I recently moved to a new area and now have access to land, which has enabled me to do a trial with growing flax. As a sustainable clothing designer, growing fibre is a definitive step towards uncoupling from the mainstream fashion machine that is the world’s third biggest polluting industry (Mohsin, 2021).
I began with attending Flaxland’s excellent workshop that takes one through the history, processing and spinning of flax fibre. At Flaxland, I learnt there are multiple ways in which flax can be used; stalk waste (shiff) from fibre growing can be used as animal bedding or in plaster boards. Bio-composites using flax can be employed in the car industry. Simon from Flaxland, used to make boats that were covered in flax and waterproofed with flax resin. I understand that flax was also used for covering early aeroplanes that were constructed from wood (Burns, 2018). All in all, this is a wonderful plant.
To obtain the fibre, you need to perform ‘scutching’ (to remove the outer layer or shive) and ‘hackling’ (combing off the shive), which reveals silky fibre that feels soft to touch. This can be done by hand but is very time consuming. For volume production, Flaxland sell a hand-made wooden unit that processes the fibre, containing a scutching knife and hackling tool.
For A Visible THREAD, I shall be using flax fibre in two ways, the first is embellishing and the second finger weaving (which will require a lot of practice spinning). Having just completed my PhD, I am looking forward to a stretch of nurturing the flax and enjoying the making process.
Further images of the growing of flax will be found at foragedcolour.org over the coming weeks.