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I was in the Wool Emporium ordering my spinning wheel and Glenda mentioned that some people are growing flax in Saskatchewan for fibre already, and all they do to ret it is cut it down and let it sit under the snow over the winter.
That sounds like it can be accomplished. I was a little worried about how it would work before, but laying it on the ground and letting it rot is something I think I can do.
Note: retting is when you let the stalks rot a little, so the soft part of the stem is gone, which frees the long fibres, which make up the linen.
She also says that spinning flax on a spinning wheel is easy.
I have just finished reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber; it was wonderful and transported me through time to see the work all those women did making things to make their lives a little more beautiful. It appears to be out of print, but I was able to order a copy from ABE Books without difficulty.
I loved the descriptions of making linen and wool, and I have come up with the brilliant idea of growing flax in the backyard.
Sure, it may not look like much now, but I will dig it and plant my flax and grow it and ret it and spin it. I anticipate that the flax I grow will not be good for “clothing,” but I can always knit a table cloth or a rug or something from it.
I need to dig the garden soon as the weeds are already growing. You see, last year I let it go “fallow” so there may be a bit of a battle to get this started, but I think it is a wonderful, if somewhat eccentric, idea. I have looked up the Flax Council of Canada’s website and they advise the farmers to plant it in the middle of May, and I plan to do the same.
I’ll keep you posted.