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Just the Flax, please!

I love PLY Magazine for their new perspectives and added dimensions.  PLY showcases multiple points of view and many issues are dedicated to single topics. Beautiful to read and to hold, all most all of the photos are staged and taken by PLY's own photographer, Bernadette Emerson.

In the Spring Flax 2018 issue, I was fortunate to author two articles and an opinion on the Hot Button question. Twist on Flax and Finishing Flax hold several of my tips for working with flax fibers.

Other writers filled in the starting and drafting articles.  Here is what I would add. I'm a firm believer in spinning from long line strick for the finest flax/linen yarns. I help the student recognize how helpful the distaff is.  It becomes your helping hand, your backhand to hold the fibers. This frees your usual backhand to for new tasks. The first task for the back-hand is holding the twist out of the fibers out of while the forward hand dips into the water pot for wet-spinning.  The second task is traffic controller, managing unruly fibers only when needed.

In this video, you will see how my backhand replaces my front hand allowing me to wet my fingers then continue wet spinning my flax. The backhand just holds the twist so it doesn't move further into the fibers until the front hand has time to re-wet.

I always keep my fibers under control and draft the fibers as they move straight down from the distaff.  My favorite style of dressing the distaff is the ponytail.

A distaff can be created many ways, it is a truly utilitarian tool.  Sometimes it was only a peg on the wall near where the spinner sat.  Sometimes there was a hole in the chair seat that held the distaff beside the spinner.  Sometimes it is a stand-alone tall rack like a coat rack.  Many times it is attached to the wheel with a 3 piece arrangement that gives some adjustment to the placement.

Some of my students like drafting from the middle of the fibers and I recommend tieing both ends of the stick to make a loop.  Here you can see how the fork is used to hold the top of the tied fibers.  The loop also works very well if you have a short setup.

Attached fork
Flax loop

A variety of distaffs

Here are a few different stand-alone setups.  That you can try.  The base can be a Christmas tree stand, a dress form stand, a coat rack, or a music stand.  The uprights can be a dowel or even a handle from a broom or "swifer" style cleaning tool. I class I often use a plastic fork taped or rubber banded to the top.

The far right is a lovely oak basket or birdcage distaff made ars ago by Rick Reeves.  If you have someone who can do some woodwork this is a lovely style to try and copy.  Start with a small stool, drill so you can attach a long pole.  The basket is bent reed.

Since I prefer to draft from the end of a ponytail, I use it without the basket.

If you have a Traditional Ashford wheel and your backhand is your right, here are photos of how my holder was shortened so that I could attach it to the wheel upright.

The full setup with a paddle distaff
Shortened clamp 
Clamped to the upright

The original clamp was longer and made to fit on the front leg and hold the distaff to the left of the spinner.

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