Stahlstown, PA

Flax Scutching Festival

Ray Meloy

Flax Scutching Festival

By Ray Meloy

One of the longest running festivals in the nation returns to Stahlstown Pennsylvania

September 16th and 17th.

Flax linen is a fabric used for over 6000 years. It is produced by many nations, but only accounts for a small percentage of fabric used in the world. Renowned as a soft durable fabric its drawback is it’s expensive to produce.

In 1907 the first Flax Scutching Festival was held in the small town of Stahlstown Pennsylvania. Step back in time and discover how flax linen was produced before the advent of modern technology. The Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival demonstrates the the entire process of making flax linen from the planting and harvesting of the flax plant, through the process of preparing the fibers, and final product of linen.

The production of flax linen is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Many steps go into the production of the fiber. From planting of the flax seed to harvest is roughly 100 days. After harvest the stalks are soaked in water for a period of time. Once dried the stalks become brittle. A flax break then pounds the plant smashing the bark and releasing the inner fibers. Next, what remains of the stalks are scutched by hanging them against a board and stroked with a wooden scutching knife. The fibers are hackled or drawn through a device that looks like a upside-down brush made out of nails. The fibers are pulled through progressively finer hackles till all that is left is fine silky fibers ready to be spun into thread. The thread then goes into a loom to produce fabric.

Observe the whole process at the Flax Scutching Festival. The Festival starts Saturday the 16th at 9:00 and runs till 6:00, and Sunday the 17th starting at 10:00 till 5:00. Food, entertainment, and craft vendors run all day. A mock Indian Raid on a homestead Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 4:30 portrays the dangers of living on the colonial frontier.
Flax plants ready for harvest.Photo byRay Meloy
Prepared flax for breaking.Photo byRay Meloy
Breaking the flax stalks.Photo byRay Meloy
Scutching the flax with a wooden scutching knife.Photo byRay Meloy
Pulling the flax through a heckle.Photo byRay Meloy
Spinning the flax into thread.Photo byRay Meloy
The flax threads go into a loom to produce linen.Photo byRay Meloy

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Degrees in Photography and Multimedia Technology. Freelance writer and photographer. Historical reenactor for over 25 years.

Pittsburgh, PA

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