Friday, January 4, 2013

How to calculate the amount of flax seed you’ll need to grow yourself a shirt in 2013, and has anyone seen old hackles for sale?

We now have a Canadian source of flax seed, and what lovely people they are too. They research and promote the growing of flax in Canada for linen, oil and shive (straw), sell processed flax for spinning, shive for mulch and pet bedding and lots more uses.
I have had several very nice informative emails from them and they’re taking a real interest in the Vancouver Flax Project, even though they’re aware it’s only tiny compared to the amount that farmers grow in Saskatchewan.

Randy Cowan, their Director of Operations recommends ‘Elektra’ as the best variety for our climate and to produce a good fibre yield. He was kind enough to include details of how much you would need and how densely it needs to be sown. They’re happy to sell small or large amounts of seed to whoever wants it.

For those of you busy calculating how much you’ll need to order from them to grow yourselves some linen, here’s what he had to say:

The seed needed depends on the seeding method, if you are broadcasting (scattering) the seed then you will want to aim for a 2,000 plants per meter squared, this will make the plants compete and thus will give you a consistent small stem, easy to ret and decorticate. If you are row seeding the competition would not be as good as broadcasting, the loss in emergent plant count is also not consistently known as the seed now has to compete with its neighbor in the row as well as the environment.

Fiber Flax Seed is 5 grams per 1,000 seeds (Elektra is a fiber variety)
Assume a 90% vigor/emergence because not all seed reacts to the environment the same.
So, for every square meter seeded with fiber flax = 2,000 seed desired seed times 5 grams per 1,000 seeds times 90% vigor/emergence = 12 grams per meter squared
Things have not gone so well on the sourcing hackles for flax processing (more about what they’re for in another post).

My supplier, the only supplier of new hackles on the continent, has family heath problems, and cannot be sure if they can provide me with hackles at all. I’m fairly sure they forge and build them themselves. Alden Amos and Stephanie Gaustad have been famous in the spinning world for many decades for their beautifully made fibre tools and wheels. For those of you not sure what I’m talking about when I say 'hackles', here is a link showing what flax hackles look like.
Old ones, which frequently can be found in antique stores labeled as florist’s frogs, or broken wire brushes, look like this….
If you see one anywhere please let Penny or Sharon know and we’ll go and buy it immediately! They do appear on eBay, but are snapped up very quickly.

Now you’ve seen the pictures you can understand where the saying ‘ it made the dog’s hackles rise’ comes from!



  1. We are interested in making our own, are there plans online? And what is the recommended sale price? I know a welder, and I have braising experience myself. Might be a case where we can knock off a hundred of the things if the demand is there.

  2. Could you use some General-purpose hand driven 7" nails with the heft to penetrate even the toughest seasoned timber? A quick look at shows an old one made with nails. I’ve seen on TV how hackles were used also for hemp fiber. Could be good for bark too, I wonder.

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  5. Correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't that be a yield of 9 grams per square meter rather than 12?