Flax demonstrations on a summer day
Some facts about flax were shared at the Home Textile Tool Museum Saturday in Orwell.
Pamella (Mawhiney) Wood shared the information with the audience, which included members of the Susquehanna Valley Spinners and Weavers Guild, who came up from Lewisburg.
Joy McCracken, who was with the group, said there aren't many flax experts around, so they wanted to take advantage of Wood's knowledge.
They sat on benches and chairs in a barn, as a light summer breeze blew in from outside. Spinning wheels and bundles of flax surrounded them as they sat listening to Wood, who spoke into a microphone.
Wood noted that linen comes from the flax plant, or Linum Usitatissimum, which has the Latin meaning of "most useful."
She noted that flax is the only fiber that changes its name.
According to a fact sheet from Wood, "flax changes from flax to linen at the finger tips of the spinner, thus spun flax is linen thread or yarn."
And she noted that it goes back quite a ways.
For example, around 4,000 BC, Egypt's slaved-manned factories "turned out vast yardages of linen fabrics for clothing and mummy wrappings."
Her fact sheet notes, "The Romans cultivated flax and introduced it to northern Europe. It was being grown extensively in Ireland and Wales by the fifth century AC. Irish linen is considered to be the finest in the world. The early, fine line flax producing plants are now extinct."
She noted that flax fiber has many natural qualities, such as strength and smoothness/beauty. She said it's lintless and soil resistant. Also, she commented that it does not stretch or shrink and absorbs 20 percent of its own weight in moisture without getting wet. She said it's moth-proof and has "washability" because it's not injured by soap, boiling water, sun, or a hot iron, unless the iron is left on it too long.
In addition, Wood went over the steps that are required to produce fiber suitable for spinning.
Another member of the guild, Julie Richie, seemed to be enjoying her visit.
She said they are "fiber aficionados" and relish the opportunity to learn something new.
"We preserve the culture," she said.
The museum's website is www.hometextiletoolmuseum.org/. Wood said to check the website for a list of workshops.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.