Susie Gillespie

Flax Processing, Spinning & Weaving – 4 day course


Occasionally, i put on a four day flax processing, spinning and weaving course where you can learn how to process and spin flax to make a hank of linen and then weave a cushion cover or piece of artwork.

The flax seed (which is also called linseed) is planted in spring and is ready to harvest around August time. The variety used in flax production is long strawed flax and grows to over a metre in height which provides the long fibre length ideal for spinning into yarn.

During mid summer the flax plant produces a vivid blue flower which opens in the morning and is lost by the afternoon.

Once the seed heads have formed and the stalks have started to turn yellow the plant is harvested by pulling it from the soil along with its root to gain the maximum fibre length possible.

The stems 231115_4385 v2with their seed heads are then allowed to dry before the seed heads are taken off in a process called rippling.

The next stage of the process is to break down the pith and bark in the stems to allow the fibres to separate in a process called retting. This is achieved by laying the stems out on the ground to weather in the dew or by submerging them in a bath of water. After a week or two depending on the conditions the stems are then dried.

On the 4 day course we will provide you with retted and dried flax stems for you to start the next stages of processing the flax into linen yarn.

Firstly you will put the stems through a giant wooden crimp called a breaker to reveal the flax fibres. The remaining bits of hard pith that are left on the fibres are then removed with a wooden knife called a scutch.

If the fibres have been dew retted they tend to be a greyish colour and if water retted a shiny creamy yellow.

To prepare the fibres for spinning, you will comb them through fine metal tines (prongs) called a hackle and they will begin to resemble the pony tail of a flaxen haired maiden.drop spindle with fibre and seed heads

The pony tail is then spread out on a table and wound onto a distaff

I will then show you how to tease the fibre off the distaff and onto the spinning wheel to produce the linen yarn.

Once you have a hank of your own linen it’s then time to move on to the weaving studio with large four shaft floor looms and begins the process of weaving the linen into cloth to produce your own cushion cover or artwork.

I can show you basic weaving techniques as well as unusual ideas in weaving. You can experiment with wrappings, twill, looping, slits and tapestry inlay. 

_DSC7183The course is £280 for all four days and includes a delicious lunch and materials.

Barn-House Accommodation – In the orchard next to my studio we have newly restored barn-house accommodation available. To find out more please visit the Accommodation tab above.

Please use the contact tab above to enquire about course and accommodation availability.

2017 course dates

May 25th and 26th – Weaving course – full

June 3rd and 4th – Weaving course – full

July 18th and 19th – Weaving course – full

July 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th Residential 5 day Creative Textile Course – 1 place

July 31st, Aug 1st, 2nd, 3rd – Textile Art Techniques with Alice Fox and Susie Gillespie – full

August 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th – Flax processing, spinning and weaving course – full

September 16th, 17th – Weaving course – full

October 21st, 22nd  – Weaving course – full 

November 4th and 5th – Weaving course -1 place

2018 course dates

March 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st – Textile Art Techniques with Alice Fox and Susie Gillespie – full

July 30th to August 2nd – Textile Art Techniques with Alice Fox and Susie Gillespie – 5 places

Please use the contact tab above to enquire about course and accommodation availability if I don’t get back to you within a day or two please try again as sometimes the enquiries do not reach me. Thanks Susie.

I also have gift vouchers available if you would like to give a course as a present.