As you may already know, my Swedish ancestors grew, processed, spun and wove flax in northern Sweden. I inherited my great great grandmother’s (Anna Amalia Landstrum 1866-1950) spinning wheel. It was obtained by my maternal grandmother when the farmhouse of her maternal grandparents in northern Sweden (Svensbyn) was sold in the mid- 1970’s. They somehow got the spinning wheel home. And they gave it to me after I started learning how to spin. Before they gave it to me my grandfather made a new footman and two bobbins for me as they had gone missing at some point. As it is a flax spinning wheel I wanted to learn how to spin flax on it.
First though I needed to get a distaff as this had gone missing too. I asked a woodworking and spinning friend Allen Berry if he could make me one. He was thrilled, and he did a great job. I chose to paint it yellow.
I also inherited from my grandmother a linen towel that her aunt Lydia Lundstrom (1895-1959) had woven. Here is the towel with her initials embroidered in it.
The family story I have been told is a sad one though. Lydia had wanted to marry a particular man, but her mother Anna did not allow it and wanted Lydia to stay at home and eventually take care of her in her old age. And this is what happened. So I am proud to own this towel of Lydia’s and to be able to have more choices in my life than she did.
Since I did well on Fiber Day, I decided to take some of those proceeds to attend a flax spinning class. So I signed up for one held this morning at Fiber Fusion. Here are samples of different forms of flax fiber that the instructor showed us.
And then here I am putting a loop of ribbon around the root end of my first strick. The instructor had purchased theses stricks for the class, and they are from Sweden. Apparently it is challenging to find these as China is taking over the market. I guess I should have looked for some when I was in Sweden.
And here I am fanning out the fibers of the strick.
This is the instructor demonstrating how to tie and wrap the fanned fibers onto a distaff.
Here is my strick wrapped around my distaff and tied on.
I then proceeded to try to spin it. I was spinning counterclockwise, having to pull and wet the fibers, and I was struggling with grandpa’s bobbin as it was not winding as it should. I finally switched over to the original bobbin (which I did not want to use because I was worried about water damage to it). But I was able to spin much better with it. I forgot to take a photo of the full distaff with my wheel, but here it is when I am almost done.
Here is my spun flax on the antique bobbin.
And here is the spun flax wound off into balls. The one on the right is the first attempt with Grampa’s bobbin, and the one on the left is from the original bobbin.
So now I can say I have spun flax. Not very well, but it is a start. I would love to be able to spin as well as Lydia and Anna did as evidenced by the amazingly fine spinning in the towel. Maybe someday (I do have their mitochondria in me). And I may even try to grow flax again.