Antique Flax Hetchels
(Hatchels)
The history of textiles and the tools used to produce textiles
has always fascinated me. In addition to collecting and using
my antique spinning wheels and weaving looms, I also have
a collection of antique flax hetchels (also known as
hatchels). These 200+ year old tools were used in the
process of preparing flax so that it could be spun into linen.

I have always grown flax plants, but have not yet had the
time to experiment with retting my own flax.

"In order for the flax to yield a fine fiber, the plants must be
grown in close proximity to each other and harvested before
fully mature. The seed bolls must be removed, and then the
stalks retted or partially rotted to release the fibers from the
woody core. Once retted there are several more steps to
actually get the flax fibers to a state where they can be spun
into yarn. The woody core and outer bark are cracked and
scraped off during braking and scrutching. The fibers are
separated by pulling handfuls through combs made of very
sharp tines in hackling or hatcheling. The flax, one end of a
bunch at a time, would be drawn through successively
smaller tines of combs to separate the fibers. That which was
left in the tines after combing was a very low grade of fiber
called "tow." Tow could be spun into a very coarse yarn.
After hackling the longer fibers are called line or strick. The
fibers are then ready to be spun into yarn and woven. It is a
labor intensive process that yields a most sought-after
product."
(Excerpt from "An Examination of the Linen
Industry from Ancient Egypt to Pre-industrial America" by
Marie Rabideau).
I have discovered that these wonderful
old hetchels work very well for
separating the thel from the tog of our
dual coated Icelandic fleeces. I have an
extensive collection of these tools now
(including some Russian combs) and
occasionally will part with duplicate
styles. If you are interested in
obtaining an antique flax hetchel, let
me know.
Email me to see what I might
have in stock.