Flax Study Group Part 3

Flax Study Group Part 3

(sorry this is a Long Post if you make it through to the end there are videos! make sure to check out the one on flax dressing its really horrible looking stuff but works exceedingly well)

After a break for the guild Sale and Exhibition we resumed the Flax project on Saturday, November 16th at 10am. It included a potluck lunch.

A quick review of what went before:

– April 4, 2019 Waiting for the soil to thaw and dry

– May 5th  Prepare the ground and plant the seeds; germination expected in 10-14 days.

– May 13th Sprouts are seen

– June 08 2019 – Weeding party

– June 28 2019 – The first flowers have appeared

– July 7 2019 flax flowering is slowing down,  seed pods developing

– July 9th added extra support ropes to keep flax from collapsing during impending torrential rain storm

– July 13 flax survived storm – wind and heavy rain

– July 18 Seed pods are showing signs of turning yellow

– July 27, 2019 at 10 am First Harvesting  (1/4 of the crop has been left to be harvested in 2 parts later)

– July 29 Bernadette tries rippling, not yet ready.

– August 10 2019 Rippling and Winnowing the flax then beginning of the retting

– August 15 the remaining crop is ready to harvest for the seed

– August 17 2019 continuing threshing and winnowing. Retted flax laid out to dry

Which brings us up to November 16th at 10am. We converged at Cathy Louise’s Coverall barn where the flax was waiting for us.

11 kiddie pool of first harvest, retted flax

We kept the flax in the three sections of harvesting. The first harvest in the kiddy pool, second harvest on one end of the metal troughs (it’s the darker colour) and the last harvested, saved for the seed, which is the lighter colour and at the other end of the trough.

22 the later harvests darker, below, harvested before the lighter on the top of the picture

Starting with the largest amount, we began the breaking. (Let the Violence begin!). The Brake breaks up the outer fiber to start to access the long linen fibers within. We eventually figured out this was a very important step. Cole who has processed many local bass fibers (dog strangling vine particularly) had the most experience with the equipment. He had built his own brake, we had the loan of an antique and Gord had found a good rugged one for sale.

 

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3-6 Using the Brake

After the fiber had been cruelly beaten by the brake its fate turned dire as it was firmly thwacked by a skutching sword. The best one seemed to be the Lilac branch that had been split and slightly shaped. It was a bit more flexible than the kitchen implements Cathy Louise had tried or the wooden swords similar to my Viking sword beater. Cole had brought a massive timber and a board with a hand-protecting hole cut in it. Both worked more ergonomically than the boards we had started with.

7-8 Skutching Knife made from Lilac

9-11 Skutching tool  formerly a kitchen impliment

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12 -16 our various skuching boards, note the handy safety hand hole to keep your finger safe.

The next step was the Hackles. This is the sharp part!! By this point, you really do need to have your tetanus shots up to date.

1717 setting out the hackles

We set up a coarse, medium and fine set. We had been lent both old and newer Hackles, all were very sharp and really should be used with gloves. I found them highly photogenic.

1818 i got a few really cool shots of these viscous implements of plant torture

We ran the flax through the teeth to separate the line (the long really good fiber) from the tow (the shorter pieces that are not as sought after but still will spin and weave up nicely)

192019-20 drawing the flax through to hackles removes more of the shorter fibers and leaves the high quality line linen. you can see the tow stuck in the hackles and on the table.

We worked from the course to the medium to the fine. Producing small amounts of line flax.

21222324 21-24 Hackles and a growing pile of Tow

As you can see there was a lot of tow for as little bit of flax. We suspect that we will get a better yield with greater attention to breaking and possibly slightly longer retting. This is our first time and we suspect the growing season was not prime for flax so we hope for a better harvest next year. The Line flax we got from the process was very nice; most of it seemed quite fine from the first batch.

2526

25-26 inspecting the flax and checking out the cows

While we were torturing plant life on one end of the coverall our neighbours were having an extended lunch or maybe it was second or third lunch. Like cats, cows seem to feel that there butt ends are one of their best features. I had trouble getting a shot that wasn’t mostly butt shots. (I had promised the study group not to take them but not all the cows would cooperate.)  Thinking of lunch it was time for ours so off we went back to the house to enjoy it and get a bit warmer.

Lunch break Pot Luck:

 

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27 – 35 Lunch

After lunch, Cathy Louise showed us her CPW (Canadian Production Wheel) she has an amazing spot to sit and spin in her loft.

