There was a great turnout for the first of four quarterly linen discussion meetings for 2017. Because no one there knew all of the other attendees, we started with a round robin of short introductions. Each person told their name and answered the question, “When did you last have a linen warp on your loom?” The first person, Mary Wussow, has never had linen warp on a loom. She is learning to spin and had a beautifully spun ball of linen spun on a wheel, made from flax roving she purchased from the Nova Scotia farmers who spoke at the Guild last fall. “I just don’t know if it is good,” she said. Look at how lovely and even it is! Mary is planning to try weaving the tow roving on a drop spindle too.
Steve Pauling has only worked with linen one time, as a heavy warp in a rug class. Steve commented that he just came to the meeting to soak up information and learn about other people’s experiences using linen. That has been true of many attendees at all the informal meetings we’ve had to discuss linen. After a solid two hours of talk at this meeting, I think the goal of learning was met.
Rosemary McFarland said that she worked with linen quite a bit, forty years ago, and then maybe about seven years ago. “Does cottolin count? Then it would be four years ago.” Later Peggy Baldwin opined that cottolin doesn’t even count for 50%; cottolin is really more like cotton than linen.
Phyllis Waggoner wove a liturgical textile about four years ago, and a rug on linen warp last year. Mona Pfaff has woven with cottolin, but not linen. Marilyn Moore wove linen runners in the last few years, as a very new weaver, when she hadn’t heard that linen might be tricky to use. Janet Newberg told a funny story about working at the Weavers Guild in 2005 and spending about as much money as she made on yarns from Fiber Source. She still has her linen stash from that period. Peggy Baldwin has been weaving towels with linen and cottolin, and she shared her stack of beautiful striped towels later in the meeting. Melba Granlund has woven on linen only in a class, so far. Jan Josifek has linen on a small tapestry loom right now. Maggie Vogel-Martin doesn’t weave and is interested in spinning linen. Patty Johnson just finished teaching a student to weave krokbragd, and they used a linen warp. Her last full linen project was about 4 years ago, on a 28/2, very thin warp. AND she was just talking with a friend that morning about converting one of her gardens to a flax field. Beth McLaughlin has linen on her loom for a krokbragd. Gretchen Stratton has woven a fair amount with linen, but not for many years. Geri Retzlaff has never had a linen warp on her loom. Sue Mansfield used linen (40/2 warp, 20 singles weft) most recently for the Scandinavian work shirt class; she made a shirt for her husband. Mia McDavid has used linen as rug warp and has woven an open lacy scarf for with linen.
Since planning for summer classes is underway at the Guild, we discussed which linen-related classes we should request. There was agreement that another linen spinning class would be great, and a repeat of Marian Dahlberg’s class (TWO of her linen weaving classes this spring are already full). A linen-related workshop with Katie Meeks workshop will be held in August; details and sign-up will be available soon.
Maggie Vogel-Martin reported that Judy Payne’s class on natural dyeing the previous weekend was super well-organized; she was so well-prepared. She had three different dye baths and three different mordants, all with non-toxic materials. Judy gave lots of background on dyeing and brought many books for resources. It was a nice-sized class; 8-10. There were several types of fibers and fabrics chosen by the various students, so that it was interesting to see the varying results. They used cochineal for red, marigold for yellow; cutch was the brown. She had a wealth of knowledge and in a three-hour class, they learned so much. During this conversation, someone mentioned using cochineal and rhubarb because with the oxalic acid in the rhubarb leaves, you get RUBY RED. You just remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks and put them in the dye pot.
In Nancy Preckshot’s chemical dyeing class, safety was also emphasized. She used fiber reactive dye solutions in both painters’ and printers’ primaries plus burgundy, fixed with soda ash. Jan Hayman chose the option of putting the dye on her warp of 20/2 bleached linen. “ I started cautiously, and then went wild,” she explained. There is a big difference in how bleached or unbleached linen absorbs dye. Bleached yarns yield more brilliant colors.
