We Are The Makers Of Things

Wrapping up Our Contest

So our Revive-A-Vintage contest is over and I had a blast. It was so much fun on my end to watch the patterns and projects get added in ravelry. I stayed up past my bed time more than once browsing pictures and reading project notes. But, I have to admit, I had a secret agenda. I hosted the contest so I could find The Makers, the ones who will sit down with yarn and needles/hooks/shuttles/looms and actually make things. And I did.

English showgirls knitting
English showgirls knitting backstage for soldiers during WWII (from Life Magazine)

You all are just like them… except maybe you don’t have those awesome legs. I sure don’t!

I said this in another post somewhere but it bares repeating. I could have structured my contest like most of the internet contests you see out there. I could have simply posted something like, “Leave a comment on this thread and one lucky winner will receive a [insert awesome prize here]!”. I had ten different prizes to give away. I could have run that gimmick 10 times and it would had resulted in a HUGE spike in blog traffic.

But most of that traffic wouldn’t have stuck around. Some would have stayed and looked around at the articles, at the community we have here, but most would have commented and left. You know why? They are not Makers of Things.

The crafters that will pick a pattern, start a project in raverly, and take pictures of their work, they are Makers. They are the ones I write for, the ones I design for. They are my kind of people. People like you.

Now I have you in my little corner of the blog-o-sphere. It was all part of my evil plan.

I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of praise and gratitude for this contest. (I’m getting comments here, over on the Roving Crafter’s ravelry forum, in private messages, and a few on Google+.) That’s wonderful and humbling. But you have to know that the contest would have gone nowhere if it were not for all the people who entered and participated. They did all the work! They Made the Things.


Wrapping up my Flax

I made a vintage little-something too while the contest was going on; I made some handspun flax yarn. Spinning flax was a first for me and I’m mildly pleased with the results. I had promised some details on how it was done and how it turned out but I wanted to put that on hold for a bit. I didn’t want to take any of the spotlight off our talented and dedicated vintage contest entrants. But now I’m out of excuses! Time for you to judge my work.

Flax was a stable staple in the textile world for centuries. Its a true vintage fiber. Fields of flax were grown all over the world and then harvested, processed, spun and (usually) woven. Flax fiber is still around today and we call the woven end product linen. Its not used nearly as much or for as many items as it used to be. Flax has been largely replaced by cotton. But long before cotton was king, it was all about flax.

Flax is usually spun wet. Some spinners will spin it dry but most want it to be about 30% by weight water at the time its spun into singles. So while you don’t need it to be sopping and dripping with water, you want it to be wet. This was intimidating enough to keep me from spinning flax for years. But I worked out a way to re-hydrate the fiber by storing it for a few days with a wet sponge in a sealed ziplock bag. Once the fiber was saturated, I started spinning.

handspun flax

My final results are 406 yards from 7 ounces. I started this project with 8 ounces but as I messed up a section or drafted wrong, I pulled hunks out of fiber and tossed them. I guess I ended up tossing out a whole ounce. Oops.

Here is the method I used:

I spun the singles over the fold. It drafted easier that way and I was able to spin a finer, thinner strand. I used the lowest speed on my wheel and gave the flax a little more twist than I would have if it was wool. I can’t tell you what the twists per inch was because my eyes are never good enough to pick that out in a single.

After the singles had sat on the bobbin for at least 12 hours, I plied them together. I’m not sure if flax needs to rest and set the twist like wool does but I did it that way just in case. As I plied, I used the medium speed and treadled 5 times per make. My make is about 2 feet. That gave me a two ply yarn that was on average 15 twists per inch.

handspun flax yarn in two ply

As for the weight of the finished yarn, I averaged about 18 wraps around the ruler per inch making what I have a light fingering.

handspun flax at 18 wpi

As I said above, I’m mildly pleased with the results. I did better than I expected my first try at flax! Here is what I learned for next time: flax, more than any other fiber I’ve spun, will take the shape you want it to. You know how wool yarn will keep to that crinkly shape after you rip out if its been knitted for a few days? Flax will hold a crimp after just a few minutes. Just winding it around that metal ruler/needle gauge in the picture above but bends in the yarn that had to be smoothed out. So for next time… I’ll try using a higher twist in plying. You can put a little over-ply this stuff because when its washed and laid out flat, it will hold to the laid out shape.

So how does it knit up? I know, I know. Its supposed to be woven. I heard that too. But… Elizabeth Zimmermann taught me to me the boss of my own yarn so I knitted some up just to see.

handspun flax knitted

Looks fine in garter stitch. The stitch definition is fantastic. I think I’l make kitchen-y and table setting stuff with it.

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7 thoughts on “We Are The Makers Of Things

  1. It looks awesome!!! I think you may have meant “staple” instead of “stable” though. If I’m wrong feel free to correct me 🙂 I got 4 ounces of roving recently and I am going to learn how to spin on my drop spindle very soon! (Probably after this distracting Dr Who knit is done though.) And I have finally found the group on Ravelry!!

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    1. Thank-you!

      I got this flax from the shop at Joy Of Handspinning (.com) but that was many years ago. Louet carries “dew or water retted flax” and I betcha its tow. At that price and the fact that fiber is described as short says tow flax to me. But I’d call/email and ask before I bought.

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  2. You make spinning interesting! The thought of “I made this with that yarn I made” is much more satisfying than “I made this with yarn I bought”. But, I’ve never succeeded in spinning usable yarn. My cotton dishcloth disintegrated, and I have no idea what went wrong. I’m hoping I’ll eventually gain the skill to spin more than “plarn”, because that just doesn’t count, lol!

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  3. I am very impressed with your spun flax/linen! I haven’t tried that fiber yet, in fact it wasn’t even on my radar because fibers that have no resiliency tend to hurt my hands. But it looks so good and I think it would have a lovely drape, yes?

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    1. I think it will drape very nicely, yes. I’ve been looking into commercial equivalents and Shibui makes a linen yarn. A LYS here in Austin doing a knit-a-long using that yarn and a summer tee pattern. I haven’t joined in but I’m interested to see how that project goes.

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