Sunday, March 31, 2013

Make your own pin loom

Here, as promised is all the information about making your own pin loom.

This site has all the instructions for making several sizes of loom and the jig for working out where to nail the pins. I actually reduced the size even smaller for mine, and as long as you keep the pin arrangment the same as the diagram on all 4 corners of the loom, it works.

I also find that it's OK to just nail into a a block of wood to make a small loom. You can simply take a piece of wood and nails! I used a piece of old cork flooring and drilled a hole in the centre - the hole also not really needed.

The website above also has instructions on how to weave on your loom and ideas on what to make with the cloth.



Saturday, March 30, 2013

Flax to furoshiki!

At last, after many months of trials and sampling, I’ve finally found a way that even the more beginning of beginner can make cloth from their flax.

The standard Urban Weaver chopstick/toy wheel spindle spins flax very well. It only takes a very short while to make enough thread to make a 4cm square on a home made pin loom.

I’ll post up the details of where on the internet to find a jig and instructions for these lovely little looms later.
Once you have completed your square and taken it off the loom, put it into dilute bleach for a few minutes.

When it's gone paler, rinse it and dye it!

Here’s my dyes out in the sun this weekend. Takes a day to dye a square. I used blackberry juice from berries I canned last year, ditto cherry juice, onion skins, dried weld leaves, tansy and safflower.

Then just rinse your squares again, iron them and sew them together. That's the cloth you can see in the top picture.
And in case you think it isn’t possible to produce a big article of clothing this way, here’s a shawl I spun, wove, dyed, sewed together. It’s made of all local fibres from angora rabbit, to bison fibre (from the bison meat guy at the Terminal Ave farmer’s market) and ‘chiengora’ (malamut cross hair from the dog pound). The dyes are all from local plants too (apart from two dark blue indigo squares).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flax and linen day at Joybilee Farm, Greenwood, August 10th

If you’re planning a trip this August but haven’t decided where to go, you might consider going to Greenwood, BC for Joybilee Farm’s annual flax day

You get a chance to see them processing last year’s flax crop, see this year's flax fields, spin some flax, make pine needle baskets with waxed linen thread and look at some of the lovely linen clothing grown and made in Grand Forks by the Doukhobor community. The historians from the Boundary museum (well worth a visit if you get time), will also be at Joybilee talking about the history of flax growing in the area.
For those living sustainably , there is a Greyhound bus from Terminal Avenue Greyhound Station, leaving at 6.30 am, that gets to Greenwood at 3.40pm. There is a daily bus from Greenwood at 9.10 am that goes straight past Joybilee farm, but appears to stop 6.4km past the farm entrance. I did ask Joybilee if they had any more information about the bus and where it stops, but they tell me they've no idea as they never use it.

Or you could try this - about 10km short of Greenwood, is Mile 0 on the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. This is the jumping off point to take the trail to see the rebuilt Myra Canyon trestles. So if you’re coming by bus, bring your bike along, bike the trail to see the trestles. The next day you can take the Greyhound on from Midway to Greenwood and bike the 7.8km from there to the farm.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

American measurements and flax seed planting.

Just organising myself to weigh out the Elektra seed for people who are doing a grow-along - don't get enthusiastic for planting though, as the soil isn't warm enough for sowing yet!

Biolin, being the good Canadians they are sell their seed by the Kg and give planting rates as 12g per square metre. Everyone who is doing a grow along seems to measure their plot in feet. Why is that?

Is that because we actually think 12 inches = 1 foot, 5280 feet = 1 mile is easier than our own metric system?

How come we measure the temperature in the garden in degrees Centigrade, but the temperature in our ovens in degrees Farenheit?

Is it because we're increasingly becoming American in our ways?

Do we really want to be one with the only country on the planet still using a system based on the arm length of Henry I a thousand years ago?

How come we measure the distances on our roads in Km and the distances in our gardens in feet?

Do we carry the conversion rates in our heads to make sense of it all? Clearly not, as American rocket scientists caused the crash of the 2009 Mars Orbiter by their inability to convert from the metric units that all the other collaborating countries were using.

For those of you who don't, the conversion is divide the square feet measurement by 10.764 to get square metres.

Seed will be weighed out at the beginning of April (at the rate of 12g per sq m). Watch this blog to see when you can collect it from the field house. I'll leave the labelled bags in there, in a mouse proof container.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Do something revolutionary - grow your own shirt and be part of the revival of linen growing in Vancouver

Here’s a summary of what’s going on for anyone who wants to be part of the local linen revival.

