Spring means many things, but it always reminds me of our Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild foray into growing our own flax, aka ‘The Flax Project’. Its hard to believe it was over two years ago, nearly three, that a group of us tackled the happy adventure of trying to produce our own flax crop, not once, but twice. It brought back memories of warm spring days planting and weeding, hot, hot summer days of staking and weeding (the one constant was weeding), days of harvesting, drying, retting, seeding, rippling, scutching and all those lovely bizarre words to describe specific processing of flax. Flax is grown and harvested in a community, but it is customarily spun in the winter when there is no other more pressing work to do. I find it very dusty and messy fiber to spin, or maybe I just don’t like doing that part without the shared company of fellow fiber lunatics.
So while I was clearing out bits and pieces of unfinished projects, I found my share of the flax and tow.
I also found loads of other flax that had been spun over the years.
Most have been left as singles and is ready for weaving.
Some I boiled as an experiment. Flax will lighten in colour if you boil it. It also softens significantly and your house will smell like hay soup.
Some came to me bleached, so I gave that a spin. It was extremely soft. My concern is for the durability of anything made with prebleached flax fiber. Woven flax is renamed linen for those of you who didn’t know, and linen fabric is incredibly strong, and long wearing.
There are two down sides to linen; one is that it wrinkles. I like the wrinkles of linen, especially jackets and trousers, but some people can’t stand that characteristic. The other is its tendency to fade. Linen will take colour but over time it will lose that colour and move towards white. Again, I like this in linen, and it takes ages for this to happen. A bright, bright blue will mute over years and acquire a vintage look that can only be seen in linen.
Covid enabled me to join a most remarkable group of flax enthusiast started by an extremely generous woman in Europe. Her name is Christiane; she was gifted a large quantity of flax from a lady called Berta. This was from Berta’s dowry. Christiane decided to share it with other interested spinners and reached out on social media. I asked for two stricks. A strick is what the finished combed flax. It is usually very fine, has little to no straw and is very tidy, ready for spinning.
Well!! You can imagine how this took off. In the middle of a pandemic. People desperate for knowledge, information, something challenging, interesting, contact with the rest of the world…this took on a life of its’ own. Much of this flax was grown, processed and stored pre WW2. It was of historical significance, to be part of that is pretty inspiring. Christiane knows what she has and rose to the occasion. She was gifted more dowry chests, documented more stories, and sent out more flax to more and more enthusiasts. She also sent out hand woven linen, patterns, she wrote articles, held workshops, taught about the history of flax production in Europe, specifically Austria, helped flax lovers from all over the world to connect with each other. The project became massive. She now has help to manage the administration of this mammoth undertaking.
Thanks to Christiane I now have suppliers of flax in Egypt and Canada and my treasures from Berta’s flax plus a community world wide I can go to if I run into problems and need answers.
But the question I’m sure many of you have is can flax be of any use to felters? Yes, I think so. For binding felt books, for embellishments, for stitching, linen backing on a felted image, dry felting onto a linen fabric (not sure, but the fabric is durable), there must be elements of cross compatibility.
The season for demonstrations is coming up and it looks like this year we can actually go out into the community again. I am looking forward to taking along a fully dressed distaff with some gorgeous blond flax, blowing in the breeze, a little water bowl for dipping near at hand and inspire awe in the local population, that humans can make thread out of grass. Okay, not awe, but maybe some curiosity, I’ll take curiosity.
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!
When we last left off, we had just started rolling the seed heads Cole had removed with his bladed implement and the rakes when Henry returned from his quest. He had gone off to seek grated screens so we could sieve out the chaff and sand and leave less wast with the seed.
51-53 the sieving begins, There were a lot of screen options and it took a moment to work out the right order.
54-55 The seed fell further than the chaff, the sand fell further than the seed. It was a brilliant idea!
56-58 Cole tried the rolling method without the pillowcase and then added the squished bits to the sieves.
59-60 The fine sieve got rid of a lot of the sand
61-67 The sieves removed a lot of chaff and sand! What a brilliant idea!
