Flax Study Group Part 3
(sorry this is a Long Post if you make it through to the end there are videos! make sure to check out the one on flax dressing its really horrible looking stuff but works exceedingly well)
After a break for the guild Sale and Exhibition we resumed the Flax project on Saturday, November 16th at 10am. It included a potluck lunch.
A quick review of what went before:
– April 4, 2019 Waiting for the soil to thaw and dry
– May 5th Prepare the ground and plant the seeds; germination expected in 10-14 days.
– May 13th Sprouts are seen
– June 08 2019 – Weeding party
– June 28 2019 – The first flowers have appeared
– July 7 2019 flax flowering is slowing down, seed pods developing
– July 9th added extra support ropes to keep flax from collapsing during impending torrential rain storm
– July 13 flax survived storm – wind and heavy rain
– July 18 Seed pods are showing signs of turning yellow
– July 27, 2019 at 10 am First Harvesting (1/4 of the crop has been left to be harvested in 2 parts later)
– July 29 Bernadette tries rippling, not yet ready.
– August 10 2019 Rippling and Winnowing the flax then beginning of the retting
– August 15 the remaining crop is ready to harvest for the seed
– August 17 2019 continuing threshing and winnowing. Retted flax laid out to dry
Which brings us up to November 16th at 10am. We converged at Cathy Louise’s Coverall barn where the flax was waiting for us.
1 kiddie pool of first harvest, retted flax
We kept the flax in the three sections of harvesting. The first harvest in the kiddy pool, second harvest on one end of the metal troughs (it’s the darker colour) and the last harvested, saved for the seed, which is the lighter colour and at the other end of the trough.
2 the later harvests darker, below, harvested before the lighter on the top of the picture
Starting with the largest amount, we began the breaking. (Let the Violence begin!). The Brake breaks up the outer fiber to start to access the long linen fibers within. We eventually figured out this was a very important step. Cole who has processed many local bass fibers (dog strangling vine particularly) had the most experience with the equipment. He had built his own brake, we had the loan of an antique and Gord had found a good rugged one for sale.
3-6 Using the Brake
After the fiber had been cruelly beaten by the brake its fate turned dire as it was firmly thwacked by a skutching sword. The best one seemed to be the Lilac branch that had been split and slightly shaped. It was a bit more flexible than the kitchen implements Cathy Louise had tried or the wooden swords similar to my Viking sword beater. Cole had brought a massive timber and a board with a hand-protecting hole cut in it. Both worked more ergonomically than the boards we had started with.
7-8 Skutching Knife made from Lilac
9-11 Skutching tool formerly a kitchen impliment
12 -16 our various skuching boards, note the handy safety hand hole to keep your finger safe.
The next step was the Hackles. This is the sharp part!! By this point, you really do need to have your tetanus shots up to date.
17 setting out the hackles
We set up a coarse, medium and fine set. We had been lent both old and newer Hackles, all were very sharp and really should be used with gloves. I found them highly photogenic.
18 i got a few really cool shots of these viscous implements of plant torture
We ran the flax through the teeth to separate the line (the long really good fiber) from the tow (the shorter pieces that are not as sought after but still will spin and weave up nicely)
19-20 drawing the flax through to hackles removes more of the shorter fibers and leaves the high quality line linen. you can see the tow stuck in the hackles and on the table.
We worked from the course to the medium to the fine. Producing small amounts of line flax.
21-24 Hackles and a growing pile of Tow
As you can see there was a lot of tow for as little bit of flax. We suspect that we will get a better yield with greater attention to breaking and possibly slightly longer retting. This is our first time and we suspect the growing season was not prime for flax so we hope for a better harvest next year. The Line flax we got from the process was very nice; most of it seemed quite fine from the first batch.
25-26 inspecting the flax and checking out the cows
While we were torturing plant life on one end of the coverall our neighbours were having an extended lunch or maybe it was second or third lunch. Like cats, cows seem to feel that there butt ends are one of their best features. I had trouble getting a shot that wasn’t mostly butt shots. (I had promised the study group not to take them but not all the cows would cooperate.) Thinking of lunch it was time for ours so off we went back to the house to enjoy it and get a bit warmer.
Lunch break Pot Luck:
27 – 35 Lunch
After lunch, Cathy Louise showed us her CPW (Canadian Production Wheel) she has an amazing spot to sit and spin in her loft.
Then it was back to work
36 – 40 thump thump thwak thump thwak thwak
At the end of the day we had 2 bags of floor findings from the Brakes and the same amount from the Skutching and possibly a bit more from the hackle leavings. We kept them separate to work on as part of the final days processing.
This was the amount of line linen we produced.
41-44 our days work, a little bit of good line linen and lots of tow
Final day of flax processing
45 the coverall barn that we were sharing with the cows and some annoyed birds
Saturday November 23 at 9:30 am, one week later and we were back at the coverall.
46-47 Alison had brought her course drum carder to try on the flax
48 First batt off the drum carder looked promising.
49-50 Bernadette arrived with the dew-retted flax she had done. It was a darker colour. She also had big English combs in her bag to try out with the flax.
51 -53 4 pitch English combs by Alvin Ramer
Unfortunately the combs were not as successful as we had hoped ( it shredded both the long and shorter fibers) so we continued with the drum carder.
54 -55 Here is the difference in colour between the two types of retting (field and trough)
56-57 We finished possessing the last of the flax and put most of the tow through the drum carder once before we cleaned up for lunch.
58 Cole made a quick bit of rope out of some of the coarsest waste. He used the strange wooden tool on the table to make the rope.
Lunch Break Pot Luck!
After lunch, we measured and divided the flax seeds. We kept part for next year’s planting from the late harvested plants. We each got a portion to either plant at home or make flax dressing from. (This is used instead of water when spinning the flax or to size a warp for weaving. Bernadette made some it was truly an interesting viscosity but worked extremely well for spinning.
65 We then weighed and divided the line flax.
66-67 the line is ready to be divided
We looked at the difference between the two methods of retting and tried to determine if the second and third sections harvested were much coarser than the first.
68 We kept aside samples for comparison later.
Then it was back to the coverall for a quick peek at the cows and to give the tow a second pass through the drum carder.
-73 We divided up the tow, did a final clean up and headed for home.
75 (Glenn took this just to prove I was actually there since I wasn’t in any of the pictures!)
I took a number of videos while we were processing the flax and Bernadette’s experimentation with flax dressing. If you would like to see all the videos please consider joining the OVWSG Flax Project Private Group on face book https://www.facebook.com/groups/642029912915854/?fref=nf
Cole using the Brake:
Drum carder with the Tow
this is the culmination of this part of the Flax study group. Bernadette has boiled 2 tbs of the flax seed to make a flax dressing which is used to size warps that are being difficult and to add in spinning flax.
11-25-19 flax dressing – Bernadette with wool and flax spinning using Flax dressing.
I hope you have enjoyed the Flax study group as much as i did participating (well i did more photography and not as much hands on but it was still a blast and i hope to be able to participate in next years study group). if this appeals to you too you mite want to join next years study group or maybe start your own.
PS it takes a lot longer to upload a video than it dose a picture so its much later than i expected it to be and i think i best head off to bed now.