Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The culmination of my growing flax for linen experiment

So, three years ago I started growing flax in the hopes of processing it into linen yarn and then making something with it. This is something that I have secretly wanted to do ever since reading A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich back in the 1990's. 
Martha was a midwife in the later 1700's in New England. She kept a kitchen garden, an herb garden (medicinal) for her profession, and she grew flax so that she could make linen to weave into clothing. The flax garden is barely mentioned in her diary and in the book, but it fascinated me. She was by no means unique in this, many people made their own linen clothing this way.
Fast forward to 2010 when I took up spinning. Right away I started researching about growing flax for fiber. I started growing flax in 2012. I started with a small experimental plot, and then graduated to a larger one after that. For the past two years, I've grown flax in a 10' x 20' plot, harvested it, processed it into flax fiber, and spun the fiber up into laceweight linen yarn. 
After two years I had about 1500 yards of laceweight linen yarn - enough to make something. I chose to make a garment, and chose the knitted pattern Seta Sun, which I found on Ravelry. If I had a loom I would have woven cloth or towels, but I don't have a loom yet.
I began the top last week and finished yesterday. Here are a progression of photos:

I messed up the lace pattern at the bottom, but I actually like how it turned out, so I refrained from ripping back and re-doing. 
I really love my top. I am so happy to have done this after thinking about it and wanting to do something like it for so many years, even before I started spinning.
I will continue to grow flax for linen. Someday I'll have a loom, and then watch out! Until then, I'll make knitted things like this top. 


Leila H said...

Lovely top! I have a smaller batch of flax I grew a couple of years ago that I've been meaning to put out to rett, and you've reminded me to do it. I haven't grown enough to make much, but I hope to at least knit a dishcloth.

ICQB said...

Hi Leila!

Definitely do it, you'll love your dishcloth!

Carol said...

Your top is beautiful!!! I'll have to do some research on growing and processing flax, something I've thought about doing for years too. First I have to learn to spin though :)

ICQB said...

Hi Carol!

It's all do-able! And you'll love everything you'll learn along the way.

KaraA said...

So inspiring! This is a secret dream of mine too... Though we will have to get land first... Any resources you would recommend as I am dreaming away?

ICQB said...

Hi KaraA!

I would recommend watching the Youtube videos about growing flax put out by the Hermitage. Also, I got my seeds from a place in the UK called Wild Fibers at www.wildfibers.co.uk.

Good Luck!