Fiber Arts & Furry Critters

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The only thing I've been knitting on lately is the Siberian Winter shawl, and that has not been going well. I recently started the edging over for the third time! The good news is, I think it is actually going to go well this time. I've certainly had enough practice at it! If I'd been able to get it right the first two times, I'd be over halfway done by now... sigh.

Yesterday was the 14th annual Granite State Knit-In, held at Loon Mountain in Lincoln NH, and the weather was awesome! My friend Pam and I have been co-teaching a drop spindle spinning class at this event for the last five years or so. Yesterday we had two one-hour classes; the first had four people in it (and one of them already knew how to spin on a wheel). The second class started out with six people, and ended up with five. There was one lady there who seemed determined not to get it, despite the best efforts of both Pam and myself. She finally gave up, and walked away... I've never had a student like that. I don't know if it was just her personality, or if she was having a bad day, or what. I got the feeling I could have been teaching her to chew gum, and she would have found difficulty with it somehow.

Today there was an event at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA called Women's Work and Child's Play. I found out about it from someone on the Flax & Linen (flaxnlinen) list (thanks, Penny!), and just had to drag take DH and the kids down to check it out. One of the things that interested me was that there were quite a few people in period (in this case 1800s) dress. I love that kind of thing!

First, we have 7 yo DS in a sheep cut-out. Turns out this was actually part of the "Child's Play" portion, and the cut-out was meant for tossing bean-bags through. I enjoyed taking the picture nevertheless, and he had fun posing.

Next, we had a doctor's or surgeon's setup. For this and most of the rest of the pictures in this section, I'm going to post a small (blog-size) picture, linked to a full-size picture. If you click on the blog-sized photo, the full-sized one will open in its own window.

Next, there was a flax-processing area. This is a picture of the back of that area, as we were walking toward the front door from the parking area. They were set up so that they were facing anyone coming out the front door, directly to the left of the photo.

Here's the flax that they were processing. If you click on the picture to get the larger version, you may be able to see the small round seed pods in amongst the flax stalks. As one of the men demonstrated to me, you can take several seed pods and very easily crush them by rolling them around in your palm, ending up with 4 to 5 teeny, tiny flax seeds from each pod.

This is the flax break. You can also see the scutching stand(? I'm not really sure what that's called, although I know the wooden knife leaning up against it - lighter colored wood - is called a scutching sword) on the right-hand side of the picture. You lay the flax stalks perpendicular across the flax break, and just lower the handle, to crunch the outside of the stalks. Then you drape the crunched stalks over the scutching stand and kind of scrape them with the scutching sword to take off some of the broken stuff. This stuff makes good tinder for starting fires, among other things.

After you scutch the flax, you drag it through several different hackles. I didn't get a picture of the hackle that was being used, but it was a fairly coarse one. You would start with a coarse one and progress to finer ones to pull off more of the crunched outside shaft and end up with the inside of the stalk, which is spinnable flax. The long, fine fibers that you finish with are called line flax. You can see some flax hackles on this page.

Here is a spinner spinning wool. This is Penny, from the flaxnlinen list mentioned above.

Compare that picture to one of the same spinner (thanks, Penny!) spinning flax.

OK, there were a few other things there besides the flax demonstration. On the other side of the doorway there was a lady set up with a modified version of a great wheel. Hers was a Rio Grande wheel with the treadle removed. She was sitting next to someone doing embroidery.

Next to them was a couple from West Mountain Farm in Stamford, VT, along with a llama and an alpaca. Gayle Garrison was spinning on a Majacraft Suzie, a wheel similar to my Suzie Pro, only hers was outfitted with a Woolee Winder. (I'm becoming more and more interested in these things, and I've never heard anything but good about them.) Gayle's husband Lars was spinning on one of Jerry Womack's electric spinners. I have to say, that is one of the quietest wheels I've ever sat next to, electric or no! The wicker-looking basket over the motor is attractive, and Lars' version also had a Woolee Winder. I hear it's fast, too! The only thing left on the wish-list is a foot control! It would be perfect if you could slow down/stop to pick out VM, etc while spinning.

Here are the animals that came to the ATHM with the Garrisons. The white alpaca is Bart, the dark llama behind is Reni.


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