Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pulling flax



I pulled my modest 4x10 foot plot of flax today. I bundled it as I pulled it and then put it in the yard to dry out a bit before further processing. Here I am with my flax before I pulled it =>
 
Here is the flax:
 

 
Here's the plot after pulling the flax:
 

 
 
All the bundles in the wheelbarrow, ready to take home:
 
 
Here are the bundles in my yard. I'll let them dry out a bit before moving on to the retting stage:

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Little pants!

I just finished a pair of little knitted pants for my grand-niece, who is a few months old. The yarn is hand-spun superwash Bluefaced Leicester, and hand-dyed with Japanese indigo from my garden.

Don't look too closely at the ribbed band at the top, it's not quite the same width on each side ( hard as I try, there are ALWAYS mistakes in my knitting).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Porcupines and a Great Lake

A week ago, my husband and I spent a few days in Michigan on the shore of Lake Huron. Lake Huron is a beautiful, clear lake - in places almost a Caribbean blue.

We went on some hikes and found things like this porcupine up a tree (click the picture to see him bigger):


And we swam and walked along the lakeshore:


I live close to Cleveland and Lake Erie. It may be because we're by a major city, but Lake Erie is not as pretty as the other Great Lakes that I've seen - Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior. I guess I've caught a glimpse of Lake Ontario, too, but not a good look.

It was nice to get away for a few days, and it was hard to remember that we weren't next to an ocean, but a freshwater lake. The beach was sandy and beautiful, and the water was gorgeous.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Booksigning Saturday!

I'll be signing books at the Howe Meadow farmer's market in Cuyahoga Valley National Park tomorrow, Saturday, August 18th! I'll be there from 9-12.

If you're in the area, stop by - the market is terrific! I'll be stocking up on buffalo meat, honey, free-range chicken patties, and yummy baked goods : ) Oh, and signing books, too - I'll have all three of my books on hand to sign.

I'll also bring my drop spindles and some of my Japanese indigo-dyed fiber to spin while not swamped with people buying books ; )

Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The first of the flax is in

I pulled a bit of my flax today. This is one of the two bundles I pulled:


The two bundles represent about 1/8 of what I have growing. Keep in mind that only about 10% of the flax plant produces flax fiber, and only 3% of that is the nice, long stuff that can be used to make linen. The other 7% is tow, which is short fibers which can be used to make more utilitarian things (like rope, I think, and probably rough cloth).

I'll be pulling the rest of the flax later this week. I'm just nervous that I'm doing it too soon, so I only pulled these two bundles today. Traditionally, the pulled flax is set in upright stacks which are left to dry in the field for about a week before the retting process begins. I'll let my bundles dry out in my warm, dry garage before heading into the retting stage.

I found a very helpful group of videos about the stages of flax processing, the first of which, about pulling flax, can be found here.

My flax isn't as tall as it could be. Gardening in general has been a bit of a challenge for me this year. The weather has been very hot, and I don't like heat. Keeping everything watered under drought conditions has been a big challenge, and our dog became ill with lymphoma. I spent a lot of time with him and less in the garden. We had to put him down three weeks ago, and I can tell you that it's been really hard. I'm just now beginning to care about the garden again and get back into the swing of things. He was always with me, either helping me outside, or sleeping nearby while I spun or did other wool or fiber work, so everything that I do reminds me that he's not there. Time heals all wounds, they say, so we'll just let time do its thing while I get back into the rhythm of the rest of the world.

On a happier note, my birthday is this month. My husband asked me yesterday what I want, so I'm trying to think of something really good to ask for : )

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!