Friday, April 26, 2013

An Ancient Fibre and Vampires

I will just tell it like it is…I’m exhausted. Not because I have been standing at the dyepots til 3 in the morning or even spinning yarn til, I can handle that. Ask me to work, dye, spin, knit, weave, do farm work without any sleep and I will not be bothered at all, in fact , I will feel energised and have a smile on my face feeling tired but happy. No, what is doing my head in and making me feel unhappy exhausted is this: I have been sitting at my desk doing book work and tax stuff all week, with an afternoon of relief doing some very nice dyeing of what I can offer you on this weeks blog. I now have a huge admiration of book keepers and accountants and want them to know they will never..ever..ever..ever…!!.. see me wanting to become an accountant.  The number crunching has really sucked the life out of me so to Well, it is almost done now, Paul will do the double checking and then…I can concentrate on what I love doing: Spinning, Dyeing, Designing , dreaming up new blends and new ideas for fibre, felt and sewing. Yes, sewing! I have always made my own clothes and other crafty things, but I lapsed when my sewing machine died on me…Paul finally said to know a new one ! yippee! So I have put one on layby and can’t wait to work with that new baby: A Viking no less ;-)
..I have so many plans for Bendigo Show it is driving me insane, especially this last week, because I had to do that “other stuff”..but all will be revealed just before Bendigo show and it is going to so much FUN  !!!!

So, what have I got in store for you this weekend? Well, it is a new blend that will rock your world: my vampire tops. It is a wonderful blend of 17micron merino, cashmere, angora bunny, a bit of black bamboo and wait for it: Flax !!!! Flax or linen, is an amazing fibre, you just have to get to know it better to totally appreciate its history and beauty. It has been spun up and made into cloth since the dawn of time and the beauty of linen is that it becomes softer and more beautiful with wear and age. A truly amazing fibre!

Flax is the common name for an annual herb of the Linaceae family, especially members of the genus Linum, and for the fibre obtained from such plants. The stem varies from 60 to 120 cm in length and consists of fibre bundles lying between the outer bark and a woody core. The individual fibres, 10 to 40, are held together in the bundles by pectines. The bundles lie around the core and are attached to it and one another by pectines. Flax requires a temperate, moist climate and good soil to flourish. It is sown around the end of March, and the plant starts to bloom at the end of May. Because it is a 'heavy feeder', it cannot be grown on the same land year after year and so it is be rotated with other crops. It must be weeded often. There are two main types: the blue-flowered and the white-flowered flax. The latter produces coarser fibres and more seeds than the blue flax. The fibres, after processing, are spun and woven into linen cloth. Harvesting flax: Most flax matures in 90 to 120 days and usually is ready in August. There are three degrees in the ripening of the flax grown to make linen: green, yellow and brown.

The yellow has proved to be the most suitable for fibre production. Flax that is pulled too early -green - produces very fine but weak fibres. On the other hand , in overripe flax - brown - the stems are strong but brittle but produce too high a proportion of undesirable short fibres ('tow'). When the flax is yellow, the fibres are long and supple, and therefore ideal for further processing. The mature yellow stems were harvested by careful pulling from the soil by hand (flax pulling) to avoid damaging the fibres in the stem.

The pulled flax was stacked in bundles in the field. The next steps in the processing described below are those used for centuries before the industrial revolution, early in the 19th century, introduced mechanization and destroyed the home-based flax industry. The stems were walked repeatedly or beaten with a flail ('swingle') to remove the seed bolls. More commonly their top ends of a bundle of stems were pulled through a 'ripple', a comb-like tool consisting of a row of 20-30 vertical steel pins fixed in a piece of wood which looked like the 'heckling' comb shown below. This process was called 'rippling'. The seeds were then released from the bolls by walking over them or beating with a flail. The stems were then 'retted' by the action of molds and bacteria which removed gums and resins. Retting sometimes was done by simple exposure of the stems to the weather in the fields for 2 to 8 weeks, the time required depending on the weather. This process dissolved the pectins holding the bundles to the central core of the flax stem and to one another.

