weaving handspun linen

Hello! I'm in the process of growing a patch of flax, hoping to spin it into linen and then weave that into cloth. I'm looking for advice from people who have woven with handspun linen.
 
I have been reading the weaving section of Patricia Baines' "Linen : Hand Spinning and Weaving" this morning and am finding it daunting. I have never woven with linen, only wool & cotton, and according to her pretty much all of my equipment, from swift to loom, is inappropriate for use with linen, especially handspun. I'd appreciate hearing from people who have woven with either commercial or handspun linen : does an umbrella swift cause tangling? is the short exposed warp distance a problem on a table loom? is the action of a jack loom hard on the warp? is it worth reducing the shed size on a jack loom by raising the height of the warp beam, to reduce stress in shedding?
 
I have two looms that I had planned to use for sampling : a 4-harness Schacht table loom, and a 4-harness baby wolf jack loom. While I'd love to have a nice countermarche loom with an overslung beater, that's certainly not going to happen before this flax is harvested!
 
Also, I have a big box of assorted commercial linen threads which I plan to use for sampling before weaving with handspun. Most are considerably finer than I expect my handspun to be -- but am assuming that experience with the fiber will be useful even if the grist is very different. Does that seem reasonable to you? Or would you advise that I find thicker threads to practice with?

Comments

Posted on Sun, 06/26/2016 - 18:01

First, wait until you actually get a harvest.

Our patch was perfect until some wind last night has part of it leaning against the support strings. Hope it comes back up.

The idea of growing flax and getting nice handwoven cloth on the first try is a daunting one. Usually people have prior experience, good and bad, and then ease into the handwoven linen fabric.

Best to get into things by weaving with commercial linen with the equipment you have to get a feel for it. Practice spinning linen thread with a commercial strick first. I've been spinning some of our hand hackled this summer, and it is not as easy to make a nice, consistent thread.

In the cae of linen, since most folks do not have direct experience, my advice is to work backwards from commercial products.

Posted on Mon, 06/27/2016 - 04:41

You could start with a cotton warp and use the linen for weft.  This can be a nice combination.  You don't say what you want to make, so I would suggest trying various things and see how the yarn behaves, what the cloth might be suitable for and as suggested, maybe a counter balanced loom with more room between breast and back beams if you really want to use your hand spun. Or even commercially spun yarn for warp. 

Posted on Mon, 06/27/2016 - 18:32

Thank you both for your comments.  I do want to start with commercial thread first, rather than with handspun -- and as you point out, Sara, this crop might not yield anything.

Is there a reason to start with a cotton warp and linen weft?  Or should I just dive into using linen for both?  I'm comfortable with cotton so wouldn't be learning anything new from that warping process.

Posted on Mon, 06/27/2016 - 19:52

You learn something new from EVERY warping process. In the case of cotton warp and linen weft, the materials produce a new fabric - that when wet finished is different from all cotton. Working with the weft is different.

Linen makes an excellent weaver out of all who successfully deal with it. It requires dropping any shortcuts, sloppiness or cavalier attitudes in our approach to weaving. Any resulting messes are NOT usually attributable to the material, but from disregarding the rules for good weaving habits.

Posted on Mon, 06/27/2016 - 20:25

No reason at all, except that perhaps cotton is cheaper?  As Sara says, a cotton warp, linen weft, will result in a 'different' fabric.  But if you have commercially spun linen and want to use it, go for it.  :)