Flax to Linen at the Folk School

| 12/9/2015 11:37:00 AM

Folk School sign

Once I finished my homegrown handspun cotton vest, I decided to explore other fibers, particularly flax. Whenever you want to learn something new a natural route would be to search the internet, read books, visit places and events that can help you, and gather equipment and supplies and try it yourself. That’s exactly what I did; however, nothing can replace having someone by your side with the know-how. With that in mind, I recently attended the Flax to Linen class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina.

Cassie Dickson has had lots of experience with flax and made a great instructor to the eight students in the class. Cassie had even grown some of the flax herself that we worked with. Peggy Patrick assisted her. I was impressed that Peggy makes her shoes and has taught classes in that. Two of us in the class intend to grow flax next year and produce our own linen. Everyone had their own good reasons for being there, even if it didn’t involve seed in the ground next year. We learned to prepare a distaff and to break, scutch, hackle and spin flax.

dyeing linen--yellows and madder

One day of the week-long class we dyed linen with natural dyes. Cassie and Peggy prepared dyepots with marigolds, osage orange, broom sedge, onion skins, butternuts, and madder. The madder was fresh from the garden. There were also two indigo pots. I had dyed a small amount of wool at home this year with marigolds and black walnuts. I’m definitely going to have to do more of that next year.  

We had an opportunity to weave in patterns on several small four-shaft table looms. I wove my cotton vest in plain weave on a small table loom with string heddles. Weaving with these looms was quite different. We only wove an inch or so on each loom before we went back to our other projects. In the end, Cassie cut our pieces from the loom so we could put them in the notebooks we were each preparing with samples from our work in the class. We visited the weaving class and saw the large floor looms they were working with. They had warped them themselves, each with a specific pattern.  We appreciated their efforts after our meager experience with the table looms.

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