68 Some of the chaff had tiny stones that would not fit through the sieve.
69 We labeled the bags as sieved and unsaved.
70-71 we had a couple of cow supervisors checking our work. We continued to keep an eye on the cleaners in case they went for the bags with chaff and seeds (with a team effort I am sure they would have carried the bags away!!)
72-75 Henry moved the flax back to the wagon, we pulled a few bundles for Bernadette to try field retting. The rest of the flax will be off to the trough to rett. We made sure to take all the bags of seed and chaff with us. (Those cleaners look vary through)
We called it a day and headed home via a couple more stops.
One was at Ann’s to pick up butter tarts and cookies we had pre ordered and see the bulging box of wool bomb from World of Wool!!
76 best not to open it we will never get it back in the box.
77 Surprise!! You have lambs!! In August!
78 Turkeys!!(Ann’s lawn ornaments stair at you then all talk at once!)
79 some of her Boys, look at those lovely colour coats!!!! (i hope they get a trim before there off to where ever boy lambs go so you don’t have august lambs.)
A last word on the flax
While I get back to felting, Henry and Cathy Louise will give the flax a spa day, two or three submerged in the trough. I am unsure of the name of this particular spa treatment. It dose not seem to be covered in my hydrotherapy notes from school, since we never submerged patents in hydrotherapy using a layer of cinder-blocks to keep them under. Where would you get therapeutic cinder-blocks?
Have fun and happy felting, i will let you know when the flax has emerged from the “spa” and is ready for some heavy tapotement!
This is the part I missed last year, so was particularly interested in photographing and participating this year.
When we last left off we had had a very hot dry summer, the flax had matured more quickly than anticipated and we harvested early. We considered a second planting but there were a number of health issues in the group this summer so we decided against it. The flax was picked, bundled and stacked along the fence. Once dry, it would be moved inside to await the decapitation. We decided on a date Aug 29th when most of us could attend.
Well, that was the plan, between harvest and getting dry enough to put in the barn there was a distinct change in the weather. All the rain we would have liked earlier arrived now that we had harvested. Thus, the flax took longer to dry than expected and it looks to have started to do a bit of field retting.
1-2 the dried flax
3 Aug 29th, 2020 everything is wet but it’s not raining at the moment.
The day arrived for our torture of the Flax and it was overcast and looked like rain. We gathered in the coverall barn while the cows nibbled the stocks of the picked cornfield.
4 the cows were only mildly interested at this point
While I waited for the flax to be moved from one barn to the coverall, I admired the corn protection devices. There were a number of beech balls with eyes bobbing away and a cool black kite that went up and down in the breeze. It was fascinating, I think I need one for my garden if it works on chipmunks I might get a few strawberries!!
5-6 garden guards
Gord used his pickup to transport the harvest. Even with the stocks being shorter this year, there is a lot of flax! I had nice white new tarps in the car and we spread them out to place the flax on as we slowly worked our way through the pile.
7 flax arrival
There was a bucket of seed heads that had fallen off in the other barn which were also collected and brought to the coverall.
8 floor sweepings from storage
We had a number of experiments with seed extraction devices this year. Last year the pillowcase and rolling pin method was most effective. This year we had that, a fish thwapper and a blank for a baseball bat to crush the seed pods releasing the seeds. We had a funnel to try a different form of winnowing and Cole had brought a nasty implement with blades. He also re-tried the double rack used also like a hackle that had been suggested but had not been effective last year. This year the rakes were secured together with elastic and Velcro.
The funnel was interesting, it was used to swirl the crushed seed pods and chaff. We expected the seed to fall to the bottom and the chaff to migrate towards the top. While we could see a bit of this happening, we suspected that the seed this year is not as heavy or large as last year’s, so it is not as effective as we had hoped. This may work out very well next year so we will try it again.
9-12 the funnel separator
13 this years seed are small and light (not just in colour)
The next implement was the fish thwapper. Its basically like a rolling pin without the handles for hitting fish with. The unsuspecting flax was stuffed headfirst into the pillowcase (a small amount worked better than a large amount). When the flax was well incased in the pillowcase we brought out our weapons of choice, with either the thwapper, bat blank or rolling pins we rolled or beat the now blinded and unsuspecting flax till it was decapitated.
