel) I am sure the birds were sorry we didn’t do this part in the spring.

 31-33 Early Christmas tincil

Step 3 Hackles!!

The next step is my favourite part, the Hackles. They’re like a very sharp multi-pitch Viking comb that is clamped to the table. The flax is dragged through the top of the sharp pointy bloodletting teeth, removing even more of the boon. I watched the German video about Hackles, it was highly informative even with my only random words of German. He definitely was adamant about the angle, I think? I tried to mimic his diagonal pull through with change of direction on exiting the hackles. I also tried the flipping one side up then the other for each pass. This left the flax quite clean.

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The hackling starts through the coarsest teeth then moves to finer and finer. Each step removes more boon. I was able to take out a few stubborn bits by flicking at them with a fingernail. We also were drafting off the hackles as the tow built up in it. The remnants still trapped in the comb, we bagged to process with the drum carder next week.

 44 some of the line

Just so you don’t think we were horribly overworked, we did break for Pizza

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We did quite well today but only got about half way through the harvest, well we did double the planting we did this year! So far, the flax is short but very fine. We bagged the tow for next week and made little stricks of the line. We did do a lot of work but it doesn’t show from the pile remaining!

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Some of the flax has a distinct hue of green.  The rest looks very familiar.

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11/14/2020  Day 2, similar in process to day 1 but with less sun or good temperatures.

It was much colder today, still no fluffy solid rain or serious cloud dandruff, yet (Yeah!!) so we moved into the coverall to work. The hacklers were by the barn door, while it provided great light there was a cool breeze. We continued to work on the braking and finished it off, leaving one bundle to compare with last years. We continued working on the skutching and hackling and added making batts with the tow.