Then it was back to work

36 – 40  thump thump thwak thump thwak thwak

At the end of the day we had 2 bags of floor findings from the Brakes and the same amount from the Skutching and possibly a bit more from the hackle leavings. We kept them separate to work on as part of the final days processing.

This was the amount of line linen we produced.

41424344 41-44 our days work, a little bit of good line linen and lots of tow

Final day of flax processing

45 45 the coverall barn that we were sharing with the cows and some annoyed birds

Saturday November 23 at 9:30 am, one week later and we were back at the coverall.

46-47  Alison had brought her course drum carder to try on the flax

4848   First batt off the drum carder looked promising.

49-50     Bernadette arrived with the dew-retted flax she had done. It was a darker colour. She also had big English combs in her bag to try out with the flax.

51 -53 4 pitch English combs by Alvin Ramer

Unfortunately the combs were not as successful as we had hoped ( it shredded both the long and shorter fibers) so we continued with the drum carder.

54 -55   Here is the difference in colour between the two types of retting (field and trough)

56-57  We finished possessing the last of the flax and put most of the tow through the drum carder once before we cleaned up for lunch.

5858 Cole made a quick bit of rope out of some of the coarsest waste. He used the strange wooden tool on the table to make the rope.

Lunch Break Pot Luck!

 

59-62 Lunch!

After lunch, we measured and divided the flax seeds. We kept part for next year’s planting from the late harvested plants. We each got a portion to either plant at home or make flax dressing from. (This is used instead of water when spinning the flax or to size a warp for weaving. Bernadette made some it was truly an interesting viscosity but worked extremely well for spinning.

 

6565  We then weighed and divided the line flax.

66-67 the line is ready to be divided

We looked at the difference between the two methods of retting and tried to determine if the second and third sections harvested were much coarser than the first.

6868  We kept aside samples for comparison later.

Then it was back to the coverall for a quick peek at the cows and to give the tow a second pass through the drum carder.

69

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-73 We divided up the tow, did a final clean up and headed for home.

74

75 75  (Glenn took this just to prove I was actually there since I wasn’t in any of the pictures!)

I took  a number of videos while we were processing the flax and Bernadette’s experimentation with flax dressing. If you would like to see all the videos please consider joining the OVWSG Flax Project Private Group on face book https://www.facebook.com/groups/642029912915854/?fref=nf

Cole using the Brake:

Cole Skutching

The Hackles

Drum carder with the Tow

 

this is the culmination of this part of the Flax study group.   Bernadette has boiled 2 tbs of the flax seed to make a flax dressing which is used to size warps that are being difficult and to add in spinning flax.

11-25-19 flax dressing – Bernadette with wool and flax spinning using Flax dressing.

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed the Flax study group as much as i did participating (well i did more photography and not as much hands on but it was still a blast and i hope to be able to participate in next years study group).  if this appeals to you too you mite want to join next years study group or maybe start your own.

PS it takes a lot longer to upload a video than it dose a picture so its much later than i expected it to be and i think i best head off to bed now.

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A lovely card and some progress.

First, the lovely card I received from Jackie, aka The Batty Felter on the forum.  It is a lovely card and she must have done it up quickly to get it here from New Zealand so soon.

And a lovely note explaining what the flowers were. They are so lucky to have such a magnificent tree in bloom at Christmas time.

I feel bad I took so long with mine. and I was in such a hurry to get it into the mail I don’t think I even signed it. So Sorry for the Jackie. I will show you the card after Jackie receives it. They told me it would be there before Christmas.

And now my 4th quarter challenge. I lost the thread I have no idea where it went. It was in my purse. I emptied it out and all I found was the receipt. So I went looking for new thread. I found one that is almost the same and it will do.  I have never heard of this brand.

I put the darning foot on the machine and had a go with a spare piece of felt but I think I need more practice before ding that on anything but a practice piece. I decided to do it with regular sewing, going slow. I did 2 leaves. If they were all simple, it would be fine. There are too many curves.  I only did 2 leaves and stopped. The bottom thread was solid orange. It looks nice against the green back.

I think I will just do it by hand, much less frustrating. I may be cursing doing such a big piece by the time I am done. But maybe not. I like hand stitching.

 

 

 

 

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Wonderful Woolly Holidays – US Wool Giveaway!

We here at The Felting and Fiber Studio would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season. In celebration, we will be hosting several giveaways for your woolly pleasure! To make this a little easier and less expensive on postage, we are doing more than one give away by country. Please make sure and sign up for the correct one depending on where you live.