14-19 rolling and hitting method
All this violence left us with the decapitated stocks, crushed seed heads and a few very tiny light cloured seeds. Most of us were using this method. You can check out Gord’s roller, which is a blank to make a baseball bat!
20 21 more rolling
22 Gord was flax-covid-coordinated with his mask matching his pillowcase!
The tarp at the back of the picture has the flax that has not been decapitated yet. The near tarp with the pile closest to the front of the picture is the fibre we had worked on.
23 making progress
We are still under halfway there but already had a large number of flax stocks, chaff and hopefully some tiny seeds in amongst the chaff.
24 Chaff and seed collection
As I said earlier Cole brought a homemade implement to torture the flax with, it had blades set at an angle and he was drawing the flax through. It was working to separate the seed heads but it was taking some of the stock ends with it. It was also vary sharp and a bit scary (even for me).
25-28 blade implement
Next, he tried the two mettle tine racks Velcroed and elasticed together. This had not been effective last year but I had not been there with my handy elastic and Velcro tie downs!
29 This method seemed to be less harmful to both the flax and Cole.
30-32 the two rake method
Seedhead removal was very quick compared to the pillowcase method. There was still some stalk damage but not as much as the blades. if you had to do a full field of flax this would be appealing.
Partway through the morning, I noticed the clean-up crew that Cathy Louise had on call. One was working the aria under the wheelbarrow and another pair were covering the area where Gord had backed up to unload his pick-up.
33-36 Barn cleaners
We continued working while keeping an eye on the clean-up crew in case they got over-enthusiastic and went for the flax.
37-38 chaff and seed
You can see bits of seeds in with the chaff. There will be a lot of work for the winnowing basket but with the seed so light and small, it too may disappear in the breeze
39 We have about 1/3 -ish left to decapitate.
40 The finished pile is growing too!
41-44 rolling thwapping and raking continued
45 We can see a bit of seed
46 artsy shot
Through the day, we had herd intermittent rain on the roof but this was getting to be waves of heavy downpours. Looking out the cow end of the coverall we could see the rain pelting down.
47 More Rain!!!
48 We finally reached the end of the pile!!
All that was left to do was crush the seed heads Cole had been separating. For that, we used the shovel to add the seed head to the pillowcases. Now back to rolling and thumping
Just as we started the rolling Henry returned from his quest. I think we should leave that for next week! you will have to wait to see what a brilliant idea he had!
This summer, has been vary different from what I had expected at the beginning of 2020. With covid19’s arrival, we have not been out much, so even weeding the flax patches a month ago seemed wildly exciting, well more so than last year weeding seemed. we are even more excited about being part of the Flax study group for year 2, since we get a chance to see some of our guild friends even if we are a bit farther apart than we normally would be.
Last time i updated you on that fabulous fun of weeding the flax. We had intended to do a second weeding but our plans did not work out. Instead we had a very Hot Dry spell. You may have noticed the temperature while i was felting outside (in the shade).
On July 12th, Cathy Louise let us know the flax was almost ready for harvest. The blast of heat pushed the seed ripening faster than we had expected. The flax stalk are not as tall as we hoped but if the seed is ready it’s time to harvest!
1 the flax is waiting for us
So, we set a Saturday most of us could attend and on July 25th we met to harvest this year’s 2 rows of flax. We had a brief chat and inspection to check the ripeness of the seeds in both rows and realized that much of the flax had ripe seed, so we would harvest all of it now. Last year we did a large harvest and saved a small amount to see if the fully ripe seed would have better germination. (You can see the germination rate from both harvest times produced similar results.) From the pictures, you can see that both rows had very similar success. We also found that a clump in the west row had been seeded more densely than the rest of the flax and it both helped support the naboughring stocks and had less weed intrusion. If we continue with year 3 we may try to increase from the recommended seed density.
2-4 ripe and ready to harvest
We took out the support string that had been added to support the flax in case of heavy rain.
