September was harvest time for our flax crops and some of the guild members have decidedly green thumbs! Our biggest challenge was drying the stalks after harvesting during that wet month. But on Sept. 23 a group of us met in the studio to begin the process of turning our straw into fiber, The first step was rippling, which is a sweet term for pulling the seed pods off the stalks. Dave had constructed a rippling device from a block of wood and a palisade of long, heavy nails. The ends of the flax straw were dragged through this row of nails and the seed pods literally popped off — and flew in all directions! It was like mini-fireworks — without the fire!
The seed pods contain flax seeds that are released when the pods are crushed. These seeds aren’t really mature for growing next year’s flax, but they can be eaten or (better still) used to make a sizing for the linen thread when its woven.
The next step in the process is retting, which is the trickiest part of flax production. Some elected to ret in water, which is faster but quite odorous (think fresh dog poop!) while others are retting in the dew and rain, which can take as long as six weeks.
Once the retting is finished, either this fall or (more likely) in the spring, we will all get together with our retted flax straw and do the other steps for processing (braking, scrutching, and hackling). And probably have a potluck to celebrate!
If you have a flax crop and want it rippled, you can bring it to spinning group (second Saturday of every month) or leave it in the studio and we’ll ripple it for you. We’ll be happy to ret any flax that you don’t want to bother with — again, leave it in the studio and someone will take care of it!
You don’t have to have grown a crop to be a participant. We have plenty of flax to ret if you are interested. And once we start with the physical processing, the more who are working (or should we say playing?) the merrier!