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Linen Flax - Flax plant for spinning and weaving

 
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Just ordered some flax today with my annual seed order, thought it was beautiful and always looking for plants that multipurpose. Excited to see what the variety I purchased is meant to do.  I feel like just today my appreciation for this lovely plant has grown immensely.
 
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M Broussard wrote:This is my second season growing fibre European flax...


Congratulations!  It seems like you might have enough to test out the Textile Prepare Flax for Spinning BB.  It is a Straw level badge but you can work on them even if you haven't finished the sand level.  You do have to earn the sand badge to be eligible for the straw level badge but there are no rules against working on Straw or higher level BBs before earning sand level.  
 
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Here's a video about small scale linen growers in California.  
They had a webinar.

 
pollinator
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The webinar was with alot of people. The Cleveland flax project was in Cleveland Ohio.

Funny that was the last post. I'm within that fibershed. They are trying to find more people to grow flax. I'm considering it. That's actually why I came to this post.

I'm curious about timing of planting. It was suggested April and May, no later than mid May, because flax likes cool damp weather. So no later than mid May makes sense for how early we sometimes get hot and dry up in the summer.
I'm basically west of Pittsburgh. How frost hardy is flax? That seems to be what would limit from planting too early. Or if planting early in a prepared area would the seed just not germinate until the weather was consistent? I wouldn't think frosts would kill all the seed if planting 'too early'.

Given our hotter, dryer summer it was said that for fiber the flax planted in May seemed to need harvesting about end of July. Which apparently was earlier than expected?

I was planning to run the pigs to "prepare" the planting area. Broadcasting after the pigs and shaking out straw to try and cover the seed a bit to make it less tempting to birds.
The possible wrench in that plan is it depends on when I actually get the piglets (supposed to be farrowing beginning of March), and have them long enough to train them to electric. To fence off the area and be able to reliably keep the pigs in it for the prep. If planting in early May it should be enough time. But it will be a field crop, not in a place that could be watered. And too big of an area than I'd want to anyhow! So it seems best if it's not kept on real cold into April planting earlier would be better. The rain may dry up mid June, it may wait til early July. But when it stops then there usually won't be a measurable rain event til it cools in September.

Is there any reason planting behind pigs may not be great way to do flax?

Also, when harvested how do you need to store the bundles?

Thanks! I'll come back and reread the whole thread later. Sorry if I asked something already answered!
 
pollinator
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Here in SE Minnesota, we plant golden seed flax the 3rd week of April, no later than the end of the month. We harvest around the 1st of August. Timing should be around the same for fiber flax. Flax does better when rain and soil nutrition is adequate.
 
r ranson
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when do you plant oats or barley?

the timing is usually the same.
 
r ranson
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I usually plant somewhere in March or April (left coast of Canada).  Flax seems pretty frost hardy for the first few weeks.  It doesn't like the soil too warm to germinate.  

I also don't want the hassle of watering, so I try to get at least 40 days before the rains stop.

Some places, they overwinter flax.
 
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So much info in this thread! I'll come back and dig next week after our performance at the local library is over; I shouldn't be here at all (I haven't even written our monologues yet!), but the lure of the "Homegrown Linen" email was too strong for me to resist!

I've got a kilo of Melina seed I got 3 years ago from TapRoot Fibre that was supposed to be for a grownout I was supposed to be doing with the potato farmer down the road, around the bend and over the river, but he changed his mind...

I'll have to test to see if they're still viable; if they are, I'd like to give them a try this year. It was interesting to read in the first post that there are fibre and seed varieties. It makes sense, but I was under the impression that fibre length was dictated more by planting density.

Something I'm wondering is how they would fair in, shall we say, less than ideal circumstances. I don't plow here, I generally sheet mulch with paper feed bags and then start building the soil on top for new beds. What soil there is is good, but it's very rocky - I've been resurfacing my driveway as I make new beds... I'd be interested in to hear if anyone's had success with flax using this or similar methods.

I won't ask any of my other questions - I suspect they'll all be answered somewhere in this thread. 1kg of seed is more than I can currently use, so I'm game to share, if anyone in Canada is interested in trying this variety, assuming sufficient viability.

 
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I live in North Carolina zone 7b and am extremely interested in growing flax. I saw someone said to plant usually around the same time as oats or barely, which we are actually able to grow as a cool season crop here. I wonder if this could be the case with flax, our winters are mild but very wet.

I’m currently studying horticulture at university, pest and disease is something we learn about often (of course). Given that I live in cotton country, and the issues surround pink bollworm, water quality, etc, I would really love to try my hand at bringing flax to the south. Anyone have experience with viability in this hot and humid region?

I had sourced some seed from nativeseeds.org, which is a seed source put together by native Americans in the Southwestern region (unfortunately due to high demand I think their selling options have been restricted this year). If I were able to find some seeds that have a long history of being happy in this region that would be fabulous.
 
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Hi there! I really enjoyed the films and reading the article. I love linen cloth and clothing. I have grown flax before, but it was a short variety and it did very well. The flower color is lovely and it was so easy to grow. I want to try my hand at growing tall flax for fiber and someday turning it into cloth. I have also read some very interesting historical booklets my mom had on the linen industry in Ireland. I will post the reference later, as I don't have it with me where the computer is.
 
