Spinning the Fibers of the Ryukyus

Oh, lucky me!  Recently, i attended the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas (CHT) Conference held in College Station, Texas USA.  At the Conference, i participated in a 2 day bast and luxury fiber spinning class…Flax, Hemp, Ramie, Bamboo….and, ooohhh so lovely, Tussah Silk.

Long Line Flax

Our instructor was Patsy Zawistoski.  Patsy is a master handspinner in the United States.

Patsy prepares Long Line Flax for handspinning

I am a 4th generation Ryukyu handspinner and weaver, and i am working to carry-on my family handspinning and weaving heritage.  The native fibers of the Ryukyu Islands include Ito Basho, Hemp, Ramie, Bamboo and Silk.  Therefore, the offering of Patsy’s class was serendipitous, indeed.

Although Flax is not a native Ryukyu fiber, Flax and Ito Basho (the Ryukyu Banana Fiber) have some interesting similarities in their cultivation, retting and fiber processing.  For example, both fibers consist of long threads with somewhat similar texture and length…

Long Line Flax threads…they remind me of Ito Basho threads…

The two fibers, however,  have their differences too.  For example, Ito Basho threads are hand-tied first, then lightly handspun on a bamboo Basho spinning wheel.  The soft twist from the spinning strengthens the thread for weaving.

Ito Basho threads Handspun on Bamboo Spinning Wheel

Flax threads, on the other hand, are spun together from a distaff using a European style spinning wheel.  Hence, the threads are joined together during the spinning process.

My Ashford “Joy” Spinning Wheel with a Distaff

What a delight it is to have learned spinning techniques that i may now apply to the fibers of my cultural heritage!  Cheers to master handspinner Patsy and CHT!

Cheers to Patsy!

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