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Linen Flax - Flax plant for spinning and weaving  RSS feed

 
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This is an interesting thread, no pun intended ;>). For years we've been growing a golden flax for culinary use. I've got about 3 years of stems stockpiled in the shed and would when I've got some time the plan is to try to process them for fiber. For good seed production we plant 4 rows the length of a 4'x30' bed. Here's a picture of a typical flax plant, next to a yardstick. Are these stems worth my time or are they too short/branched to work well for fiber extraction?  
 
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They look lovely.

I was surprised how much fibre was in my decorative and seed varieties when I grew them widely spaced.  It wasn't top quality fibre for spinning 4,000 threads per inch like they did in ancient Egypt, but there was enough to make it worth the effort.  I think yours are worth trying.  Maybe a small batch first and if it gives you results you like, try the rest.  

Let us know how it turns out.
 
Larisa Walk
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Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I'll get to this after the harvest season tsunami ebbs.
 
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OK, Got my Flax Harvest in for 2017.  I bought 'Marilyn" from Belgium and the Netherlands, and got a decent crop.  My main goal is seed stock this year.


I also finally got Mission reek Farm's website coded and loaded and there is a Blog, Video Gallery and a video on there about my studio.  Mission Creek Farm
 
r ranson
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how to make your own flax to linen hackles



Hackling takes freshly broken and scutched flax and turns it into fine fiber ready to spin. You toss the ends of the flax onto the hackle and draw it through. With each new toss, add more length of fiber until you get to the middle. Then turn it around and do the other side, beginning with the tip.

 
r ranson
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This arrived in my inbox this morning

Wild Fibres sells Marylin flax seed (http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/html/flax_store.html) and will shortly have the new fibre flax variety Lisette, both grown in the Netherlands. They are shipped worldwide, see http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/html/delivery_overseas.html. Kind Regards, Wild Fibres.

 
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r ranson wrote:This arrived in my inbox this morning

Wild Fibres sells Marylin flax seed (http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/html/flax_store.html) and will shortly have the new fibre flax variety Lisette, both grown in the Netherlands. They are shipped worldwide, see http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/html/delivery_overseas.html. Kind Regards, Wild Fibres.



If my flax growing efforts are an overwhelming succes I will call my variety Christina, after my sister (usually we call her Chris), who brought a small amount of flax seed from France to the Netherlands. This year wil be the third season ... I'll sow the seeds of the flax, grown from the seeds of the flax, grown from the seeds ...  ;)
 
r ranson
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r ranson
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Information about dew retting flax and how to tell when it is ready http://joybilee-farm.blogspot.ca/2009/10/dew-retting-flax.html
 
r ranson
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r ranson
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Norman Kennedy spinning flax that shows flax on two different distaffs (hand held and wheel distaff). The flax is lightly wrapped/draped on the distaff and loosely bound with ribbon to hold it in place.

 
r ranson
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From Norway, I think.  It looks like old film of traditional flax processing.  
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Yesterday was the 100th day of 2018, so I sowed my flax seeds.
 
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I have skimmed this thread in an attempt to make sure this video wasn't already in it,  and I don't believe it is.  Just watched this, and not only is it subtitled (yay!), but it also shows flax being taken from seed, to ready to spin using fairly simple tools in a great tutorial.



Included are planting, growing time, harvesting, soaking (rhetting), spreading and drying, gathering and stooking, and prepping the fiber (which is a multi step process itself).  A lot of this is already in posts above, but I like how the steps are all in a row in this video, and quick to watch.

Someone's probably already said this, but my husband and I were amazed to finally understand the term "flaxen hair" for blonde hair.  Prepped flax does look just like hair! It's amazing.



 
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I love flax but am a novice. I tried to grow some to use for spinning/weaving last year. I think I have gone wrong! I rhetted the flax and tried the stems - when the broke open I tried the flax and then tried to break and scutch and hetchel it but I just ended up with very green flax (line) which was not what I normally spin with - did I under rhet? over rhet? Help and advice please.  UK Shropshire . Thank you so much Ruth
 
r ranson
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ruth knapton wrote:I love flax but am a novice. I tried to grow some to use for spinning/weaving last year. I think I have gone wrong! I rhetted the flax and tried the stems - when the broke open I tried the flax and then tried to break and scutch and hetchel it but I just ended up with very green flax (line) which was not what I normally spin with - did I under rhet? over rhet? Help and advice please.  UK Shropshire . Thank you so much Ruth



Welcome to permies.

Green fibres?  Neat!  I haven't had green yet, but the colour does vary depending on rain, humidity, sunlight, the weather while retting, the soil quality it grew in and magic.  If you can remove the fibres as per normal, then you've retted it enough.  It will be interesting to see what colour the finished yarn is after you boil it.  
 
ruth knapton
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Perhaps I'll try for a different colour next time! Just need more garden to grow lots at the same time!
 
r ranson
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A peek into this year's experiments with flax growing.  

Soil, light, timing, and water conditions identical (or as much as they can be two feet apart).  On the left the flax is inconsistent, some tall some short, some thick, others thin.  Very unsatisfying.  

On the right, the flax is about a foot taller and very consistent.  

Between the two, the one on the right is the result of my breeding project and the one on the left is a popular cultivar of fibre flax - the best out there at the moment.  

I have learned so much from growing my own flax.  Small patches beside each other like these, where one variable is changed have been the biggest source of knowledge.  But also patches scattered throughout the farm.  Different microclimates do better with different techniques.  There's no one right way to grow flax.
two-flax-patches.jpg
[Thumbnail for two-flax-patches.jpg]
 
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I just glanced through this last (4th) page.  Yes, I can see that there is better uniformity in the crop on the right.

