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Author Topic: Flax  (Read 359 times)

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Flax
« on: October 01, 2021, 11:10:52 am »
In 2019 the farming museum that my local Guild meet at had just restored a flax break and scrutching machine.  They asked if the Guild members would like to use it.  I got a raised bed made in the yard, as the area chosen was prone to getting pretty wet.  Seeds were purchased from Wild Fibres http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/ and broadcast sown late April 2020.  On 1 August I harvested by pulling up the plants, roots and all.  These were stooked to dry.

I saved the seeds that I removed from the flax (rippling) by using a home made item from a piece of wood and 5" nails, held in a vice on the work bench.  The seeds and bolls went everywhere so that is an area for more thought next time.

I retted the flax in a dog paddling pool, changing the water after three days.  I had intended leaving it for five days but a veterinary emergency meant that I forgot about it until day seven.  I hung the flax bundles to dry on the front of a stable then stored them in our old grain store.

Nothing happened until the Guild had a flax day, this summer, due to someone getting a bulk load of Berta's Flax https://www.facebook.com/groups/279258827044398/  I am still not being a social person due to covid so I sent some of my dried flax for them to study for processing.  They each kept a strick and returned the rest to me.  I still have the rest of the flax straw stored to use at the museum when I next go.

That is the home grown story so far.  I also have some of Berta's flax and several other stricks from various sources as I like spinning flax.  Maybe because flax was the first fibre that I spun that worked out right.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2021, 11:15:33 am by Buttermilk »

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Flax
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2021, 11:12:57 am »
More pictures

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Flax
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2021, 11:14:38 am »
And more.

I have not taken any other pictures.

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Flax
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2021, 11:38:32 am »
That is SO interetsing! Thanks for sharing, @Buttermilk .

So what is flax like when it's spun?

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Flax
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2021, 12:35:47 pm »
Thank you so much for that Buttermilk. It's so good of you to share it with us, all those pics too.  I am impressed with your immaculate hedge too - you are sooo organised  :D
I love the stooks and the beautiful moth, and just the sight of the flax growing. You mention 'next time', so can I assume it wasn't too traumatic an experience?
I love too that you're doing this with your spinning group.


Please keep us updated with using the flax machinery at the museum, and how you spin the fibres to linen, when you get to that part.  This is absolutely fascinating, seeing the whole adventure.  Well done  :D
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Flax
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2021, 01:23:55 pm »
To me the worst bit of flax preparation is the processing between spinning and using.

To spin flax you are best using a distaff.  One of our Guild member's husband is a brilliant wood worker and we gave him instructions and he came up with the goods.  Five of us ordered one at the time and he has said that now that he has worked out how to make them he does not want to do any more as they got boring.  He went on to make a spinning wheel and will be making an improved version then no more too.

You can use a towel to wrap the flax in if you cannot come up with a distaff but one Guild member has improvised wonderfully using a swift and a mop taped to a chair.

You need water or a little liquid from soaking/cooking a bit of flax.  This is used to dampen the fingers and helps the thread stick together as it is spun.  Wearing an apron is really a must due to the drips.

The resultant thread is now no longer flax but linen.

Next you have to boil the thread in water with a squirt of washing up liquid and/or washing soda.  You get a scummy mess.  This stage seems to be the longer the better.  I change the water after about an hour and repeat.  One Guild member has boiled hers for 5 hours.  This also lightens the thread.  It can be bleached by hanging up in strong sunlight.

Traditionally it has been spun the opposite way to wool but I cannot see any real difference to the end product.  You can ply it but it is not necessary for a useable product.

You can knit, crochet, weave or sew with the end result.  Just spin it to the required thickness.

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Flax
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2021, 08:30:26 pm »
Wow! It must a labour of love... How big was the original bed and how much (in terms of weight) spun thread did you get?

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Flax
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2021, 01:38:37 pm »
Regarding weights I have not done any weighing, I am notoriously bad at record keeping.  Plus with giving bundles of flax straw away I am not going to be processing it all myself.

The sleeper bed is 14'x5'.

Penninehillbilly

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Flax
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2021, 02:27:06 pm »
Thanks Buttermilk, very interesting, a few of us tried to grow some a few years ago, apparently a very bad year, none of us succeeded,  as far as i know. It was very wet and miserable that year.
It will be interesting to follow this

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Flax
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2021, 12:34:05 pm »
Have you seen the report in the News today 'Fashionable Farming: The people growing their own clothes'?
A group of people growing flax on unused areas (so far, one unused area) of ground in Blackburn, turning it into linen and hopefully starting up a small local industry of sustainable, locally grown fabric, giving people jobs locally and the chance to source their clothing locally too.
They even mention wool.......
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Flax
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2021, 05:50:22 pm »
Fleecewife I have been following them from before they even planted the seeds.  The chappie from the Sewing Bee programme is involved and publicising it.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Flax
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2021, 10:49:22 pm »
Of course  :thumbsup: .  I hope their initial enthusiasm continues so we see the sort of results they are hoping for.  Flax is grown for linen in Ireland, which is famous for it, so why not the rest of the UK where it is very much a traditional fibre.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

 

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