Warning: tow linen horror story! Peggy told about the time she was weaving a piece in tow linen, 6/1. And of course it was something that needed to be done quickly. She was weaving a warp-faced design, and the fuzz was grabbing badly. She enlisted her husband’s help, and he went to Walgreens, bought a flax-based dietary fiber supplement, mixed it up, and they painted it on. She couldn’t stop weaving then, because she couldn’t let it dry into a big, glue-y mess. She wove it and then soaked it overnight. And then it took her hours to clean off the reed and the heddles. To get that gunk out of the woven piece; it’s like putting on way, way too much starch.
With tow linen, Mary Mateer said that rather than adding a dressing, she would comb her hands across an open shed to shake the warp threads loose from one another.
Jan Josifek shared a small linen runner. To ensure easy weaving, she dipped her whole warp in a cornstarch mixture. The resulting piece, even after rinsing, had a lovely, crisp hand. Jan Josifek has used flaxseed dressing in the past, which she made by boiling it for an hour.
The Federation meeting held at Biwabik some years back was all on linen. The young man who was from North Dakota was good. Peggy thought she might still have the brochure from that event.
For preparing flax for spinning, Mia McDonald suggested having a brake that the Guild could own and lend to members.
Is linen sized like cotton? No. 16/2 linen is about the same as 8/2 unmercerized cotton. Phyllis used 16/2 linen on an 8/2 unmercerized warp.
Phyllis mentioned a bit about her recent bobbin problems. While weaving a linen weft into a cotton towel warp on the Guild’s Megado computerized loom, her bobbins occasionally “caught,” and didn’t wind off well. Occasionally the bobbin threads would tangle at the end, around the spindle of the bobbin. Patty suggested that it is important to wind the linen onto your bobbin straight on. In other words, the spool from which you are taking the thread also has to be spinning and in the same orientation as the bobbin. If you pull thread vertically off a cone on the floor, you are adding a twist to the yarn as it winds on the bobbin. Someone else suggested that if you you have a stand-alone lazy Kate, that would work.
After a discussion about possibly recommending linen thread to be sold by Fiber Source, the group decided that it was a bit premature; there is no one type of yarn the group felt would sell consistently. Patty Johnson carries all 64 colors of 16/2 line linen from Glimakra – and Color Crossing isn’t so far away in Wisconsin! Patty would give a discount if a number of people wanted to go together to order linen for a project.
Shall we have a challenge exhibit of making something with flax or linen? The group thought that would work well; details will be worked out at future meetings. The deadline for entry would be October 15, and it would be up for the final two months of the year.
Mary Wussow said she has been looking at distaffs, and they are hard to buy. Patty Johnson made one with two wire clothes hangers stuck into a closet rod, and then put in a chunk of wood. inexpensive. It’s become Patty’s favorite. Coat hangers were nice and smooth.
Phyllis brought a sample from drawloom weaving class in Sweden many years ago. Cotton warp, linen warp. The dishcloth. warp was 40/2, the weft was a bit finer.
Plied linens are easy to work with. This has been emphasized by more than one person!
Has anyone used linen on a rigid heddle loom? Sue Mansfield made pieces with a 16 dent reed and the piece was a bit flimsy.
Patty Johnson had a mangling tip. She said that 24” wooden rolling pins, sold for potters, work well for mangling.
Gretchen Stratton took a class from Linda Heinrichs at Convergence 20 years ago, and then wove with linen. She washed her hand towel many, many times. She doesn’t put them in the dryer. But if they get in by accident, once they are washed again, the body returns.
Mary Wussow and Steve Pauling, are interested in helping with a group warp at the Guild, when we decide on a project.
For the next meeting, on April 2 @ 1pm: We will discuss linen yarn. Bring in linen yarn you might have (this should be mostly identified yarn, not mystery yarn). We can examine it, compare it, and discuss it.
Respectfully submitted, Robbie LaFleur
P.S. At the next meeting, I would like to get a photographer volunteer, someone who would take photos of items brought in, with the information about them. These minutes could have had many more photographs!