Flax field

Flax field

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


I spent May out of the country, and June trying to get my head back in place.  I have had a hard time coming back up to speed.  
May was wonderful in the South of France.  We took classes, ate great food, traveled around the area, welcomed our kids for a couple of weeks and relaxed.

I have had a hard time coming back to earth.  I still am not sleeping well...but last night was an improvement.  My classes have started and I am enjoying teaching.  I finally got to some weaving.

I was able to get some old linen...you know...when they used to make a really great smooth linen.  This was Bernat Linen Special, about equal to a singles 20 linen (20 lea). I needed to weave some samples for exchange, and decided I could use this yarn.  I got one tube each of several colors and wanted to make a mixed stripe warp and an over twisted weft.  I decided that I could weave the samples to test the collapse, then weave a collapse scarf.  I was really thinking about a summer scarf that is light and airy. 

It turns out that the yarn is all very similar in value.
I didn't think it would make the mixed warp look that I wanted.   

I had read a blog talking about using three colors in 60%-30%-10% of colors to make a good balance, so I decided to try that with natural, blue and yellow.  I still wanted a random stripe, so I wound 10% of the ends in yellow and put them through the reed in a random stripe.  I wound 30% of the blue and added that stripe sequence to the reed, then I wound 60% in natural to fill in the remaining dents.  I know that warping front to back is not a good idea with singles linen, but it is only a 5 yard warp and I figured I could wind it slowly and all would be well.

all yarns in the reed
I didn't have that much trouble winding it on, and I liked the random stripe I had designed. Because of the trouble with the selvedges I had on the last linen warp, I used 40/2 linen for the last two ends on each side for strength, this worked very well.  

For the over-twisted weft, I used a technique that I learned in a workshop with Theo Moorman.  She used to combine yarns to make a boucle like yarn for areas of her tapestries or to blend colors for her technique.  She showed us how she twisted the yarns together as she wound them on the bobbin.  I used a single ended hand winder to add twist to my weft as I wound it on the bobbin.  

You add twist like a spindle, or walking wheel, holding the yarn at a slight angle off the tip of the spindle.

After I added the twist, I used ten rotations of the handle for each 18 inches, then I put the yarn perpendicular to the bobbin and wound the yarn on.  This method, mostly, keeps the yarn taut so it doesn't back twist.  I wet the bobbins and let them rest overnight before weaving.

I wove up the lengths for the samples I wanted to send.  I decided to send a washed and an unwashed sample to show what happened with the yarn.  There was not as much collapse as I wanted, but the samples worked out well, and I got them in on time which really made me happy.
Before and after washing
For my scarf, I decided to twist the yarn a little more on the spinning wheel.  I still counted the twists that I added...I probably varied some, I did it watching Netflix.  (It was a lot like plying a yarn, nothing interesting, just treadle and let it go on the bobbin....boring)  The scarf wove up quickly, but every so often, the yarn would double back on itself and I would have to stop and untwist it to continue.  I had no problem with breaking and I kept the tension slightly loose so that I could get an even, very open beat.

The only problem, besides the back twist, was when I wound on the cloth beam.  I usually use a length of one sided corrugated cardboard to eliminate the bumps from the tie-on knots, but my cardboard was old and too soft to do the job.

I noticed after I wound the first wrap, I got an open space in my weaving.

I actually got three of them where three knots did not get smoothed over.  One on each end and one in the middle.  Since I was planning on the weft shifting in the wash...all I could do is replace the cardboard and hope for the best.

When I finished the weaving, I decided to twist the fringe to control it and trim it off to about two and a half inches.  After the first wash, the collapse was great, but the linen felt stiff.  I used a rolling pin to flatten and soften the linen a little.  I washed it a second time, then rolled it up wet and put it in the freezer.  I had read once that freezing and putting in boiling water softened the linen.  After a night in the freezer, I dropped it in boiling water, then hung it out to dry.  It softened up a bit more and I took some pictures.
After two washes and freezing.

On the close-up, you can see the crimp and the slight shift in the weft.  I think I will throw it in a wash a couple more times to continue to soften the linen.  I am pleased with the results and now need to get some towels on the loom.

View of Gordes I took on vacation


  1. Thank you for this VERY interesting post!

    1. I like to share what I do and we can all learn from each other.,