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The retting went well. I tried dew retting, but the (very) damp climate at the time of my attempt meant that it was done in 3 days! There were only 8 hours between 'well-retted' and 'over-retted'--a difficulty for sure! The over-retted stems have produced somewhat shorter fibres 10cm and under, while the well-retted stems have produced some very nice fibres 20cm and greater in length (my inexperience may mean that neither reached its full potential--but hopefully I'll get the method down better as time goes on).

I finally made some fibre processing tools, and so can continue my journey in making linen from European flax. I've constructed a flax breaker according to a historical find from Scandinavia, and it works a treat! I've scutched a small quantity of the material, and I now know what older literature means when it refers to flaxen hair--the fibres are beautiful!

My flax breaker is made of Japanese maple (top) and spalted mystery wood (perhaps sycamore) that folks were cutting down on my cycle commute to and from work. The logs were transported home by bike, split by my partner with a froe and splitters, aged in sheds/garages at various flats I've lived in, rough sawn with power tools, and then chiseled by hand. The hinge is a small 8mm piece of scrap iron. I quite like this design as it is much more portable than many other historical breakers, and it can be pegged into a sawhorse if more height/stability are desired.

I've connected with some others in NZ who are interested in producing fibre flax, so we will work together to breed up some taller plants--very exciting! My tallest plants are ~90cm, and theirs are ~80cm, which is not terrible given that we're working with what we've got (not a huge variety/diversity). Any kiwis wanting to join the linen brigade are welcome--just flick me a PM.

Getting ready to plant my winter crop of flax once I've cleared out some more garden space. It should be getting close to planting time in the Northern Hemisphere--do share photos, everyone!
flax-breaker.JPG
Unretted, well retted, and over-retted flax stems; using the flax breaker to break retted flax; ratio of broken flax to waste at this step
Unretted, well retted, and over-retted flax stems; using the flax breaker to break retted flax; ratio of broken flax to waste at this step
 
pollinator
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Does everyone who processes flax at home on this thread make the processing equipment tools at home; for example, rippling combs, brakes, scutching knives, flax hackles? If so, should I start another thread where forum members can share how they make flax processing tools?
 
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Thanks for your post. It always helps to get started when you share how you deal with challenges and learn information to pass on. Like increasing seed source, to amount to practical grow for a project.

Start small, a great lesson,  learn to grown in your environment,  practice processing and make a garment. Even yearly a garment is nice progress. Something a home growers can do.
 
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a video about threshing flaxseed with a nifty gadget for a quick and efficient way to break apart seeds from their pods.

 
r ranson
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r ranson
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A beautiful video on spinning linen including a new way to dress a distaff.

 
M Broussard
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I managed to source linen flax seeds from five different locations. It's all growing well so far, and I hope I can get some cross-pollination to increase the genetic diversity of what I've got--particularly as my original source of seed has been maintained in isolation for many generations and has the potential to have accumulated some deleterious genes.

We'll see how each one does!

I've also managed to finally break, scutch, and comb flax to get fine fibre out the other end. My first two tries left me with fibre that was still a bit rough, with the strands held together by thin, papery material (not the coarse outer straw). Been a bit of a challenge, but I feel that I'm headed in the right direction! Working on making a distaff now.

Keen to see other folks' photos from their plots. How did you folks in the northern hemisphere do this season?
IMG_1936.JPG
Springtime flax!
Springtime flax!
 
r ranson
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Winter is a great time to do a germination test.
Flaxseed has a very short shelf life, so I like to do one each year to see how densely I want to plant the seeds.
 
r ranson
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I wish I understood the language (maybe there will be translated subtitles later) but the music and watching the flax spinners is delightful.

 
r ranson
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I’ve been thinking a lot about linen since I visited Colonial Williamsburg last Sept. snd heard how  awesome linen is!
I’m in North Carolina so I think it’s too hot here …. Though there is an old shut down textile mill I fantasize about reopening with locally grown texts…. Bamboo maybe better but processing bamboo is quite a chemical process..
Are there more heat tolerant fiber linen seeds?
 
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Lori Lusk wrote:I’ve been thinking a lot about linen since I visited Colonial Williamsburg last Sept. snd heard how  awesome linen is!
I’m in North Carolina so I think it’s too hot here …. Though there is an old shut down textile mill I fantasize about reopening with locally grown texts…. Bamboo maybe better but processing bamboo is quite a chemical process..
Are there more heat tolerant fiber linen seeds?



Flax likes early spring here in Southern California. By the time days are hitting in the 80's its winding down. I plan on growing it in West Virginia in another year or two after I get settled there.
 
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I still have the flax from my four seasons of experimental flax growing. Twice there was someone who was interested to get it, but later changed their mind.
The problem is: to know and be able to do everything to change the stalks of flax into fiber for spinning! I 'know' what to do, in theory ... But I'm not willing (or able) to do it. And I am not interested in spinning it myself.
That's why the flax stalks are still here. And I did not go on growing fiber flax. But I did sow linseed (that's flax too, but a different variety). Flax plants have such nice flowers.
 
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