Care is needed to stop the process before the pectins holding the individual fibres in the bundles together were dissolved. It was important to keep the bundles intact for later spinning. During this period the dew and rains washed away the digested pectin, leaving the bundles lying within the stems. More commonly, retting was done by soaking the stems in a nearby stream or river. Elsewhere the retting was often done by soaking the flax, covered with mud, in water-filled pits for 1-2 weeks. The stems were then rinsed and dried. Retting loosened the bark (flexible fibrous bark) from the bundles, facilitating the next step, 'scutching' by beating with a stick a shown to the left or with the tool to the right. Both crushed the inner woody core of the stems leaving the desired bundles of long fibres intact. This produced about 60% linen flax (long fibres -60 to 90 cm long) 33% tow (short fibres - 10 to 15 cm long) and 'shiv', woody waste formerly used for fuel, nowadays to make chipboard. The stems were then drawn through a 'heckling' comb shown below to remove remnants of the fibrous core and outer bark and aligned the bundles of fibres ready for spinning. Except the planting and weeding, all the above labour-intensive steps began to be replaced in the early 1800s by mechanized processes associated with the industrial revolution.

Harvesting machines replaced manual labour. Nowadays water retting in streams is rarely used because of its cost and the pollution it causes. It has largely been replaced by soaking the harvested flax in tubs of warm water for about a week. Scutching by hand was replaced by mechanical beaters called swinging machines; hackling was mechanized and, of course, hand spinning and hand weaving were replaced by adaptations of the English-designed 'Spinning Jenny'.

For more information on falx and processing and its fascinating history go to:  It even has a link there to a video on processing flax.
 A close up of the heckle..a very nast instrument really and cause of lots of injuries in the flax processing before industrialisation. In Dutch it's called a "hekel" and one of the origins of the word to dislike something (Dutch: een hekel hebben aan...).

Enjoy this new Vampire bunny blend and know that there is only a very limited supply! So if you wat to try spinning some flax without having to heckle and scrunch…grab a vampire bunny . I promise it won’t bite

How To Order from this Shop blog
 until the website is up and running –which will be sooooon-ish!-yeah yeah start laughing will ya.....You can email me on ixchel at rabbit dot com dot au or or message me on facebook or ravelry where I am Ixchelbunny. I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods. Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.
Payment : direct bank deposit, card or paypal ! easy !

Vampire Bunny Tops

A new wonderful blend of super fine merino with angora bunny, cashmere and a teeny bit of black bamboo and merino. A wonderfully “evil” addictive spin ! Aalso extremely feltable which will give you a wonderful texture 100 g AU$24
Black Lagoon -sold-


happy vampires

Mount Doom

a Naked Vampire


Outback Vampires

The Kraken -sold-

Vampire after a drink -sold-

Dates to Remember:
Hand knitters guild Mini Wool Show
Saturday May 11th, Bardin Centre Hall at Christ Church, 8 Glenlyon Road, Brunswick
this event is a MUST and an absolute fabulous way to catch up with fellow fibre fans ! I will be there with heaps of new hand spun, art yarns, lace weight, sock yarn, bunny mink and angora yarns and much much more...!!!!
also a special pressie for all who come dressed as a bunny....ofcourse!.. and ...a chance to win a very special IxCHeL basket full of goodies to be drawn at 3pm at the venue !!!! yeah!

Gembrook Spinners and Weavers Guild Spin in day

Monday May 20th, Gembrook Town Hall  !!!!
A wonderful get together with heaps of spinners and weavers in the beautiful Gembrook.


Friday 19th of July, Saturday 20th of July and Sunday 21st of July

This is the Ultimate Fibre and fun mix of them all! There will be lots of new things on offer at my IxCHeL stall ofcourse, with prizes to be won and lots of fun to be had!
This is the place to support farmers, fibre producers and independant "Indie" dyers and crafters and have some great fun discovering new things and even win prizes !

In the flower Power Bunny Shed there will be some extra surprises and new things happening as well, including …this is so exciting!!!!: you can see and try out new unusual spinning wheels adn spinning related goodies like andean plyers and nore from a wonderful new fibre fanatic fiberific! vendor ! Don’t miss seeing these new beauties! And ofcourse there will be lots more demos and wheels and spindles on offer as well in the flower power Bunny shed !
There is a woolcraft schedule available at the farm or you can email Dot : Entries for your fiber art closes on June 14th and there are lots of prizes to be won! Our little IxCHeL fibre farm is sponsoring sections 24 and 25 so get started on your entry to win some very yummy stuff !
Any questions or requests?
Contact me on Ravelry where I am Ixchelbunny, message me on facebook
or email me on or

1 comment:

Penelope Redpene said...

I could swear I commented last week on this ... gorram gremlins!

Absolutely adore the Vampire after a drink colourway - if you dye some yarn in it, I will buy SKEINS.