We had a wonderful start to the flax harvest this year on Saturday 19th August, as we welcomed people to the farm as part of the Mourne Textiles #fibretofabric crowdfunder campaign. The campaign aims to promote sustainable fabric production here on the Island of Ireland, by creating a field-to-fabric circular supply chain. The focus is on producing environmentally friendly fabrics grown and processed locally. We offered two open days on the farm as rewards for the crowdfunder. The first was "The Wee Blue Blossom Day" in July, and people came to see the flax field in bloom. Our second open day marked the start of our harvest. It was a tense few days in the run up, as weather looked dreadful! After a wet and windy start to the day, the rain eventually cleared and we had a fantastic afternoon in the flax field together. We showed people round the scutching mill and discussed the processes involved in transforming flax to linen.
Every year we learn more about the techniques and processes involved in growing flax. Some tips come from old films and books, others from people who visit us and kindly share their knowledge and experience with us. Before sowing this year, we had read in an old book about flax from Courtrai that was planted at a much higher seeding rate than was common practice in Ireland. The reason for doing this was that it would grow taller and finer, but then there would be the danger that it might "lodge" (fall over). The solution was to put frames around it to hold it up. We've taken inspiration from this and set up a grid system of ropes through the flax.
It seems to have survived the recent ravages of Storm Betty very nicely. Any flax that had fallen has lifted again.
Lastly, if you are in Northern Ireland, please check out the fantastic programme of events from the Linen Biennale NI 2023.