This year, my second year of experimenting with growing and processing flax for linen, I had four good sized beds of flax growing. I planted the first two early in the season and they finished up nicely. There was enough time in the season for them to sufficiently dry, get rippled
and wet retted
. They are now tied up into a couple of dozen stricks for use in my “Flax to Linen” workshop that I hope to have at FibresWest 2014.
The other two beds presented different challenges.They were started later in the season and by the time they were ready to be harvested — had finished their blooming, the rains had come in. The rain makes it difficult for anything to dry, but it also causes the plant to fall over. When it falls over, it bends. I have learned that this “bend” is not a characteristic that you want your drying/retting flax to have.
I haven’t been able to sufficiently dry these last two beds of flax, so the rippling didn’t happen. In fact, I got busy and lost track of them, so on the ground they went. Not a bad thing as you will see.
What’s below is the flax from the very last bed dew retting on the ground right on the lawn. It’s been raining a lot and next week we are rumoured to be hosting some below zero temperatures. Let’s see how flax likes that.
You can see why dew retting creates a grayish linen. The molds that melt the pectin covering away stain it.
Below is batch #3. It’s a hybrid of dew retting at the beginning and most recently, wet retting. Even though the dew retting was coming along fine and I was starting to see the flax fibres being released, it was slimy and I wanted that gone.
So I tossed it back into the wet retting pool. It’s been cold so the retting is going slowly. There is no foaming and swamp smell like I got with the earlier wet retting.
The constant rain keeps the water fresh. My challenge with this is how to dry it? I’ll have to take it out soon and put it onto drying racks that will sit in my greenhouse over the winter. Won’t dry much, but at least won’t get wetter.
Life in the valley is good. I have space to do these kinds of experiments, not sure how I’d so that if I lived in town.