Sunday, August 5, 2012

Growing flax for fiber

I've posted about my Japanese indigo experiment - growing and dyeing with Japanese indigo for the first time. Now I'll begin posting about my flax experiment.

Ever since reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's, A Midwife's Tale, I've secretly wanted to grow flax, process it, spin it, and weave it into linen cloth. This year, along with my indigo experiment, I decided to finally see if I could grow flax.

I ordered seeds from the Hermitage, a monastery in Pennsylvania that grows flax for linen. I planted my quarter-pound of seeds on one half of my 10x10 plot. The Japanese indigo plants took up the other half. In the picture below, you can see my husband helping me with my second indigo-leaf harvest on the right, and the flax is in the middle of the picture:

My flax is almost ready to harvest, I think I'll be harvesting this week. It's not as tall as it could be - the soil in these plots isn't the best, although I did add manure and lime and alfalfa to it, and the drought hasn't been helpful. But I think it will do just fine for my first foray into the world of flax production.

Processing flax takes time. After harvesting, I'll let it dry out. Then comes the retting; then the breaking, scutching, and combing; and finally the spinning and either knitting or weaving. But I'll get into all of that in future posts if all goes well.

This much flax will not produce very much at all for the purposes of either weaving or knitting, but this time is just for experimenting, to see if I can actually do everything it takes to make linen. If I get encouraging results, I'll plant more in the future. Also, I don't have a loom yet : )

More on the flax experiment in future posts!

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