5-6 removing the support strings
We then dispersed ourselves to start the picking on both rows, from both ends.
As we did last year when we harvested the flax, we selected a small amount of flax and pulled it up with the roots. The dirt knocked off and a stock or two is used to tie the bundle together.
7-9 bundling flax
10-26 Flax harvest in progress
As we gathered and tied the flax, we started to line the bundles up along the fence to dry. You can see the line of flax growing behind the flax pickers.
27-30 drying bundle collect along the fence
31-32 pile wating to go to the fence
We have about 1/3rd of the rows picked, you can see the weeds that that have been left after the flax is removed.
33-34 flax picked weeds remain
We kept going and soon were finding more weeds than flax were left.
35-40 starting to run out of flax
One of our team was collecting the weeds for his pigs and chickens to enjoy!
Can you see the flax bundles along the fence at the back of the patch and continuing to the left along the fence and into the market garden.
44-46 the flax drying line grows
47-48 the harvest drying
This is the after harvest shot and the weeds are being collected.
49-50 Most of the flax harvesting team
Here is our harvest team at the end of this years harvest (Glenn myself and Cathy Louise are missing from the large group shot)
The flax sat drying along the fence, then it was turned and continued drying.
51-54 Drying in the heat and sun
Once it was completely dry, (now we got the rain we needed earlier), it was collected and moved to the barn to await the next step. Separate the seed from the stock, Decapitation, which will be violent and exciting!!! But more on that next time!
Last fall we harvested and processed the flax grown over the summer. As part of the process, we removed the seeds from the stocks. We got quite a bit of seed. Some of which will be used to make flax-dressing (also known as elephant snot). It is a truly disgusting mucus looking substance that makes spinning flax much easier. But you don’t need very much to make a reasonable quantity so we ended up with more seed than we started with. Since everyone wanted to have a second year of the project, we put aside most of the three harvestings of seeds.
– First, and largest harvest, was expected to yield the finer flax but less ripe seeds (500g)
– Second and third harvest were a smaller patch we had kept in reserve to check the increase in coarseness of the fibre and to obtain fully mature seeds. (550g)
At the density planted last year this would allow us two rows and some left over for flax dressing.
April 25th 2020 – a beautiful day at Cathy Louise and Henry’s Farm
1 Henry with the two flax plots
The ground is free of snow, has been tilled and Cathy Louise and her husband Henry plant the seeds in two 4′ X 50′ plots. The east plot is on the left and has the second and third harvests seeds (550g), the west plot on the right has the first harvest seed (500g).
By May 8th 2020 , undaunted by late snow flurries, the seeds are sprouting and looking like a green mist on the ground!
2 East plot – second and third harvests seeds
3 West plot – First harvest seeds
4-5 Close ups of seeds
May 18th 2020 (the long weekend for those of us who are getting lost in as to the date), Cathy Louise checks the progress of the flax.
6 East plot – second and third harvests seeds
7 West plot – First harvest seeds
At this point, it looks like the first harvest seeds may be a little slower or have a slightly lower germination rate but they are pretty close.
May 28th 2020, Next growth check. The flax is 4 inches tall and filling in
8 East plot – second and third harvests seeds (some of Cathy Louise’s Market garden is visible to the left of the plot.)
9 West plot – First harvest seeds
The weeds are starting to show and are about the same height as the flax. It is time to call in the weeding crew. We have a quick email chat about weeding dates at first booking the weekend so everyone can help out, possibly in shifts. It was quickly realized quite a few of us did not have plans for Monday! This time the ill fortune for many of us on reduced hours or off work completely is to our advantage! (Finally a good thing has arisen from all the bad.)
So adding masks to gardening equipment we will be heading out to see Cathy Louise and Henry on June 1st!
June 1st 2020, Weeding part 1 (we saw people we don’t live with!! it was wonderful!)
We arrived at 10am and were impressed with the amount of growth from the flax. We quickly got to work.
Looking at the flax we suspect we will increase the seed density next planting. At this point both plots look quite healthy. Here are a few close ups.
