Luck or Fate allowed me to move from the waiting list to active student for Vavstuga Weaving School’s Basic class.
What a wonder THAT experience was! I didn’t take nearly enough pictures to convey the experience and the atmosphere!
If falling into the basics class wasn’t cool enough – just before it was about to start, I got a Newsletter that mentioned the Linen class had an opening. Since I was already signed up for Basics, I could take the Linen class. OK – How could I pass up this opportunity??? Everything I learned in basics would be reinforced in the next class.
The Linen class was everything I had hoped it would be. We traveled out to Shelburne Falls, MA – got set up on Country Aire campground (using our super spiffy Winnebago View) and had a lovely dinner and relaxing evening before the WEAVING marathon!
Just to get you started, look at a few of the photos of finished Products to give inspiration.
Note: when you go to Vavstuga, you will work and you will weave, weave, weave. You might want to train for this intensive activity. Make sure you are up for it! You will use all your powers of concentration, coordination (feet!) and rhythm while working on these wonderful looms. By the end of each day you WILL be tired, but you will also feel content and happy.
Day 1 This is a flax plant!
We took dried flax plants and rolled them with a marble roller, shook them and rubbed them to harvest the very small, flat, dark seeds! You NEED these seeds to plant more flax!
Harvesting seed — these pictures were from the first and last day. On the last day Becky spent time filtering out the seeds from the other material created by rubbing and rolling the flax heads, while we worked on displaying all of our hard work.
Then we took a field (haha) trip to the Flax house. Everyone had a strick of flax from Sweden to work with. Becky taught us how to use 3 grades of flax hackles to comb the tow out of the stricks and prepare them for spinning. These stricks didn’t really need to be hackled, but it made them nice and fluffy and gave us some tow to spin. Spinning tow is like spinning wool – BUT you have to fluff it up really nice before you begin. We spent the next hour or so spinning our tow. The afternoon was spent weaving on our projects, of which there was a total of 6.
These pictures show two separate days when we used the flax house for hackling our stricks. I liked to come early in the morning and spend an half hour or so just spinning and enjoying the morning light streaming through the windows of the flax house.
Day 2 Dressing a distaff.
Now that we had tow, we also had line flax – this will be spun into line linen, for that you need a distaff. You can dry spin line flax, but – you should really wet spin it, which means that you wet your fingers, preferably with your saliva while spinning. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this, but it’s no big deal! If it makes a better product, I’m all for it.
These are pictures taken after the instruction — sorry I was so wrapped up in paying attention to this new skill that I forgot to snap a few pictures!
Later we talked about dew retting as opposed to water retting. In order to prepare the plant for hackling and then spinning, we needed to separate the fiber from the straw (the core of the plant – is like a skinny straw and it’s in the middle – we gotta get rid of that part). The trick is controlled rotting. Dew retting is just letting the plants lay on the grass and have dew and sun help us out a bit. Water retting is all about putting the plant in water which gets nice and warm – promoting a different kind of bacteria to break down the plant. Water retting gives a nice pale color, dew retting gives rich darker colors.
The rest of the day was spent weaving, using some of our handspun tow in the rustic runner and/or in the overshot project.
Day 3 Braking and Scutching
To separate the retted flax straw from the fiber you have to CRUNCH it and SCRAPE it – crunching is called Braking and you use a Flax Brake. Scraping is called scutching and you use a scutching knife and a scraper. It’s all about braking the fiber away from the core and getting rid of as much of that straw as possible before hackling it. There were a few farm chores – flipping the dew retted flax, and emptying out the water for the water retted flax.
Once the flax chores were done it was back to the barn and the weaving looms. What’s it like to weave with Single Ply linen? It means that you MUST pay attention to the warp and not just the pattern you are weaving. Look at the shed – are there gaps? Look at the warp passing through the heddles – is fuzz beginning to build up – why is that happening? Look behind the heddles – are there any warp threads hanging down?
With single ply Linen, warp breaks, it’s just a fact of life. Learn how to properly fix a broken warp thread and you will weave on with confidence and you won’t try to avoid finding those pesky broken warp threads! The sooner you catch them, the better off you’ll be.
Day 4 More spinning More Weaving
Finish up any spinning you wanted to do and finish up your weaving projects. Everyone was really keeping up with the projects and the spinning time was very relaxing. I was sure I would not like spinning line flax, but I was totally enraptured by it!
The water retted flax needed to have 1/5 of the water replaced and this would continue for a few more days, until the flax plant showed signs that the fiber was beginning to separate from the straw.
The afternoon class was a wrap up of the flax processing cycle and a show and tell of all the different colors of Flax that you can get! It was a pretty cool class.
Day 5 Wrapping it all Up
Time to finish weaving, cut off all our pieces, show them off and wrap up any other chores to be done before going for lunch in town.
Wrapping it up
Displaying our work
Becky thought it would be nice to take the table top outside against the side of the barn and display our work there. Emily and I (I’m the older one — on the left) held the draw loom projects — as a single length of warp for all to admire!
OUR Weaving Projects:
Draw Loom – you could design your own project for the single unit draw loom, or use one that Becky set up for you. This project used 16/2 linen for warp and 8/1 Tow for weft. It was on a Single Unit Draw loom in 6 shaft satin with 140 units.
6 Shaft Basket Weave Table Runner – I LOVED this project and plan on recreating it as a full sized table cloth. Warp and weft are 16/1 Tow linen. Colors are Red, Gold, Bright Green and Blue.
Rustic Runner – The idea here is to showcase your handspun and/or use various weights of commercial linen tow and line, weave structures could be plain weave, basket weave, twill or any combination of the above. I pretty much stuck with a very open plain weave. The warp is 12/1 Line Linen — unbleached. Weft is various weights of commercial and handspun.
Overshot Runners– There were 2 of these using different warps. One was Daldrall Krus Och Rand with 12/1 Line linen warp and weft (or you could use handspun) The other was Leksandskrus Daldrall in 20/1 white line linen – it was really delicate and beautiful, well worth the occasional broken warp thread.
Twill Sauna Towel – the was a 4 shaft twill – nice and easy yet elegant with an occasional pair of bleached warp threads between twill sections. It used 8/1 Tow Linen for warp and weft.
8-Shaft Fancy Twill – this was the only project (besides the Draw Loom) with 2 ply warp. The warp was 16/2 black and the weft was the color of your choice in 16/1. The design was totally fun and the treadling fairly straight forward.
I can’t go without telling you what a wonderful environment the Farm House provides for spinning and weaving. It was beautiful and peaceful; a true etheric delight. I tried to take a range of photos that would give you a taste!
I shook out my braid, spread out the fibers and used one of my cotton ties to gently attach it to the top of the bridge lamp.
Now I can place my “distaff” wherever it is best for me and my wheel! DANDY!