Posts Tagged ‘fibre flax’

P1000692The flax in my community garden plot is growing nicely. It’s blooming and just starting to show some yellow in the stalks and some seed heads. The soil here is loose and very nice to work with – weeds pull out easily.

When the flax was about a foot tall, I added some string that criss-crosses the patch at a foot or so above the ground, to try and keep it from falling over in high winds. It seems to have helped, as we’ve had a few storms and it’s still standing.

The seed was planted on May 24th, so it should be ready to harvest in a few more weeks. Once there’s more yellow on the stalks, it’s probably ready to pull.

Here’s hoping we have a nice sunny spell when it’s ready to be dried.


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This is the fifth day that my bundle of flax has been soaking in a styrofoam box lined with plastic sheeting.

There hasn’t been a great deal of foam or sludge or anything on top of the retting box, and the water doesn’t feel slimy, although it’s now a darker brown. I think this is due to the fairly low temperature of the water, which is cooling off each night.

As there doesn’t seem to be any biological activity, I haven’t started to add any fresh water.

The process is going to take longer than I first expected, but perhaps this is a good thing as it’s the first time I’ve tried it. The flax straw doesn’t feel any different yet, so I’m not sure it’s even reached the end of the developmental stage.

The day lilies nearby are starting to put on a show, so I’ve included a picture of them for interest.

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This year’s flax crop is just starting to bloom, so it seems like a good time to start experimenting with processing last year’s crop. I used the seeds saved from last year to grow this year’s crop, and the germination rate was good, so I’ll do the same this year. When harvesting for fibre, the flax should be pulled while many of the seeds are still immature, but I’ve read that leaving them on the plants after pulling will allow more of them to ripen. Last year, I didn’t remove the seeds until several months had passed after pulling the flax and drying it. Since then, the flax straw has been stored in an open bag and is nice and dry but not at all brittle. I’m following the directions for retting found in “Flax Culture” by Mavis Atton, 1988, The Ginger Press, ISBN 0-921773-06-4.

This first batch is being processed using the water retting method (rather than dew retting) and I’ve taken about a third of my bundle (crop) to use. I found a styrofoam box that was almost long enough to hold the flax, and only had the bend the ends over a little bit. Plastic sheeting was used the line the box, in case of any leaks.

Step One – Leaching Stage: Water from the hose (cold) was used to fill the box and the flax was soaked for about four hours. A couple of bricks were used to hold the flax straw under the surface. The soak water turned a nice yellow shade, so it was apparently doing its job and mixing with the water soluble materials on the flax straw.

Step Two – Developmental Stage: The box was drained and again filled with fresh water from the hose. It’s a warm, humid day, so the water temperature should rise in the box fairly rapidly. The best water temperature is 27 C or 80 F, so it will be a challenge keeping it this warm over night, or if it rains…

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The extremely heavy rain last night has left everything in the dye garden looking a little worse for wear, but the flax seedlings look fine. It looks like there will be enough plants to cover the plot and discourage weeds (I’m hoping).

Flax Seedlings

In the lawn the violets have been joined by forget-me-nots, and the lilacs and lily of the valley are both making the air fragrant.

Dill and cilantro have seeded themselves and the second planting of peas have appeared as well.

Time to think about planting the rest of the garden…

Lily of the Valley

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Yellow Bedstraw

We’re expecting rain this afternoon and it’s been overcast, so I planted some of the dye plants that were started indoors and spread the flax seed in the garden.

The easiest dye plant to grow was the madder, but all the others did well too. Now out in the garden are madder, woad, weld, golden marguerite, dyer’s knotweed (aka Japanese Indigo) and yellow bedstraw.

I’ve kept back half of the dye plant seedlings just in case we have a late frost or a cutworm infestation.

The space allotted to the dye-plants is about 2 square meters, with another 2 meters or so for the flax. In order to increase the number of dye plants, I may tuck some into the flower borders.


Meanwhile, the lawn is sporting a nice crop of violets  and dandelions and the crab apples are just starting to bloom.

Crabapple Blossoms

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