We’re going to be growing flax this year at the Means of Production garden, a garden I’ve annexed at the back of a rental property and a couple of Park Board sites around Vancouver. If you see a plot of lovely blue flowers at McLean Park or Aberthau – it’s a future linen shirt in bloom. We also have several people growing flax either at home or in their community garden plot, using this blog to tell them what to do and when to plant.
Flax was once grown all over BC, as far north as Bella Coola - we have the ideal climate for it. Families planted a small plot of it every few years to provide the material to make garments, bed sheets etc. As it's such a hard wearing fibre, it wasn't necessary to plant every year. Being able to process, spin and weave your own linens wasn't an art, it was just what you had to do if you wanted something other than woollen underwear (scratchy!) and blankets.

Caitlin ffrench (knitter, weaver, spinner, dyer and much more) will be partnering with me to grow at MOP, and she'll take the project forward in 2014 to grow more flax at Trillium Park and various other City pieces of land. Flax needs a 5 year rotation so she'll be growing dye plants in between the flax years.

The flax processing equipment that we will be building this spring will be stored at the McLean field house until Trillium Park's artist space is ready and will be available for anyone to use. If you want to grow some flax in your garden (it has such pretty flowers!) let me know. Flax seed from the store won't work, it needs to be a specific fibre producing type (I can provide you with small amounts of Elektra flax seed if you come to the field house). You could grow some at home and use the processing equipment to make your own linen.

Some details on flax cultivation

Here’s the type of soil and site you’ll need:
  1. Location and moisture - flax likes to be shrouded in moisture during the
    growing season. This isn't usually a problem in Vancouver, but you may need to water the seedlings if we have a dry spell in spring.
  2. Location and wind - flax will rot if it falls over. You need to either grow it in a place where it's sheltered from the wind (or animals walking through the plot) or put up a short fence. Willow or bamboo sticks put around the plot edge would work.
  3. Flax doesn’t like to be shaded by trees, or be in waterlogged areas.

Time line for growing flax and making linen 
The time line is:

1.Prepare the seed bed by removing weeds, and adding a layer of compost and bone meal for the potassium and phosphate needed to produce fibre. Don’t put any nitrogen based fertilizer on, as this makes weak stalks which will fall over (lodge). Best done right now, but at the very least by the end of March.

2.Rake the seed bed (and remove any extra weeds that have grown) just before planting. Seed planting will be in April/May depending on the temperatures. Watch this blog to see when we plant ours. Spread the seed by broadcasting (throwing it!). Firm the seeds in by pressing the rake head onto the soil over the entire plot (you can do this with your feet too).

3.If we get a dry spell during germination, the seeds will need water – again, watch this blog and I’ll tell you when/if that’s needed.

4.When the plants are 10cm high, weed the plot barefoot (so as not to damage the plants – they die if they get knocked over).

5.  90-100 days after germination the plants are in full flower..

6.  10 days after that you can harvest – more about that in the blog as we get closer to harvest time. You can follow along and harvest when we do……

So check out this blog for updates on the flax growing process. I'll also be posting photos and details of how the building of the scutcher, brake machine and hackles are coming along.


Urban Cloth Project a.k.a. The Flax Project

The ground preparation on two new flax plots

The flax plot at Means of Production garden is now dug, weeded, and bone meal added for phosphate, ready for planting thanks to hard work by Sharon, Caitlin and Arlen.

There is a medium size tree in the SE corner, but we're hoping it won't shade the crop and result in poor fibre production.

If any grow-along folks haven't yet prepared the soil for planting you need to get to it. If the weather stays this mild, we may be into seed sowing by next month.

The plot at McLean Park has been double dug and bone meal put on the soil. Many thanks to Sharon, David, Martin and especially Cindy, the McLean Park gardener.

Sadly, the soil is full of stones, not very deep and on top of a clay pan, so it's going to need a layer of compost of some kind and extra soil to make it viable. We're hoping the park Board will deliver a load of soil and some leaf mulch to give some organic matter to the soil and make a decent seed bed for flax seed germination.

This plot will be shaded by several trees, so we will have to see how this affects the flax. Flax should be grown where there is full sun.

It's also going to be hard to stop the many off-leash dogs that are brought to this park from flattening the seedlings or lodging the flax plants. It will need a good fence around it. For now, until the soil and leaf mulch are delivered, yellow tape will have to suffice.

We have finally decided on a name for the project - The Urban Cloth Project. This takes into account the work that Urban Weaver has already done on the possibility of using invasive species like broom for cloth, the 'chiengora' from the grooming of the finer coated dogs in the local pound, and urban yarn harvesting. The latter is buying machine made sweaters from charity stores, unravelling them, plying the yarn and either reknitting or weaving with it to make new garments.