Flax for Textiles, Oil, Nutrition and Paper

  • Post published:07/30/2012
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Rory with snake

Rory had to go home to reorganize for Boy Scout camp, but not before he caught this snake in the garden. He has such sharp eyes. I’ve seen a lot of snakes this summer, but none as pretty as this one.

Rory harvesting garlic

We keep Rory pretty busy with travels and projects – and chores. He began the garlic harvest and I finished today.

Rory the baker

Time with Granny and The Major is never complete without a couple of stints in the kitchen. Rory’s specialite de maison is Saumon en Papillote, but its always fun to make a few pans of  sugar cookies.

Flax growing at Historic Deerfield

One day The Major, Rory and I coaxed granddaughter Tricia to come with us to Historic Deerfield. We got a great tour of  the Wells-Thorne house, and a brief tour of the Stebbins house where I  worked as a tour guide for a few months in 1972. Or thereabouts. We went to the History Workshop where we saw flax growing.  We got to see how it got from being a plant in the soil, to fiber that could be used for weaving, sewing, rope, and paper.

Harvested flax

The second step is to harvest the flax.

Flax retting

Then the flax has to be  soaked in water for at least two weeks. This is called ‘retting’ which essentially means rotting, to loosen the outer fibers.

The retted flax then has to be dried. It is now ready for the work that gets done indoors. This display includes the equipment to ‘brake’ or break down those outer fibers, then ‘hetcheling’ which is kind of like carding wool,  to release the long flax fibers – known to us all as linen.

We are all familiar with linen tablecloths, towels, and clothes, but did you realized that linseed oil is from flax? And nowadays flax seed is recognized for its great nutritional value because it contains a high level of Omega-3.

The beginning of linen paper

The hands-on project  that is organized for visitors this summer is paper-making, using tow, the shorter pieces of flax fiber. Historic Deerfield Museum staff was on hand with all the supplies needed to help us make our own paper. Here Tricia has perfectly filled her frame with tow.

Tricia and Rory making linen paper

Tricia is taking the next step while Rory gets started.

Drying the paper

The  job begins with wet tow, which has to be dried. It took three blue towels to get out as much water as possible.

Removing the paper from the frame

Then the wet paper is knocked out of the frame. It only took a little encouragement.

Rory 'scutching'

It needs further drying. This step is called ‘scutching’  Afterwards the paper is laid out on trays to dry. Visitors who come the following day will get to use this handmade paper to make a little journal. We made our journals out of paper made the day before. A fair exchange all around.

This project will be continuing until August 30.  Historic Deerfield is a great place to take children. And adults.

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