Monday, December 3, 2012

How to grow a shirt and other revolutionary ideas

How to grow a shirt and other revolutionary ideas

I thought people might find the linked article interesting. You can see all the steps that will be involved in the flax growing and processing (apart from building the processing equipment) from soil prep to shirt.

I also thought it might be time to talk about the reason for this project. Then Sharon Kallis, the motivational force behind the Urban Weaver Project wrote this blogpost from Mexico.

It pretty much sums up why the flax project is important.

We are all inextricably linked in space and time by what we choose to buy, what we choose to eat, how we choose to move about. When we choose a car journey over transit, we are choosing to support the destruction of habitat and water quality, the loss of a place to live and food to eat for other people in countries that have ‘the curse of oil’ When we fly/drive/eat meat we choose our own convenience over the global climate change that it causes and the resultant damage and destruction now and to our children’s future.
When we shop, we buy the future planetary conditions for our and other people’s children.

It is already possible for us to live in another way that takes into account the consequences of our choices. For me, the flax growing project is just an extension of those choices.

Not many generations ago it wasn’t possible to buy clothes made from fibers grown half a world away, then in processing shipped round the globe several times to exploit people who would work much cheaper than we would ourselves. There wasn’t the oil available to do that.

People grew their own fibers and made their own clothing. They treasured the clothes they made, aware of the labour that went into them. It’s perfectly possible to grow our own flax here - we have the ideal climate.  By next summer there will be the equipment available free to all for processing flax, made by Martin Borden (more about him below). Already you can come to McLean field house and learn the skills of spinning and weaving, knitting and dyeing - for free.

All you need is to find space for your flax. Ask your neighbours if they will let you grow some in their garden (the flowers are so pretty!). Get a plot on a community garden and grow some. If you can’t find enough space for a large enough crop in one year, take 2 years to grow enough for your shirt.

Meanwhile, why not do something revolutionary in 2012?

Buy some local fleece. Make a spindle. Dye your yarn with local dye material, and knit yourself a sweater.

Martin Borden, Urban Weaver’s woodworker and film maker learned to spindle in October, to knit in November, dyed his spun yarn with walnut hulls gathered from the sidewalk in the West End and is doing just that!



  1. I grew a crop of flax at The Orchard Garden, UBC Vancouver campus, and am presently spinning with a drop spindle my flax fibres into linen. Would be happy to share what I've learned along the way. Here's my blog:

    Penny, this looks amazing! Congratulations for getting things going.


  2. Thanks for linking to my post on Linen growing. So appreciate that you found it inspiring. Looking forward to seeing more about your linen project. Have you tried stinging nettles yet? I harvested, retted, and dried some and am waiting time to put it through my flax break. The fibers are shorter than linen, and can be processed on your wool processing equipment, but have the sheen and strength of linen.