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wellington womble

Growing Flax

I really fancy growing some flax for linen. I've got about a half of acre spare this year (it will be trees next year), but I won't want to be processing all of that by hand. Can you get it done in mini-mills like you can wool? Anyone know of any resources for planting and harvesting on a small scale, or what yields are likely? Any one actually tried it?
dpack

it grows as a random weed (historical survivor at a guess) round here so the grow part seems fairly certain

for half an acre i recon cultivation/harvest could be done with a lot of hand work and basic tools or bigger powered kit. by hand was done for a few thousand years but half an acre might take up rather too much time

no idea about growing the stuff or getting it processed, iirc it needs crushing and combing rather than carding like wool but there might be folk who do it.
Jam Lady

Doesn't flax need to be retted and then scutched or something, anyhow soaked in a pond to rot off the softer bits? Malodorous too.

Talk to a local historical museum and see if they'll contribute anything or if you photograph the process and take notes will they pay you to give a lecture.
sally_in_wales

funnily enough I recently bought a stook of flax to use when doing Neolithic demonstrations, Although retting, breaking, scutching etc is better for quantities and fine linen, its entirely possibly to process each stalk one at a time straight from the field after drying and get a perfectly acceptable quality of fibre for cordage and coarse linen without retting etc. Not sure I'd want to process half an acre that way, but did demonstrate it doesn't have to be as complex as we were all taught at school
wellington womble

Yep. Dried, Scutched, retted, heckled, something else I've forgotten, wet-spun, woven and dyed. And then made up, of course. You can see why I want to send it out.

Harvesting is straightforward, it turns out. One pulls it out of the ground. Simples. So growing and harvesting is fairly doable. Getting the stuff processed, less so.
sally_in_wales

You could plan to sell it direct in smallish batches to the reenactment and museum display world or to fibre people wanting to have a go. I paid 12 for my recent stook
Mistress Rose

Not sure how much half an acre would grow, but the main problem I see is getting it retted. I have tried, unsuccessfully, with nettles dew retting, but that is all. The rest should be possible by hand, but might take a little time.
dpack

when i have retted stuff for making paper i found a bucket and time were effective. it is smelly but hosing the bundles(just a single tie to keep the plants in line) removes most of the gunk and smell.
for half an acre you would need a big bucket, a builders bulk delivery sack and a pond might be best so long as you can lift the thing in and out with a machine or block and tackle rig.

crushing can be done many ways ,a mangle might be a place to start.

combing can be done using spikes in a bit of wood but for larger amounts i seem to recall a revolving spiked roller and pulling bundles backwards against the turn does the job. take care experimenting with that as such a rig could grab a hand or sleeve .
wellington womble

I have no intention of processing it myself. At least not on that scale. I might be up to a tea towel, but it would take me years to spin and weave a bed sheet, let alone the rest of it. I was hoping you could send it off and get cloth back. Like people do with wool. I'm not finding anything. I might plant sunflowers instead.
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