I promise we are almost done, but I suspect you wanted to see the culmination shots from this year’s harvest!
This year we had planted two rows of flax, which did not look too excessive until we started to harvest it. Even with the flax being shorter this year, we still doubled the number of stocks we were dealing with. So, it took 3 Saturdays to finish the processing of the line this time. We did not finish all the tow into batts, there is a small bag of hackle waste left. This year we kept the best feeling drum carder waste to try combing the tow into top.
We were chilly but from Cathy Louise’s research, we needed dry, low humidity conditions for the final part of the process. Other than Remembrance Day on the 11th, which often rains, it is usually dry and cold in November here. Thus, we waited to work on it. Sure enough, day 3 was about 4 degrees Celsius, which was quite nice in the sun but quickly lost its illusion of warmth when the sun hid out behind clouds.
Day 3 the plan – get the last of the Line through the hackles and finish tow from the hackle waste with drum carders. We had Ann’s drum carder with the blue metal base from last week and Glenn had pulled out my two. One is chain driven; the other is belt driven. One is a bit coarser than the other but both are in the medium range.
1 all 3 drum carders to finish the tow
To work on the line we had a coarse, medium and fine set of homemade hackles using nails. They had a hardwood base that had been predrilled before the nails were added. We also had an antique one that was between the medium and fine ones. The old one had blacksmith-made nails that tapered and had tin on the base.
2 all the hackles
3-6 The New Hackles
7-11 the old hackles
While we worked, we compared last year’s line to this year’s. The colour is different and this years is finer (last years is in the plastic bag).
12- 19 working on the line and tow
The team worked hard until lunch arrived (more pizza). Glenn joined us after stopping at the farmers market to pick up butter tarts from Ann, it was very busy so he was running late and just in time for pizza.
20 in the foreground; Cheese and mushroom pizza, mid-ground; flax going from the course to the medium hackles and in the background; the hackle waste to go to the drum carder.
The Cow supervisors were enjoying the weather and just generally looking cute decoratively draping themselves around the field beside the coverall barn.
21 the Supervisors taking a break
Back to work finishing the last bit of line and deciding to leave the last of the hackle waste.
22-24 the last of the line
It was time to clean up the drum carders then gather and weigh the culmination of our summer’s work. Henry had brought the air compressor over to help clean the drum carders. It was a brilliant idea. I do not think my carders have ever been so clean.
25- 27 Cleaning the Drum carders
Now it was time for the bagging and weighing. Cathy Louse had brought a scale and I had one of my wool washing buckets which we used to contain the fibre on the scale. As Cathy Louse weighed it, Glenn wrote it down on the bag and Ruthann kept notes on the totals.
28-30 doing the math
We divided the line into 8 sections of 33 grams, bagged and labelled it.
31-34 Line bagged and ready to go
When the line was divided, we moved on to the batts of tow.
35-37 bagging the batts of tow
That left a bag of waste from the hackles that could be drum carded later and two bags of the waste from the drum carder. This we had set aside to try combing it since the test sample looked like it had potential.
Now for the Totals you have been waiting for!
Ruthanne said we got 271 grams of line, 556 of carded tow, 130 grams of uncarded tow and 573 grams of carder waste that we can try to comb and see what we get.
Cathy Louise and Henry calculated that we got 1530g of useable fibre from 400 square feet. Henry did the math and figured if we had done a full acre we would have had 29.52 Kg of line per acre and Carded tow 76.5Kg per acre. If we tried an acre we would have to add Sundays as well as Saturdays or we would be working at it all winter! We would likely improve with all the practice but it’s still a lot of work!
We had a larger team than the final processing day. Some wanted to experience what it was like to process flax trying some or all of the steps. some were interested in the fibre to try spinning while others were not. It was a wonderful experience to be able to participate in. It was especially welcome to look forward to seeing friends during the fibre work parties, especially during covid! Thank you again to Cathy Louise and Henry for giving up a section of their Market garden, doing the ground prep and planting and the aromatic section of retting that we missed. Thank you also to all the other members of the Flax Study Group 2020.
38 the team for the final processing, Glenn taking the picture this time!