My friend Paula is the one to thank for all the woolly goodness. She has decided to give away her wool supply as she is no longer doing any felting. She has moved on to other art forms.

So I have piles of mainly wool, mainly merino. Some of it is marked as to what it is and some isn’t. Some has been in plastic bags for a while and may be a bit matted down. But that shouldn’t bother any of you since if you win, it’s free!

Here’s a photo that shows just a very small sample of the wool that we have to give away. I have sent a box to Canada for Ann and Jan to give away and a box to the UK for Lyn and Annie of Rosiepink to give away. We will have three separate giveaways, a US giveaway, a Canada giveaway and a UK giveaway. Please only comment and sign up for the give away if you are in the corresponding country. If your name is drawn and you aren’t in the appropriate country, another name will be drawn.

The first giveaway is for readers in the USA. If you would like to win a padded envelope full of wool and a few other embellishments, please comment below. Tell me what colors you would like to receive (I will keep your color choices in mind while preparing your packet of wool) and what you want to create from the wool. Feel free to spread the word through social media. I will announce three winners in my post next week. The Canada and UK drawings will be in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for those posts.

Please only enter the giveaway if you live in the US. 

Giveaway Guidelines:

  1. Leave a comment on the comment form below. Your comment must be left on today’s post to be eligible to win.
  2. Be sure that your comment has your name on it so there won’t be any misunderstandings of who won.
  3. Make sure that there is an email address associated with your comment. If I can not contact you, it isn’t possible for the prize to be sent to you.
  4. Leave your comment before 4:00 pm mountain standard time on Friday, December 13, 2019. The winners will be announced in my post on Saturday, December 14th.
  5. In your comment, tell us what you would like to create from the wool and what are your favorite colors.
  6. Only residents of the US are eligible for this drawing.
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Autumn is my favourite colour

I know I have said this before, but it is worth saying again :). Every year I am left in awe of the beautiful colours that mother nature brings us each October / November.

While the British deciduous woodlands make my heart sing with their beautiful yellows, oranges and chestnut browns, this year I was lucky enough to visit Japan for the first time and was blown away by the intensity of the golden yellows and crimson maples against the dark green conifers.

The FFS fourth quarter challenge is all about creating a colourscape (which I interpret as creating pleasing combinations of colours). It seemed an obvious step to use some of the photos from this trip as my inspiration, but what to make? Felt can be notoriously difficult to work with when you want to place complementary colours next to each other, by its very nature the fibres (and therefore colours) want to mix and mingle and of course that will lead to muddy browns and greys where the two colours meet.

A few months ago, Fiona Duthie posted a video on how to make a double-walled vessel on her course FB page (it is only open to former students of her online classes). I have been having lots of fun with this technique as it provides an excellent solution to the colour mixing problem.

This is one of the first vases I made following her video, the double-walled technique lends itself very well to placing complementary colours adjacent to each other.

Feeling inspired by the crimson and orange acers (Japanese maples), I set about planning my vessel…

First to choose the colours…. for the inner wall:

And the outer wall:

Laying out the silk and wools:

Silk hankies that will be seen on the inner layer
Wool layout for the inner layers
Wool layout for the outer layers

While felting I couldn’t help but adore the colour transitions from the inside to the outside wall:

I could have cut the leaf shapes from the outer wall free-hand but given how fiddly they are I decided to play it safe and made myself a stencil.

I used water soluble crayons to mark where I wanted to cut the felt (these are really convenient way to mark up damp felt and they wash out easily).

Once the leaf patterns had been cut away I continued to shape the vessel and heal the cut edges, et voila! It’s not quite dry yet but I think you can still get a feel for the colour combinations even though the sheen on the silk can’t be seen yet. What do you think?

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Flax Study Group Part 2

Flax Study Group Part 2

In my Last post, we got up to the pulling of the flax plants, tying them in small bundles and laying them against the fence to dry. But this was not the worst fate for these unsuspecting plants. I was unable to attend this section of the processing but the rest of the group worked hard to Ripple and Winnow the flax.

 

1 aug.7 The flax bundles were moved into the barn out of the rain Aug. 7th

August 10 Most of the flax group got together for a rippling and winnowing party. To Ripple the flax will separate the seed heads from the stocks. The flax from the first part of the harvest should provide the best fibre but the seed will not be as mature. The two sections we left till later should have coarser fibre but better seed viability.

