Garment Growing in London

We’ve always been pretty ambitious at the garden – taking  on the building of a pallet shed by (generally inept) hand, growing natural dyes in deeply urban Hackney and putting on a Country Show without ever having done anything like it before and involving more than a hundred veg, preserve and cake entries.  The shed lost a bit of its roof in the storms (it blew off and parts of it, we assume, flown to another borough as we can’t find it.  It’s leaking badly now and I’ve done the temporary measure of using Blutak to plug a couple of holes) and we have other maintenance problems but we carry on and as it feels like spring, even though it shouldn’t, we’re waking up to the new growing year with new ideas.

We’ve grown small patches of flax over the last two years and even managed to make some string this time last year  (see String, to quote Spike Milligan, is a Very Important Thing).  This year we’re thinking even bigger and I’ve been delving into our gardening networks to get people to grow a little patch of flax so that we can grow a London garment.  We’re doing this in collaboration with Zoe Burt and her project www.seedsoffashion.  The college is interested, our Permaculture friends want to get involved and I have the feeling that the idea is going to take off.  So if you are reading this, live within the M25 and have a small place or even a pot where you can grow flax, get in touch with Cordwainers or Zoe and have a go!  We’ll all come together to process the stalks to turn into fibre in the autumn.  We might even have enough for a uniform!

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4 thoughts on “Garment Growing in London

  1. Hi,
    Great to hear about your flax projects!Well done!
    I have also grown flax in our garden here, retted it and then processed it into yarn. I am lucky as I have an Irish flax wheel.
    I word of caution: Flax dust (at any stage of the processing or spinning) is bad for the lungs. Men processing flax in the mills used to get brown lungs…
    I have some photos if you are interested.

    Anne-Marie Moroney

    1. How amazing that you’ve got a flax wheel – and can use it! I found, doing all the workshops, my lungs really began to suffer so it must have been awful doing it day after day. I’d love to see the photos. Could I put them on the blog?

      1. Hi, re Flax pictures: How could I send them to you? Could I send them to you by email? I am not on Facebook, got too much stuff I did not want to get. – Yes, you could put them on the blog, if you like.

        This year I am growing Fullers Teasels. The ones I planted in the ground will be huge, the ones in pots smaller. They are beginning to grow the spiky heads, but have not flowered yet. This plant has fierce spikes on the under and upper side of the big leaves. – The dried heard were mounted on a wooden frame and were used to raise the nap on woolen cloth to make it softer. Sometimes this was shorn shorter and gave quite a hard wearing cloth.

      2. My email is and I’d love any pictures of what you’re experimenting with and maybe a picture of where you are (rural? urban?) to put it in context. Maybe you could also tell me a bit about your background and why you are interested in flax – and teasels (I want to grow them now – though I’m by no means a spinner or weaver). I can put a little profile of you with the pictures. Sounds like you know a lot about all sorts of fibres and traditional methods. Really interesting. Very wise not to be on Facebook.

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