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Issue: #40 - April 2003

In this issue we are focusing on flax processing and the tools involved. We travel to Central Europe to see how the folk culture adapted one of these tools. Randle Holme, from 1688, has some thoughts on them, too.

Flax Processing Tools

by Patricia Jenkins

Patricia Jenkins of Lee, NH, enjoys working with flax. She provides us with an overview of the numerous steps required to prepare flax fiber for spinning and introduces the various tools that are used.

All photographs by Patricia Jenkins

Flax Brake
Flax brake

Scutching board and knives
Scutching board and knives


Hackles of different sizes

Wendy Caffee's Brake
Wendy Caffee's reproduction flax brake

Wendy Caffee's Scutching Board and Knife
Wendy Caffee's reproduction scutching board and knife


The Sitting Distaffs of East-Central Europe
by Sigrid Piroch

Sigrid Piroch of Foxburg, PA, has been studying Slovak textiles and textile tools for many years. In the course of her research she discovered sitting distaffs. She describes the variations and explains how they are part of the flax-spinning culture in that part of east-central Europe. She also tells us about the woman who introduced her to spinning "from distaff to spindle."

All images courtesy of Sigrid Piroch

Map of Slovakia
Map of Slovakia

Sitting and Freestanding Distaffs
Sitting distaff and freestanding distaff

Slovak Sitting Distaffs
Slovak sitting distaffs, only one with original top

Detail of Sitting Distaff Bases
Close-up of bases showing carved decorations
From the collection of Helene Cincebeaux

Sitting Distaff and Spindle Spinner #1       Sitting Distaff and Spindle Spinner #2
Sitting distaff used when spinning with a drop spindle

Sitting Distaff Wheel Spinner
Sitting distaff used when spinning on a wheel

Sitting Distaff Used for Crochet
Sitting distaff used as an anchor for crochet or other needlecrafts

Sitting Distaff as Base for Skeiner
Sitting distaff used as base for swift

Sitting Distaff as Base for Wool Combs
Sitting distaff used as mount for wool combs

Sophi Dorfi
Sophi Dorfi


Randle Holme on Flax Processing Tools
excerpted by Alan Raistrick

As you will recall from earlier issues, Alan Raistrick of Chinnor, England, did a great job excerpting the textile tool sections of Randle Holme's The Academie or Storehouse of Armory and Blazon, from 1688. Randle also has several chapters on fiber preparation. The sections related to flax are presented here.


Spinning Wheels on eBay
by Grace Hatton

Grace Hatton of Hawley, PA, offers some advice and suggestions about buying spinning wheels seen on the online auction service eBay.

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2003 The Spinning Wheel Sleuth