15-16 East plot – second and third harvests seeds
17-18 West plot – First harvest seeds
As you can see we had a number of different weeding techniques today. Glenn used his now traditional horizontal weeding position and Bernadette preferred the milk crate over the kneeling stool we had brought. We also had examples of kneeling and standing, with back supported by resting one arm on the upper leg (Quads). All techniques worked since you can see the carcasses of the extracted weed army littered about the valiant and triumphant weeders!!
19-26 different weeding techniques
The rows, being quite long, we all were able to keep socially distanced while still being able to chat. It was wonderful to see everyone. We got a good amount done but we wore out, let us say we made a strategic withdrawal from the field before getting both rows fully free from the weeds. We hope to finish up the first batch of weeding on Saturday.
Here is today’s work crew. As we wearily wandered from the field leaving the flax, a few remaining weeds and the silent member of the group to watch over the flax, so no one nibbles on it before it’s ready for harvest.
(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.
(Sorry. I got to the first part of the harvest and realized this could grow into a book! So i will tell you about the violence and weapons like swords, brakes, hackles and skutching later.)
There are many reasons you might want to join a local guild. There is the comradery of people who are also interested in what you are interested in. There may be access to shared equipment or resources. There may also be the opportunity to join a study group. The Guild Ann and I belong to is reasonably old by North American standards and reasonably large for a local guild. We have members with interests from spinning, weaving, felting, dyeing to tatting, lace making and naalbinding . We even have at least one (Icelandic) warp weighted loom represented within the membership. We have socials every Monday nights if we are not having a meeting which happens once a month. At socials we spin, weave, knit and chat. One of the chats led to the idea to form a study group to grow and process flax. I think that was about a year ago.
Pre planting planning:
Cathy Louise offered planting space at her farm and started to research on seeds appropriate for our climate and length of summer. I tracked down books in the library, looked on line for information, and volunteered to photograph the experiment. We had a number of people that expressed interest but not all made it through to the end. We found a particularly good book on growing flax in Canada. Cathy Louise bought the seeds (we divided the cost amongst the participants; $7.00 Canadian) and prepared a row in her farm garden for the planting to take place. I think it was 4 feet wide by 40 feet long.
We had to wait till the field was dry enough to work (there was flooding again this year as the snow melted)
This is April 4, 2019 at Cathy Louise’s field south of Ottawa while most of my garden was still covered in snow.
Day 1 planting:
2 Cathy Louise Leads Us to the field
The study group arrived on a bright sunny day (May 5 2019) to rake, stake and plant the 3 bags of seeds to start the beginning of the practical part of the study group.
density 4 seeds per inch hand scattered
Step 1 measure and mark the planting section for the flax.
3-4 Positioning the Flax Plot
Step 2 weed and rake the area of planting. Put up a line to mark the planting area.
5-6 Weeding and raking to prepare for the flax seeds
Step 3 we had three seed packages so we cut the section into thirds and marked them by a stake.
We planted each section by scattering the seeds by hand. Then raked and tamped them down.
14 Afterwords, relaxing with everyone on the deck (there use to be cake)
The end of planting was celebrated by cake on the deck!
Cathy Louise gave progress reports as the seeds became plants on our study group face book page; OVWSG Flax Project. (There was much rejoicing when we saw the little green bits and they didn’t seem to be weeds!)
(Skip ahead a little)
Weeding party- June 08 2019
Checking the amount of growth of the row. Height just over 4 inches?
Instructions- if it’s not flax pull it.
A quick touch up along the edges (was that implement called a stirrup hoe?
visit the very pretty cows
Celebrate with cake and ice tea!!
15- 21 Some of this green is not like the other green so get rid of it! Glenn’s technique is vary relaxing.
22 We Work hard evicting and terrorizing weeds. So we relaxed with Cake and ice tea! it was vary good!
All this took just over an hour and then we celebrated with cake!
