Saturday, December 22, 2012

Urban Weaver flax project update - grow some of your own!

At the end of November I dug over a space in a garden that I 'borrow' and covered it with cardboard to stop weeds regrowing.

It was manured last year, so from what I read that should be sufficient nitrogen for next year's growing season. Flax does not require much nitrogen. Over-fertilizing can result in long spindly stalks that lodge easily. The ratio of N:P:K should be 4:7:7.

Nothing left to do until spring planting but get on with the planning.

I am getting plans from for the scutcher, breaker and rippler. Martin Border (he of the lovely spindled, walnut dyed knitted sweater) will be building them.

The hackles will come from Dragonfly Farm These are the most expensive part of the project and will take up almost all of the grant.

I'm still looking for a Canadian supplier of 'Marilyn' flax seed, otherwise will have to order it from Kentucky

There are two people who are going to grow flax in plots of their own (in community gardens). Of course they'll be able to take advantage of the flax processing equipment at the field house to make their own linen.

So if you want to grow some flax for yourself, remember that the processing equipment will be here for you to use once you've dried and retted your crop.

It takes a 20x20 foot plot to grow enough to make a shirt, but you can always grow a smaller amount over several years and save it. Once the flax is dried, it can be retted at any time. Once it is retted it can be processed at any time. Of course the linen fibre will keep for hundreds of years!

You can read the blog posts here and see when I plant/weed/harvest/rett etc and follow along with your crop.


  1. Hi, Beatrice here from the Flax to Linen Victoria group. We were able to source fibre flax seed for Biolin in Saskachewan. You can check with Barb or Ken on the flax to linen FB page for more details on seed. Ken has also successfully made hackles. This week I dyed 530 yards of 2 ply local linen from our flax with foraged arbutus bark mordanted with alum. It became a beautiful shade of mahogany.

    1. Thanks Beatrice!

      I'll try Biolin for seed - let's keep it Canadian! Did you know about Alden Amos as a source for hackles (sadly, not Canadian)? I've written to them to order a set, so if you want to use them, just let us know. Martin is going to make a rippler, braker and scutching knife and board, which should leave enough of the grant money to buy seeds and hackles.

      I ditched FB this year, so I'll get one of the other Urban Weavers to take a look at the F2LV page and send me details of what you're up to. The dyed linen sounds yummy! What are you going to weave?

  2. I found you through the flax to linen group in Victoria. (Hi, Beatrice). I've been doing a linen project in the Kootenays for the past 6 years. I am using antique doukohobor combs as hackles. Biolin is where I got my seed from as well. They can provide it in 50lb. bags or smaller packages. We have an annual Linen Festival every August here and try and engage folks in the hands on natural of flax processing, including providing museum quality example of linen and flax garments and textiles from past eras -- including many examples of traditional Doukhobor garments made from linen grown in Grand Forks pre - 1940.

    I'll be following your progress with eager anticipation.

    1. Hi Joybilee,
      I did write to you via your website and tell you about us. Thought you might be interested in what we do, expecially the broom fibre we spun and wove. We've been using your woad seed, and your woad recipe to dye with too!
      I wanted to come for the linen fest this year but had knee replacement surgery so couldn't. I have been to the Doukhobor museum in Grand Forks and seen the lovely stuff there (the knitted shoes particularly interested me).
      Perhaps when we've used up all the dwindling oil reserves driving around, Vancouverites will be able to wear linen underwear they've grown and processed themselves? Now that would be progress!