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Sources for Flax/Linen Processing Equipment

 
Posts: 187
Location: Dayton, Ohio
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Hello everyone,

I plan on growing some milkweed this year to attract butterflies, eat the immature cooked seed pods, and make yarn out of the bast fiber. Although milkweed is not the same as flax, because it is also a bast fiber like flax and hemp, a great deal of the same equipment used to process flax could also be used to process milkweed bast as well. I have seen several threads on processing flax on this website, but I cannot find any souces to by a flax brake, scutching knife or flax hackles. None of the major spinning suppliers that I know of sell flax processing equipment. I already have a drop spindle, cotton carders, and spinning wheel, so I can already spin the fiber once it is processed.
 
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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I ran around and harvested a link from one of r ranson's posts in this thread.

This site sells plans for building your own tools. I hope this is of use to you.

I would love to see pictures of your process and results when you are processing your fibers!
 
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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This is a really great question!

Short answer, there aren't many places to buy this equipment.  

there is increasing demand for this and I suspect now would be the time to start making and selling flax processing equipment.

The full gamut of 'proper' (and I say that with the inverted commas) equipment is quite an investment in money or labour and takes a lot of space to store.  To me, it seems that this is a good investment for a group or for someone who is processing a lot of fibre (more than a couple of towels worth) each year.  I really like the idea of flax to linen groups (that's what got me started on this adventure) as there are so many skills within the group.  A lot of the equipment my local flax to linen group uses were built by members.

Another source of textile tools is to look for vintage and antique sources (Etsy, local auctions, UsedAnywhere).  If well cared for, vintage tools are often better than modern made ones because they were built to last and be used for a few hundred years.  

Many of the fibres can be extracted using things we find around the house.

Breaking - needs something to crush the dry, retted stems (mallet, gloved hands)
Scutching - knocking off the bits of stiff stem from the fibres (a stick and a board, or a butter paddle)
hackling - combing out the fibres and organizing them into lengths (comb, florists frog)


 
pollinator
Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I am more sceptic about rentability of making clothes than food at home...
How much do we need to invest in equipment if we buy it all?
If this does not have use all year long because we are not professional, that is a lot of equipment on earth that serves little....
 
r ranson
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:I am more sceptic about rentability of making clothes than food at home...
How much do we need to invest in equipment if we buy it all?
If this does not have use all year long because we are not professional, that is a lot of equipment on earth that serves little....



We don't have to buy the equipment as every part can be done at home with things found around the home.  In Ancient Egypt, they used a mallet, a bowl of water, and a stick to make the yarn from linen.  They made some of the finest textiles in human history this way.  The looms were often sticks in the ground.

We can go all out and buy/make the big equipment.  But it's not necessary.  It takes a lot of storage space and one person would be hard-pressed to process enough flax per year to justify the investment.  Of course, if they want to, that's as good a reason as any.

But a group of people - that's much more worthwhile to invest in the big equipment.  We have processing days where we have the equipment out and ready to use.  Maybe five of us get together to use it.  We grab one handful and work our way through the equipment.  We usually choose a public space like a farmers market or festival, so we can educate people about where their clothing comes from.  A few sessions like this a year and we have plenty of fibre for spinning all winter.  
 
Ryan M Miller
Posts: 187
Location: Dayton, Ohio
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I'm limited on what equipment I can make at home. A good portion of the power tools at my house are burried under twenty years worth of my father's clutter. I also don't have any experience in carpentry to make a flax brake. I guess I could try to hunt down an antique flax brake and flax hackle. It should be comparatively easy to make a scutching knife and board.
 
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Here's photos of my DIY flax processing equipment. It is plain, simple, and made with little knowledge of commercial flax processing equipment. It bolts to a general purpose threshing box. The corn sheller bolts to the same box.



flax-hackles.jpg
[Thumbnail for flax-hackles.jpg]
Comb the straw, if desired, to capture seed pods. I already threshed this straw by alternate means before it was retted.
flax-break.jpg
[Thumbnail for flax-break.jpg]
I use this as both a flax break, and a scutch. Processing about 32 plants at a time.
flax-comb.jpg
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Comb the fibers again to remove straw while retaining fibers.
flax-fibers.jpg
[Thumbnail for flax-fibers.jpg]
Flax fibers from one handfull of straw.
drop-spindle.jpg
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Spin onto a drop spindle. Made 32 inches of 0.025 inch diameter yarn. About 1 inch of yarn per plant.
 
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