Etymology
Advertisement
swingle (n.)
"instrument for beating flax," early 14c., from Middle Dutch swinghel "swingle for flax," cognate with Old English swingell "beating, stick to beat, whip, scourge, rod," from swingan "to beat, strike, whip" (see swing (v.)) + instrumental suffix -el (1). Or perhaps directly from the Old English word, with narrowing of sense.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
wench (n.)

late 13c., wenche "girl, young woman," especially if unmarried, also "female infant," shortened from wenchel "child," also in Middle English "girl, maiden," from Old English wencel, probably related to wancol "unsteady, fickle, weak," from Proto-Germanic *wankila- (source also of Old Norse vakr "child, weak person," Old High German wanchal "fickle"), from PIE *weng- "to bend, curve" (see wink (v.)).

The wenche is nat dead, but slepith. [Wyclif, Matthew ix.24, c. 1380]

In Middle English occasionally with disparaging suggestion, and secondary sense of "concubine, strumpet" is attested by mid-14c. Also "serving-maid, bondwoman, young woman of a humble class" (late 14c.), a sense retained in the 19c. U.S. South in reference to slave women of any age. In Shakespeare's day a female flax-worker could be a flax-wench, flax-wife, or flax-woman.

Related entries & more 
strick (n.)
"handful of broken hemp, jute, flax, etc.," c. 1400, apparently from root of strike (v.). Also as a verb (c. 1400).
Related entries & more 
distaff (n.)

Old English distæf "long, cleft stick that holds flax for spinning," from dis- "bunch of flax" (cognates: Middle Low German dise, Low German diesse "a bunch of flax on a distaff;" compare bedizen) + stæf "stick, staff" (see staff (n.) ).

Figurative of "women's work" from late 14c.; a synonym in English for "a woman, the female sex, female authority in the family," at least since late 15c., presumably because spinning was typically done by women of all ranks. Hence distaff side (1848) a 19c. collective name (affecting to be older) for the female members of a family, especially with reference to relationship and descent (opposed to the spear side).

St. Distaff's Day (1640s) was Jan. 7, when "women resumed their spinning and other ordinary employments after the holidays" [OED].

Related entries & more 
teaser (n.)
"one who teases" (wool, flax, etc.), late 15c. (late 13c. as a surname), agent noun from tease (v.). From 1934 as "short sample, introductory advertisement."
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
heckle (n.)
"flax comb," c. 1300, hechel, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *hecel or a cognate Germanic word, from Proto-Germanic *hakila- (source also of Middle High German hechel, Middle Dutch hekel), from PIE root *keg- "hook, tooth."
Related entries & more 
rib (v.)

"to dupe, tease, fool," by 1930, apparently from rib (n.), which is attested by 1929 in a slang sense of "a joke,"  perhaps a figurative use of poking someone in the ribs (rib-digging "light-heated banter" is attested by 1925).

Earlier it meant "to plow land so as to leave a space between furrows (1735) and "to clean (flax) with a rib" (early 14c.), a special tool for that job, which is probably an extended sense of rib (n.). Compare Middle Low German ribbeisern ("rib-iron"), a tool for cleaning flax. Related: Ribbed; ribbing.

Related entries & more 
tease (v.)
formerly also teaze, Old English tæsan "pluck, pull, tear; pull apart, comb" (fibers of wool, flax, etc.), from Proto-Germanic *taisijan (source also of Danish tæse, Middle Dutch tesen, Dutch tezen "to draw, pull, scratch," Old High German zeisan "to tease, pick wool").

The original sense is of running thorns through wool or flax to separate, shred, or card the fibers. The figurative sense of "vex, worry, annoy" (sometimes done in good humor) emerged 1610s. For similar sense development, compare heckle. Hairdressing sense is recorded from 1957. Related: Teased; teasing; teasingly.
Related entries & more 
brake (n.1)

mid-15c., "instrument for crushing or pounding," from Middle Dutch braeke "flax brake," from breken "to break" (see break (v.)). The word was applied to many crushing implements, especially the tool for breaking up the woody part of flax to loosen the fibers. It also was applied to the ring through the nose of a draught ox. It was influenced in sense by Old French brac, a form of bras "an arm," thus the sense "a lever or handle," which was being used in English from late 14c., and "a bridle or curb" (early 15c.).

One or the other sense or a convergence of all of them yielded the main modern meaning "mechanical device for arresting the motion of a wheel," which is attested by 1772.

Related entries & more 
tow (n.1)
"the coarse, broken fibers of flax, hemp, etc., separated from the finer parts," late 14c., probably from Old English tow- "spinning" (in towlic "fit for spinning," tow-hus "spinning-room"), perhaps cognate with Gothic taujan "to do, make," Middle Dutch touwen "to knit, weave," from Proto-Germanic *taw- "to manufacture" (see taw (v.)).
Related entries & more 

Page 2