M9220.127.116.11-2 | Hackle
1900-1910, 20th century
3.5 x 17 x 63 cm
Gift of Air Canada
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Hackle (1)
Keys to History
This fibre comb was used to make linen by hand. It was used to comb and refine flax thread, and after "retting", which helped remove impurities from the fibre, "breaking", which transformed the linen into fibre and "scutching", which was used to remove the last impurities from the fibres.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, in Lower Canada, nearly half of the fabrics being used were made by hand. Gradually, industrial production replaced hand work. Between 1890 and 1930, fabrics manufactured in the country or abroad were taking over the market. This hand tool dates back to this era, when fewer and fewer people were making material themselves.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, textile industries and clothing factories made up a major manufacturing sector that mainly employed women and children. At the time, however, the linen industry, which made its appearance in Canada around 1850, could not compete with wool and cotton. Demand for linen began to decline, in part because harvesting it required costly Canadian labour compared with cotton, for example, which was grown and harvested abroad at a lower cost.
Once the linen fibres were refined using the hackle, all that was left to do is wind them on a distaff. The next step was weaving.
In certain rural regions, families made their own textile fabrics up until the beginning of the twentieth century using the flax that they grew and the wool of the sheep they raised. In the nineteenth century, mills were found in many regions, making the task easier by mechanically carrying out the carding and fulling. In areas without mills, many people owned their own equipment to carry out all steps of material making.
In Canada, linen was hand woven starting in the seventeenth century. Around 1850, linen started to be produced by machine.
Most tools, such as this one, used to hand weave linen were also made by hand. However, the iron teeth of this fibre comb were probably made by a blacksmith.