On the weekend I pulled the test flax out of the retting water. This was the small batch that I put in there because I had a hunch that it hadn’t retted enough. It’s hard to know exactly when it’s ready for the next stage, so test bundles are a good way to go.
I am not usually this cautious about things, but one of the sources I read about retting gave a stern warning about the process. It stated that wet retting happens really fast (compared to the three to five months for dew retting, I guess anything less is fast) and if you leave it too long it will weaken your linen fibres. After all this work, I am not willing to let that happen. So I did a wee test with a small bundles of fibre.
Last Saturday was a hot and dry day and the twice retted flax dried quickly. By the end of the day I couldn’t resist playing with it. I scrunched it up a bit and the brittle straw fibres broke and fell out, for the most part letting go of the linen in the process. I was so encouraged by this that after a short while I ended up pushing a wee bundle of the sample stuff through the next few stages. Here’s the result.
It’s not exactly spin-ready, but it’s darned close.
These two photos show the long fibres, you can see bits of the straw still embedded in there. This linen is fibres from the entire length of the plant. As far as I can understand the flax/linen industry, this is Prime.
This next photo is the long fibres on the top and below are the shorter fibres I pulled from the comb. They are finer and shorter, about 4 inches on average, with less straw in them. I can’t imagine that they are less than Prime, but it seems to be graded according to length. We’ll see about that.
Below is the waste linen that was left over after combing the linen. I tried to clean out the debris by hand carding it, and got a great deal of it out, but it still full of straw and other random bits. After all this work I just couldn’t throw this away. I am sure it will have a use. Paper, noily bits in a wool batt. Who knows?
I am just so excited because it worked. I still have a lot of work to do — I can barely stand to think about it. But this journey of discovery has been so satisfying thus far. I don’t know how much fibre my wee field of flax will eventually yield, but it will be the most adored washcloth I have ever used.
Ann, I will bring these samples with me to Kamloops and show you first hand what I’ve done.