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Dressing a Flax Distaff

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Wild Fibres natural fibres > plant fibres > flax > grow flax > dressing distaff

Dressing a Flax Distaff

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In the previous section, we covered preparing the flax for the distaff. This page covers fanning the flax and dressing the distaff. The photos show fanning the flax on the floor but the process is similar for fanning the flax on the lap or table.

i)  Prepare the flax strick (previous page)

ii) Choose the most suitable distaff dressing method (previous page)

iii) Fanning the flax for the distaff

iv) Dressing the distaff

iii) Fanning the flax for the distaff

You will be spreading the flax fibres in a fan shape in front of you, but the fan-shape will be more than 180 degrees (up to 240 degrees).

Fanning the flax for the distaff | Natural Fibres

starting to fan the flax

Fanning the flax for the distaff | Natural Fibres

fanning from the right

Fanning the flax for the distaff | Natural Fibres

patting down the fibres
more photos below!

1. Start with the strick on your left side and hold it loosely in the middle with your right hand.

2. Slowly move the strick in an arc to your right side, with your right hand leading the way. At the same time use your left hand to pull out a very fine layer of fibres (a few fibres at a time) as you move the strick with your right hand. Pat them down with the palm of your left hand. The hand that is patting down the strick creates resistance, which helps to pull fibres out of the strick. The trailing hand anchors the fibres as the leading hand drags the bundle around the arc.

3. When the strick reaches your right side, turn it over and hold it with the left hand.  The left hand then leads the way whilst the right hand pats down the anchored fibres. You always draw from the same edge (the trailing edge, not the leading edge as you might expect), this is why you turn the strick over at the end of the fan. To make it easier at change over time, lift the strick upwards, just before turning the strick round.

4. Make gossamer thin layers on each pass, adding layer upon layer. This is why it takes some time to fan the flax. You are aiming for a criss-crossing of the fibres; the flax should not form straight lines. This makes it much easier to spin as you will not encounter clumps of fibre when you draft. Fan slowly and carefully all the way along the strick, not just the ends.

5. Make sure you go all the way up and down the strick, leaving no ‘nests’. Your arms are probably not long enough to reach all the way to the tip of the strick, so gently flick the tip to tease the fibres apart. If the fibres clump, stop and open them up. Remove any knots.

6. When you have finished fanning the flax, undo the knot at your waist and on the flax, and then dress the distaff as explained below.

iv) Dressing the flax distaff 

Place the tip of distaff against the point on the fan where the ribbon was tied. Carefully arrange the fanned flax around the distaff like a wrap-around skirt, with about 180 degrees of overlap. [If you are fanning the flax on your lap, you will need to carry the fanned flax to the distaff, and wrap the flax around the distaff.]

Fold the ribbon in half, and make a slip knot through the middle. Tie the knot once or twice very close to the tip of the distaff. Criss-cross the ribbon first away, then towards you. Tie a bow knot at the end. The ribbon needs to be tight enough for the flax not to fall, but not too tight. If it is too tight, the fibres will not slide easily. If your distaff is hollow, tuck the bottom of the flax skirt under it.

Dressing a Flax Distaff - gallery of photos (click to enlarge!)

1.Attaching the ribbon

Fanning flax strick

First sweep of flax strick

Pull out a fine layer of flax fibres

Change hands for reverse sweep

6.Reverse sweep to left

Teaze out flax fibres

8.Patting down flax fibres

9.Fanning of flax complete

10.Dressing the distaff

Roll flax distaff

12.Dressing the distaff

Back to Previous page:

i)  Preparing the flax strick for the distaff

ii) Choosing the most suitable distaff dressing method

And Back to
a) Making a cone distaff
b) Spinning flax from a distaff (in preparation)
And Growing your own Flax.

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Teresinha at Wild Fibres
Studio I-319, Scott House, The Custard Factory
Gibb Street, Birmingham B9 4DT, UK

Contact Teresinha for enquiries on
Tel:  +44 (0)7979 770865
email: info@wildfibres.co.uk

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Last updated on 25 July 2019
Website and photos by Mike Roberts © 2008-19 Wild Fibres