In this three-part workshop, participants will learn to harvest, process, and spin flax plants into linen thread suitable for weaving. We have a small flax plot that we’ll be harvesting by mid-summer. Join us and learn to harvest this easy-to-grow plant and then walk through the steps to turn it from a dried stalk into loose fibers and then thread. Over three weekends, we’ll cover growing, retting, breaking, scutching, hackling, making a strick, dressing a distaff, and spinning.
July 10, 12:00–4:00 p.m.
We’ll harvest flax before processing some of last year’s crop into stricks by breaking, scutching, and hackling. Spinning will be demonstrated, and we’ll discuss the type of spinning wheels used for spinning flax, distaffs, and what to bring for next time to begin spinning flax into linen yarn. Participants will take home flax seeds.
July 24, 12:00–4:00 p.m.
We’ll recap processing from the first class and include rippling, separating seeds, and retting before turning to dressing a distaff and beginning to spin. If you just want to learn to spin flax, rather than learning fiber processing skills, this will be the first class for spinners to attend. Intermediate to advanced experience with spinning on a wheel is required. Please bring a working spinning wheel that you are familiar with spinning on and a distaff if you have one. (Simple distaffs will be available for those who need one. Please let us know in advance if you need a distaff.) A list of additional supplies you will need to bring with you will be provided prior to this session. Flax processing equipment will still be available for those who would like to observe spinning and then continue to process flax into stricks. Materials fee: $15. Participants will take home the flax on their distaff for additional practice at home.
August 7, 12:00–4:00 p.m.
We’ll review the process of dressing a distaff and getting right into spinning. We’ll focus on refining technique and then winding off the finished linen yarn into skeins using a yarn winder or a niddy noddy. Participants will take home their thread and remaining strick. Materials fee: $15. Additional flax stricks and distaffs will be available for purchase while supplies last.
Classes can be taken individually, as a set of two, or as all three. It’s recommended that participants who want to focus primarily on growing and processing take the July 10 and July 24 sessions and participants who want to focus primarily on spinning take both the July 24 and August 7 classes in order to have time to learn the skills at a comfortable pace. The fee for each class is $85, although a sliding scale rate of $60 is available. The second two classes each have a $15 materials fee. The reduced rate for enrollment in all three classes is $225 (sliding scale rate: $150), a savings of $30. Extra stricks can be purchased at $15 for 6 oz. while supplies last.
Please wear weather-appropriate clothing. We hope to be outside with shade available. With light rain, we’ll be under cover, but in case of inclement weather, the rain days are July 11, 25, and August 8. We’ll have drinking water and snacks available, but please feel free to bring your own additional beverage.
The workshop will take place at the Low Technology Institute, 11927 W. State Road 59, Evansville, WI 53536. We are located in historic Cooksville: from Madison take 14 south; left on 59; the institute is the fifth house on the right in town with a sign out front.
Register by purchasing a ticket through our online store. Please indicate in the “note to seller” box when checking out if you’re primarily interested in processing, spinning, or both. Space is limited and we will keep a waiting list. Get on the list by “purchasing” a waitlist ticket at no cost, also in our online store. Also, participants must fill out this liability waiver. Your registration is only complete when the waiver is filled out.
This event is a joint production of the Low Technology Institute and Victorian Technology Institute. Donations are always welcome to help defray the cost of our workshops and programming. Please visit our respective websites to find out more about supporting the work we do.
∇ COVID-19 CONSIDERATIONS ∇
Due to the ongoing pandemic, we will be taking precautions against spreading the virus among ourselves. This event will be entirely outside. A bathroom is available. We will follow CDC and Rock County guidelines. At this time, fully vaccinated people can choose to go without a mask, but those who are not vaccinated are asked to wear a mask. Hand sanitizer, etc. will be available, and tools will be cleaned between users. This may change and participants will be updated.
Holin Kennen is an award-winning spinner and the author behind the blog The Victorian Technology Institute. She has been spinning for nearly 40 years and teaches classes in spinning, baking, wood stove cookery, and other pre-industrial domestic arts. She is the coordinator of the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival fleece show and specializes in wool judging and fiber preparation.
Scott Johnson is the director of the Low Technology Institute. He has been growing flax for a few years, trying to raise and spin enough to weave a shirt made entirely by hand. His goal is to explore ways in which we can live in a future without fossil fuels. To that end, he’s been experimenting with traditional subsistence farming, growing wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, and a large garden alongside his flax. His other classes this summer include hand-harvesting and processing wheat, timber frame construction, and roof thatching.
(Photo courtesy T. Cooper)