I didn't see anything in this 4th page, outlining what you were doing different between right and left.  Perhaps it is mentioned on an earlier page, or another thread.  It doesn't matter.

I don't look at flax as a source of making linen.  I look at flax as a source of making superior cellulose fibre for engineering purposes.  Cellulose is actually quite a good material.  Where cellulose (or flax in particular) has problems, is that in processing "kinks" can be introduced, which end up being places where failure can initiate.

Flax can be bread to make oil (seed) or to make fibre.  I haven't read of a circumstance where good fibre and good oil from seed both result.  Maybe it can happen.  Flax oil can be processed to produce an epoxy resin.  By and large the glass point of vegetable oil derived epoxies is lower than petroleum epoxies.  But the idea of using a flax derived epoxy resin and a flax fibre to make things like kitchen cabinets is interesting to me.

Good luck with your efforts to making consistent flax.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Gordon Haverland wrote:... Flax can be bread to make oil (seed) or to make fibre.  I haven't read of a circumstance where good fibre and good oil from seed both result.  Maybe it can happen. ...


Gordon, I don't know very much on this, but I am growing flax since a few years. I noticed the seeds for fibre flax are smaller than the seeds for oil. I have fibre flax now in my front yard and 'Russian yellow flax seed' (meant to eat as a superfood) plants in my back yard. The plants look very different. I hope I won't forget to make photos
 
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Here is more info on flax and linen. This festival takes place about 3 miles from my home.


http://www.flaxscutching.org/
 
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My observation is that flax keeps growing taller when it has plenty of water and stops putting on length and produces flowers and seed as soon as soil moisture is low. My field of wild flax has ponds and swales in it. Along the edges of these the wild flax can get 4 feet tall, In dry areas it only gets one foot tall. In very dry areas it will stop at 4 inches and not grow until now when the fall rain starts then it matures in early winter.
This wild flax has tiny seeds with umbrellas to spread on the wind like lettuce seed.  The flowers are a blue daisy.  I have an abundance of both seed and stalks available if anyone wants to try it. I sent both seed and stalks to Raven but I did not hear back what the results was for making fibers from them.
 
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Has anyone retted flax in the winter/cold temps?

I wasn't able to ret my flax during summer/fall (couldn't leave it at the farm in case it over retted while I was away, can't ret at the apartment complex, never got around to asking favors of friends during the busy season).

Now I've got some time and flexibility and I might be able to get it retted.

I'm in zone 5b, temps are around 40F during the day and between 25 and 30F at night. It's very wet right now, rain every couple of days. We usually get ground frozen in January. We've also had our first snow, although it didn't stick.

Is it possible for the microbes to work when it's this cold or should I just wait for spring?
 
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Just to add one more video from YouTube which has many under "linen from flax"Watch "LINEN - Making Linen Fabric from Flax Seed - Demonstration Of How Linen Is Made" on YouTube

Thanks
 
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In case anyone is looking for a seed source within the USA, John Sherck in Indiana is selling fiber flax seed. I just got some from him, will be planting soon. You can find his site here: Sherck Seeds

He also sells a wide variety of beans, grains, and other stuff. I've bought soybeans, upland rice, and peanuts from him before -- this is my first year getting fiber flax seed from him. It looks like it's a relatively new crop for him -- he may appreciate connecting with people who have experience growing and maintaining breeding populations.

Sherck Seeds only ships within the USA, unfortunately.

Cheers~
 
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Last fall, I took photos while I was harvesting the flax seed. I also made the straw into fiber.

Harvest the flax plants in bundles, then beat them, over a tarp,  to remove most of the seed heads. Some years, I have combed the straw as well, but this year I felt like harvesting the seed was a higher priority than a little bit of extra length in the fibers.


Scrape away the larger pieces of straw.


Roll the tarp up like a burrito, and beat them some more. Stomp on them.


Screen through a coarse screen, to remove the largest pieces of straw.


A bucket of chaff and seeds.


As always, protect myself from dusty things.


Screen through a finer screen.


Winnow over  a tarp.


A nice thing about winnowing over a tarp, is that if I mess up, I can try again, until I get a nice separation between seeds and chaff.


Winnow a few more times, until I'm left with a mix of flax seeds, and bindweed seeds.


Sieve them a final time, through a sieve with holes that are long and narrow, and can thus separate flax seed from bindweed seed and small pebbles.


The long straw was left to rhet on the lawn during the fall rains.



 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Natasha Flue wrote:Has anyone retted flax in the winter/cold temps?



It is common for me to gather the perennial flax fibers in the spring, after they have retted for 5 months under snowcover. I often rhet the annual flax during the fall rainy season.
 
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I took a flax spinning class at SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) in Asheville, NC and loved the process. Since then I have spun more linen and would love to grow some, however, I have heard that much of the plant fiber historically spun in the south, or at least Appalachia, was not flax at all but hemp, because flax doesn't grow well in the south. Is that true? Is there a variety that grows better in the south?  I recently moved from Asheville to central Arkansas, where it's even hotter. Plus, I have about a zillion hungry deer milling around, but that's another story. I need to put up a deer fence anyway.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The USDA lists Linum lewisii, perennial flax as native to Arkansas.

And Linum usitatissimum, common flax as introduced widely across the USA and Canada
 
Carol Denton
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Thank you Joseph. I suspect the linum lewisii may actually grow well here because the old timers still call this area the Grand Prairie. It's my understanding it was a real prairie land with miles of native grasses. Concerning the annual, common flax, I suppose the only way to find out is to grow it and see. Thanks for your reply!
 
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