Details of in process weaving by Diane Homes
Heckling, retting, swingling, breaking, spinning and weaving- hang out with the Flax Girls and these are some of the things you’re in for.
Gina Gerhard moved to NH as a young girl from NY and soon took up fiber arts as a way to pass the winter months. As a girl she thought, “wool is boring, I want to do something different." Piecing together information from craft books, journals, and store ledgers she taught herself how to process flax including harvesting, retting, drying, breaking, swingling, heckling and eventually spinning and weaving. Gina is now very knowledgeable about the process, the tools, and the history of this art form that was essential to
New England farm life prior to the invention of the cotton gin. Despite all of her research however she would tell you that there are only so many things you can learn from a book. Most written accounts and instructions assume a degree of familiarity with the flax crop and the process of turning it into a fiber. Some steps you need to learn by repeated experience – like how brown and moldy should your flax look when it is ready to stop the retting process? Why is retting flax in a pond more efficient than dew retting? Just how hard to you have to whack the flax when you’re swingling it?
Cathy Goodmen spinning
flax fiber into linen thread