The Fibre Garden : Flax (Linen)
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Linen (technically speaking) is the spun yarn made from flax, and it can’t be called linen until it’s spun.
Diehard flax spinners often work with “strick”, which is very long entire fibres that have been taken from the plant by “retting” — essentially allowing nature to rot off the parts of the plant we don’t want and leaving behind only the strong stem or “bast” fibres. Strick can be 3 feet or so in length and is usually held on a pole attached to the spinning wheel, called a distaff.
We offer flax that has been cut to shorter lengths and combed into top, an easier preparation for the beginner to work with. Flax top may be either dry or wet-spun and no distaff is needed since it’s already in a well-prepared form.
We’re thrilled to have found a wonderful supplier of already-dyed flax top. If you’re interesting in dyeing your own you need to know that flax is a plant or cellulose fibre so dyers must use fibre reactive dyes. Natural dyers must resort to techniques used on cotton, such as alum-tannin premordanting, or Aluminum acetate. Flax also responds very well to an indigo vat.
When blended with protein (animal) fibres, acid dyes will leave the flax alone during dyeing, which will let you create some wonderful streaky or heathered effects, depending on how well the fibres are blended.