On growing linen for the first time!

At the start of this year I decided to try growing my own linen after listening to Rebbecca Burgess’ book Fibreshed while I was working on my patchwork.

Learning about the Fibreshed movement really got me thinking about where fabric comes from and what I could do to learn more and share this with others.

I realised that I could actually grow my own fibre on our allotment!

Which seeds?

I searched online for linen flax seeds and learnt that there are two types of flax. One is better for producing flax seeds (which are used for making linseed oil or for eating) and the other produces a taller plant and makes good fibre. 

I bought some flax seeds from www.wildfibres.

I was very excited when they arrived on 25th January!

When to sow?

I then waited until after the middle of March, prepared a patch on the allotment and sowed the seeds!

Within two weeks they had germinated and by the end of April the little plants were about 3 inches high.

A month later and they were tall, gorgeously lush green plants.

In early June they produced beautiful blue flowers and by the end of June the seed heads were formed.

Harvest time

Linen plants are considered to take around 100 days from sowing to harvesting. In the middle of July I harvested them and tied them up into 4 bundles (apparently these are called ‘beets’).

I leaned them up against the fence to dry. At this point, we had a heatwave so they soon dried out.

I then smashed up the seed heads with a block of wood and captured the seeds in a sheet.

Once all the husks were blown away, I succeeded in harvesting around 200gms of my own seeds!

Then what?

Once the plants are harvested and the seeds gathered, the plant fibres are ‘retted’.

Retting is where you break down the pectin which is glueing the flax fibres together.

There are two ways to do this – water retting and dew retting. 

It was so hot and dry that I wasn’t convinced about dew retting and as I had a tall enough water butt I put all the bundles into the water and covered them with a board.

After about 3 days I returned to the allotment and removed the board to discover the most extraordinary almost sweet smell! Wasps and flies were buzzing around excitedly.

It was quite an event!

I removed the plants from the water and lay them out to dry because I didn’t want to risk retting them too much and actually rotting them. Apparently this can happen!

So this is where I have got to so far.

Next: I must learn to ‘break’ the flax and then spin it…

To be continued!

Art Lady features in University of Brighton entrepreneur magazine!

Yes: wouldn’t that be wonderful: Dedicated art and craft studio spaces in sheltered housing and in fact all communal housing?

Why not? 🤔

“Lets get to work!”

British Doctors May Soon Prescribe Art, Music, Dance, Singing Lessons | Smart News | Smithsonian

Campaign is expected to launch across the entire U.K. by 2023
— Read on www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/british-doctors-may-soon-prescribe-art-music-dance-singing-lessons-180970750/

Some of the parts…

I play many parts in my role as an inclusive artist. These are some moments I experienced recently that reminded me of the constantly shifting roles I play at the ‘pop-up studio’ (and back in the ‘art cave’!)

News update from the art cave…

Can’t believe a month has gone by since I last posted! I’ve been hard at it taking the Art Lady pop-up studio on the road for creative art workshops.

Here are some pictures of the wonderful work made at some of the sessions…

…and I was thrilled to learn a new technique from a visitor to the pop-up studio table at Robert Lodge in Whitehawk last week…

We’re in the paper!

Yes indeed!

Charlotte Harding has written this wonderful article in The Brighton and Hove Independent about our art group!

If you’re in Brighton or Hove this week you can pick up a copy in the library and some shops (I think Hisbes might be one?)

‘Still’ life?

I’ve just started exploring animation (or is this stop motion?🤔)

Anyway here’s one of my first attempts. It’s great fun but takes ages to execute!

I got thinking about the whole moving picture thing… more like life which is forever changing in spite of our attempts to nail it down!

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