Growing My Clothing: The Beginning

There have been many books that have spoken to me on such an immediate and profound level that I have literally wanted to jump out of my chair and immediately get to work! One of those such books is Fibershed by Rebecca Burgess. I talk a bit about this book in my recently blog post -- Books on Sustainability -- and have read through it fully twice. 

A straight on image of a book laying against a dark wood floor. The title of the book is along the left side and reads "Fibershed" in white letters against a grey background. On the center of the cover is a white woman holding a variety of hand knit and woven fabrics with her head peeking up. Above her head reads " Growing a movement of farmers, fashion activists, and makers for a new textile economy." At the bottom of the cover it reads "Rebecca Burgess with Courtney White" in white lettering

The first time I read through it, I immediately began researching the types of fibers I could produce in my own backyard. I researched goats and rabbits and cotton (of course) and hemp and linen and various weeds that could be made into fiber. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I felt completely overwhelmed by all the choices and possibilities. 

I also quickly discovered that certain items weren't legal for me to grow without special permits (cotton and hemp), and others just weren't feasible considering the current plot of land I have / time I can dedicate to such tasks (goats and rabbits). Linen was still an option, even after all of the others fell out of favor. But by the time I had arrived to this conclusion, I was already feeling burnt out and on edge. So I tabled the idea for nearly a year, opting to support local farmers for some of my fiber needs. 

It wasn't until I saw Kate from @in_a_haystack begin her own journey into growing fibers for cloth that I began to feel that inspiration creeping back into my mind. What once seemed overwhelming and too challenging to take on by myself started to feel like a possibility! I just needed to break it down, step-by-step, and only worry about what was directly in front of me.  

And so it officially begins!

I have taken the leap and purchased some seeds specifically for growing linen! I have started the beds and planted the seeds in each. They are currently covered with netting to prevent the squirrels from getting in to them and harming the tender seedlings as they begin to emerge. And of course I wander out to the beds to check on them every day, seeing if the first sprouts have begun to peek up through the soil. 

A super close up of green flax seedlings poking their heads up through a thin layer of brown wood chipped mulch. Hint: They HAVE!!

I am both excited and terrified and mesmerized and thinking this was a wild idea and totally enamored with what this entire project might mean. I keep telling myself that this is just an experiment, and it's totally ok if it doesn't pan out. But at the same time, I find myself worrying over the little flax plants that don't yet exist, asking myself questions like: Will these seedlings ever sprout? Is the rain the next few days going to drown them? Will the flax plants thrive? Will I be running through beautiful flowers soon? Is it going to get too hot in just a few months time? Did I plant them too early? Or too late? 

I know that worrying will do me no good. The wheels have already been set into motion, and now all I can do is wait for them to begin to grow! I hope that you all enjoy taking this journey with me. By the end, it would be so cool to have cloth that was grown and spun and woven by my own two hands. And to truly discover just how much goes in to producing the cloth we use as sewists. 

If anything happens, I do believe that my relationship with fabric will fundamentally be altered. That is an incredibly exciting concept, don't you think?

2 comments

Brittani Bumb

Hi Anne!
I can’t remember where I purchased my seeds from (I have the receipt somewhere…), but I do know that I purchased Linum usitatissimum which is the Flax plant specifically used for growing fibers and is said to get to be 3-4 feet tall! You can also grow this specific Flax for it’s seeds, but there are also other plants that produce seeds that you can consume (like those from the grocery store!)

The reason my plants are so short seems to have more to do with a combo of our weather + the location I picked for the plants. They do not receive Full Sun (more like 3-4 hours max) and I saw that it’s better for my location to grow Flax in the Fall when the weather is more temperate. Whoops! Luckily this was just a test plot and I am learning from this season of growth :)

Anne

I’m probably wrong, but where did you get your flax seeds? Flax plants that are grown for seeds, not for linen, probably are much shorter; why waste the plant’s energy on growing tall if there’s no benefit?

Wheat, for example, used to be much taller than it is now, for the same reason.

Good luck – sounds fun!

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