Cathy Louise posted updates at the flax grew
June 22 Cathy Louise Posts update on flax groth
June 28 updated on flax from Cathy Louise
July 7 update from Cathy Louise
July 11 In early July, Strings were added across the flax to help keep it upright before a large rainstorm was forecast (Cathy Louise, Bernadette and Julie did the stringing)
July 22 the seed heads suggest we should be harvesting soon updated picture from Cathy Louise
First harvest Saturday July 27, 2019 at 10 am. The harvest took an hour to complete.
28 Flax flower and seed pods
29 – 39 the Harvesting Teem. small bundles were pulled and tied with a flax plant to hold the bundle securly. the bundles were staked along the fence rail to dry.
40 the first part of the harvest is in . look at the weeds that snuck in among the flax plants.
You can see that we left about 1/4th of the row to continue ripening so it could be used as seed for next year. We split the remaining flax in two more harvests so we could not only have viable seeds but also see how leaving it to grow longer would change the characteristics of the fibre.
To also give comparison we were going to rett most of the fibre in a trough but wanted to also see what effect dew retting would create. To sate our curiosity Bernadette took a few bundles home to dew rett (spreading and lay it out on the grass, turning it to start the rotting of the outer part of the stalk to allow access to the inner fibre)
I will show you more of what happened to the unsuspecting flax plants after they were pulled up by their roots and left to dry by the fence. That will be for next week, or i am sure you will feel like you are reading a book!
Our guest artist/author today is Nada Vukadinovic also know as Halay on the Felting and Fiber Forum. She has generously offered to share her workshop experience learning a Fiber Inlay Technique.
A few weeks ago I attended a workshop in Maribor, Slovenia, given by internationally renowned textile artist and felter, Vilte Kazlauskaite from Lithuania. Her work is fabulous. You can see her creations here: http://vilte.tumblr.com/
She held three workshops, but I was able to attend only one. It was called Fiber Inlay Technique. Quite intriguing, I had no clue what this could mean and I was very excited to learn about it. I attended only one afternoon workshop. On the previous day attendants learned something about fabric manipulation in nuno felt, and the last day was devoted to the creation of a vest.
We were working with two types of silk: ponge and chiffon and were expected to create a piece of work, either a shawl or something similar, a flat piece anyway. I decided to make a square piece which I will probably use for a cushion.
First we were asked to draw a pattern on a piece of paper in the form of a mosaic that we would like to appear on the finished work, e.g. a bird, or something abstract.
I decided to draw something simple.
We used different sorts of fiber (mulberry silk, viscose, bamboo, and flax.)
When we were finished laying out fabric and fibers we began rolling and rolling. When we noticed that the wool has penetrated through all the layers of silk, we started kneading the piece and then rolled the project without the rod. The shrinkage percent was from 40-50%.
This is what we got in the end:
Unfortunately, we were working only with white silk and some blue and white fibers, but I imagine it would be interesting to play with different colours, especially different colour fibers. The fiber I personally used for the first time was flax and fell in love with it. I am already planning to buy some and dye it.
To put fiber inlay technique in a nutshell, it means lots of silk and different fibers. Here are some more photos showing Vilte’s work: beautiful textures.
And here is some yummy hand dyed silk.
Vilte uses natural dyes only.
It was nice to learn something new. Here in Slovenia we don’t have many opportunities for learning new felting techniques, but the situation seems to be improving. We are planning to invite another master from Ukraine and are getting quite excited about it.
Thank you Nada for sharing this exciting technique with us!
Today it’s my turn for a giveaway, I’m doing fibres too, and very predictably it’s naturals! There are 4 different breeds of natural wool tops totalling aproximately 300g. There’s roughly 100g of Texel and 50g of Devon:
And roughly 100g of Grey Norwegian and 50g of Zwartble tops:
I’m also including some embellishment fibres, aproximately 150g altogether. There’ll be fibres like Ramie, Bamboo fibre, Kapok, Cotton top and Soy staple:
And Ramie, Plastic Fibre, Nylon Fibre and Cotton fibre:
I’ll try to include as many different fibres as possible. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Make sure you use a valid email address because I’ll use that to contact you for postage details. I’ll announce the winner on the 3rd of February, so check back then. Good Luck!