We had a couple suggestions of how to get the seeds separated from the stocks. The use of two rakes did not work out well but Bernadetts’ description of pillow cases and rolling pins had a much better result.

 

Now that the flax stocks have been decapitated it’s time for winnowing. This will remove the chaff from the seeds. The instructions suggested a breeze was required.  After a bit of experimentation it was determined a strong breeze or wind worked well.

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7 winnowing flax sead after winnowing

Success, the seeds remain but almost all the chaff is gone.

There is worse in store for this poor unfortunate plant.  At the end of the day it is thrown into a trough and weighted down with cinder blocks. This will not be a spa treatment or a mob execution.  It will be a retting.

8 Retting

Day 1 Aug 10 the water is the colour of apple juice,

9 retting day 2day 2 Aug 11 the colour of tea, then the retting really starts on Aug 13th.

10 Retting fermentation has started

Tuesday August 13 2019, 10:30 am

11 Retting Aug 13 later afternoon fermentation has startedAugust 13 2019 5 PM

12 Retting Aug 14 Aug 14 th

13 AUg 14 the testing a stockOn Aug. 13 Cathy Louise tested a stock of the retting flax  for separation of the boon from the stock. Some is still sticking to the fiber. so it needs a bit more cooking.

14 Flax layed out to dry after rettingAug 17 All the first batch was removed from the trough and moved to the field to dry.

15 Pulling strands of fiber from the flaxAug 17 the fibre is separating from the flax stalk.

On the Same day the second harvested batch went into the trough in the same water that had been used to rett batch one. There was hope that this would speed up the retting process. It seemed to have changed the colour (the second batch was darker than batch 1)  but I’m not sure if it went faster. The final batch went into fresh water to rett after this batch was out.

16 retting batch 2 aug 17

18 another batch drying aug 21another batch drying in the field

17 finished drying batch 1 and back in the barn Aug 21Batch 1 is now dry and is sent to the barn to await an even more terrible fate but first we had the guild Sale and exhibition in early November. So we took a brief paws.

A quick review: We tore the heads of the flax by stuffing them head-first in pillow cases and crushing them with rolling pins. Then took their severed heads and threw them skyward; letting the chaff separate from the seeds. Then off to a spa experience you would never want to experience. Submersion under cinder blocks until rotting starts. Next they were pulled out and left to dry over uncomfortable sticks in a field. Lastly bundled into the barn where they may be safe.

But wait!  There is more indignity to come for the poor flax plant!  it only gets more violent,  We still have the breaks, skutching and hackles to deal with!!  But I think I better make that part 3, I promise to have videos in the next installment. (And of course lots more violent fun fiber torture! I am sure it will all be worth it in the end!)

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A very small amount of progress.

I am afraid it has been a busy week and I have mostly been working on getting my Christmas card done for the exchange. I will do a nice post about that after my partner has received it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

So really the only thing I have done is finish making the background for my 4th quarter piece.

Next, I downloaded some outline drawings of leaves and copied them randomly onto a piece of wash-away stabilizer. they are are all close-ups. The leaves didn’t show on the overall shot.

I wasn’t sure what sort of thread I would use to stitch these, but the other day I stopped into a craft store and they had what I hope will be just the right thread. Of course, it has gone missing so I can’t take a picture of it. Here’s a picture from the web. It’s the one in the front, red and orange and a bit of green. Surprise…. its called autumn.

Next time I hope to show you some stitching done.

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Three Goals in One Project

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from the states. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful day with friends and family.

Last week, my friend Deb told you about her experience with nuno felting. This is the piece that I made during that nuno party.

The plan was to get a nuno felt piece completed at the party. This piece is only about 5″ x 5″ and I planned to get at least one more done but somehow I didn’t manage that. The other two goals were to create a colorscape for the 4th quarter challenge and to use the end result as one of my Level 3 color studies.

So the color scheme is red orange, green and blue. I originally thought I would lay green threads on top and then couch them down. Then I would add some french knots as poppies? But here I go being too literal again. It was just supposed to be a “colorscape”. I needed to keep it simple.

So I found some thin, hand dyed green thread and added it in with running stitch, also called Kantha stitch.

Then I added the red orange thread in Kantha as well. I like how the Kantha mimics the same texture as the nuno felted silk. So here is my colorscape for the 4th quarter challenge which is also going to be part of my homework for class and it was completed at our group meeting. So I managed to get three things off my list in one piece. Yay!

 

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