Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Continuing progress in my growing flax for linen experiment

My flax-to-linen experiment continues. A few posts ago, I wrote about pulling the flax I grew this summer in a 5x10 ft. plot. I let the bundles dry for about two weeks:
When they were dry, I combed the seed pods off with combs I bought at the pet store which are really for dogs. Once the pods were off, over a few days, I mashed them up to release the seeds and winnowed the mess on windy days to come up with about two ounces of flax seeds.
It's probably a poor haul, but I think the drought affected productivity. I won't plant these next year, I'll order more for that purpose. These I'll sprinkle in muffins, etc. It's enough for a few batches of muffins, at least:

After removing the seed pods, I put the bundles of flax in a large plastic container, weighted them down with old paving bricks, and added water. I let them stew like this for just over a week. This is called retting the flax, which basically means getting the outer parts of the plant into a nice, rotted condition so that you can access the stronger flax fibers:


After the retting was done, I dumped the water out. Wow! What a smell!!
I rinsed each bundle with the hose, hoping against hope to rinse away some of that stench, and I now have all of the bundles laid out to dry:
Once they're dry, I can move on to breaking (breaking away the dried, rotted parts), scutching (swiping away the dried rotted parts that are still clinging to the flax fibers), and combing (with a flax hackle) the flax fibers so that they can be spun. More on all of this in future flax-to-linen posts!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dyeing with tickseed flowers and marigolds

Dyeing with tickseed flowers today. The flowers are yellow, but they make a pretty orange dye:
Here is some superwash merino roving in the dye pot:

Here is the roving out of the dye pot and hung up to dry, I can't get over that shade of orange:

Below is a wider shot of everything that's hanging to dry. The greens are from yesterday's dyeing.
The dark green on the right is superwash Bluefaced Leicester wool that had been dyed blue with Japanese indigo about a month or so ago, and then overdyed yesterday with a yellow dye made from marigolds.
The two olive greens are two sections of polwarth roving which I had wanted to dye yellow in the marigold dye pot. However, I wasn't thinking and put them in with the blue roving when dyeing. Apparently some of the indigo must have bled off of the BFL roving and got picked up by the polwarth in the yellow dye bath. The result is the olive green you see. Not my favorite, and not the beautiful yellow I was hoping for, but I will find a use for it: 
And here is a picture of Japanese indigo blooming in my garden, such a pretty color!: