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2010 TdF – Serena Spins Flax

July 20, 2010

For the 2010 Tour de Fleece, I joined Team TRU, fielded by the Ravelry Antique Spinning Wheel and CPW Lovers groups. My goal for the TdF is to put several of my antique spinning wheels into working order and then spin some challenging yarn on them. I also decided to have fun playing with with all the colors and ribbons of the real Tour.

Serena is an exquisitely turned double upright Scandinavian wheel from North Dakota. She came to me accompanied by her own diminutive yarn reel, very like a princess and her lady in waiting.

As ethereal as she looks, her treadle (here tied up for the ride home), says a lot about her. The heavy treadle bar and double pivot bar suggest that she was made in northern Sweden, and was intended to be a working wheel. The wear on her footpad says that indeed, she has seen much use. I wanted to put her to work again, but time, and a heavy coat of shiny varnish, had frozen every moving part in place. Days of squirting turbine oil into her stiff joints and some strategically placed matchstick shims put her back into alignment and working order.

My project for Serena, once she was up and going, has been to learn to spin a strick of long line flax from her distaff.

A strick is made from the longest, finest fibers of the flax plant, carefully combed and bundled.

This is long line Belgian flax; the fiber length is more than a yard. It is a magnificent preparation, befitting a princess.

Because of the fiber length and my inexperience, dressing her truncheon distaff was a daunting task. Dressing the distaff involved tying the end of the strick to my waist and fanning it back and forth on a table, then rolling the distaff up in the flaxen web and securing the fiber to it with a satin ribbon.

At last here is Serena, shimmed and oiled, and tensioned and dressed in her finest, ready for the TdF.

She is wearing her red Team TRU tassel, and a winner’s yellow tassel for the victory newly gained: coming back to life after so many, many years. Her distaff is wrapped with a white ribbon, identifying her spinner as a novice at spinning strick.

Distaff dressed, water cup filled, she is ready to go.


It didn’t take long for Serena to announce that she preferred spinning Z, and that she would condescend to cooperate in this S business **ONLY** if her pretty red Team TRU driveband was crossed in the direction opposite to what every other S-spinning wheel in the fiber universe wants and needs.

Furthermore, if her spinner slighted her by letting up even the least little bit on her gorgeously carved treadle, Serena would whip around Z-wise and fling 5 or 6 flyer turns of loose yarn all over her hooks.

It was a slow slog at first, but by the end of the day everything changed.

Fiercely independent and enormously talented, Serena spun fast and well, once the two of us learned to maintain constant contact and communication with each other. Yarn began to build steadily on the bobbin. Spinning became a pleasure.

FO!!! – Wet-spun linen singles.

One and a half ounces of real linen yarn. What a joy.

Serena bedecked in ribbons–

She earned every one of them! Team red and triumphant gold, a snippet of her white novice ribbon, and a multicolored bow for mastering the climb up the learning curve. A beautiful princess, proudly wearing her own beautiful yarn.

Way to go, sweet Scandi girl!

Serena, I love you. Flax, I love you too.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 12:03 pm

    What a beautiful wheel! I’m glad you two got along!

  2. Kerry permalink
    July 20, 2010 9:55 pm

    Love the story! What an achievement for both of you!

  3. July 21, 2010 8:04 am

    I love that treadle. Very pretty wheel! Someday I’ll try spinning flax.

  4. July 21, 2010 10:42 am

    She’s a real beauty! I luv to see pics and hear stories of such wheels. I recently aquired two Quebec wheels and just refinished them. I luv the Scandinavian wheels and have asked my stepdaughter in Holland to keep an eye out for me.

  5. July 21, 2010 11:54 am

    How incredibly cool! The wheel is exquisite.

  6. Melanie permalink
    July 21, 2010 3:27 pm

    Jan, you’re amazing. The wheel is amazing, and what a beauty. The spinning is amazing too. I love the story, and the fact that this well-used wheel has a new lease on life.

  7. July 21, 2010 10:08 pm

    OHH! I love spinning flax! What a fantastic job you’ve done getting your wheel up and running again! I bet it “feels good” now that it is back to doing what it should be doing. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much for sharing the experience with us. Gorgeous flax. Gorgeous wheel. Smart and capable spinner, too!

  8. Sam permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:26 pm

    What a magnificent story teller you are, and what an amazing wheel restorer and spinner. Simply, stunningly gorgeous! Brava, to the both of you!

  9. Lynn in Tucson permalink
    August 9, 2010 10:36 am

    Way to go! I LOVE the ribbons.

  10. August 14, 2010 1:30 pm

    beautiful wheel and what an accomplishment to get her in working order. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’m still not convinced that flax spinning is for me, but your post goes a considerable way in making me give it another think. ๐Ÿ™‚

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