Following our Leith Wheat project in 2021 we wanted to use our limited space to again grow something unusual that would offer opportunities for workshops in our spaces as well as linking with other growers and organisations across Edinburgh and beyond. As a result we are going to grow flax in our Meanwhile Garden in 2022.
Why flax? Flax is a very useful plant; it’s seeds are incredibly good for us when prepared and cooked properly and its plant’s have wonderful fibrous qualities that allow it to be woven into linen. We want to use our space to explore how clothes have been made traditionally, how they are made now and how we can make more conscious choices about what we wear, what we buy and how we think about the fashion industry. Plus we will get linseeds later in the year!
This project will cover a range of workshops, a film showing, and will run over the summer and autumn 2022.
We began with a visit to a farm in East Lothian to learn about how you make clothes from flax, and Alva who manages the comms for Leith Community Growers wrote this about it-
The global textile and fashion industry has not only a track record of serious human and labour rights violations, but also an immense environmental impact. The linear model of global supply chains is a dramatic contributor to climate change. The textile industry is responsible for water pollution, landfill and eight to ten percent of global carbon emissions. The fast fashion industry is addicted to fossil fuels – about 70% of all produced garments are made from synthetic fibres and therefore hard-to-recycle. Pesticides used in conventional farming cause harm to farmers, locals, and the land. With this in mind, it is both exciting and inspiring to see a growing demand for sustainable fashion, circularity, and the slow fashion movement.
Rosie Bristow takes slow fashion to a whole other level, by growing her own clothes. She is currently writing her Master’s dissertation whilst building a soil-to-soil fabric supply network in the UK. For her dissertation project, Rosie has been heavily involved with fibre networks in the UK and has been up to some inspiring projects. She grew a hectare of flax with George Young at Fobbing Farm to produce yarn, spoke at the United Nations of Flax Webinar January 2021 and provided flax processing demonstrations at COP26 in Glasgow with the Landworkers’ Alliance.
Rosie’s dissertation explores small-scale processing equipment as the missing link between regenerative farming and sustainable fashion designers. She generously invited us to the Phantassie Farm in East Linton, where she worked as a vegetable farmer and now stores her flax and the processing equipment. We spent a stormy but wonderful Saturday there in late January, learning all about her Farm-to-Fashion project – luckily, the barn was partially sheltered, so we could hide from the wind.
Rosie has been building flax processing machines based on traditional designs. At the farm she taught us how to use her self-build steel roller breaker – which breaks up the stalks so the inner core can be scraped away – and a Rotor Heckler, to comb out the fibre, which we then spun into yarn and wove into a little textile sample. Weaving is quite a slow, mediative process that’s very contrary to the overwhelmingly fast and disconnected ways of today’s fashion and textile industry. Rosie’s workshop was such a beautiful way to reconnect with traditional practice and call to mind the connection between the garments we wear and the soil we live on. It was great to experience some of the processing stages and find out how flax transforms from a plant to a yarn. We are thankful to Rosie for sharing her knowledge with us and to everyone who joined the workshop.
After this, what else can we do but plant some flax at our lovey space at the Meanwhile Site this year and try to produce our own wee tea towel? We’re incredibly excited and cannot wait to sow the seeds!
Leith Community Growers
Lets grow a garment here!