Breaking, scutching, heckling and then lying down

Breaking, scutching, heckling and then lying down

We had our first Grow a London Garment workshop yesterday at Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses.  It was a beautiful day so we moved a couple of tables outside and set up our new breaking/heckling machine.  We also improvised breaking the stalks with mallets, meat tenderisers and bits of wood but, after experimenting in many ways, found that the machine did the job better and in much less time. Of course.  If you’ve ever read Ridley Walker or other post catastrophe fiction, it felt a bit like that: trying to learn something from fragments of a greater knowledge lost to us but so familiar to our forebears.  Quite soon we had a jumble of cake, tea, a variety of combs, drop spindles, bits of wood – and our precious tow and line on our tables.  Diane Sullock showed us how to use the drop spindles so that we could spin some rough thread.  And a further joy was that passers by could watch us – and join in.  We might even have got some converts.

So we companionably turned the flax into spinning gold and then Aaron-the-spinner turned up – a kind of cavalier in cowboy boots – to put the wheel together and… spin.  Turned out we ran out of time (a kind of Cinderella scenario with the meter on the hire car running out) but he’s taken our skeins away with him to spin his magic at home.

To quote from Zoe’s email this morning, “I read from Making is Connecting by David Gauntlett yesterday …’collaboration and social projects are good for happiness’ – so true!  It was quite tiring though.

Next workshop: 11th October at the London College of Fashion, Mare St.

Zoe Burt introducing the project.
Zoe Burt introducing the project.
Scutching Standing up.
Scutching Standing up.
Scutching sitting down.
Scutching sitting down.
Scutching anyhow.
Scutching anyhow.
These children were passing by and had a go at breaking.
These children were passing by and had a go at breaking.
Aaron, the spinner.
Aaron, the spinner.
Diane Sullock showed us how to use the drop spindle.
Diane Sullock showed us how to use the drop spindle.
This shows the variability of the (almost) finished product.  The colour depends on how it was retted and how long it's had to dry.
This shows the variability of the (almost) finished product. The colour depends on how it was retted and how long it’s had to dry.
Advertisements

Rippling, retting and then lying down

Rippling, retting and then lying down

There’s been a gradual swelling of interest in the Flax Project (I’ve just worked out hash tags so you can go to @growagarment on Twitter and search for #seedtoseam) thanks partly to Twitter but also to some enthusiastic gardeners. One in particular, Cassie Liversidge, is a school gardener at a number of Tower Hamlets and Hackney primary schools.  They’ve grown some flax and Cassie invited me and Nat from the garden to help them ripple and ret.  Four classes.  It sounds simple and calm, easy to say, but we worked out we rippled and retted with 90 children in a morning.  They ranged from the very excited to the quite cool and serious, most of the boys very eager to get to the bashing bit (the breaking that we’ll be doing on our next visit).  It was as much a learning process for us (working out how to organise groups of 24 and one medium-sized bunch of flax).  I took along some linen that my granny was given for her wedding in 1916 and we compared that with the cotton that most of the children were wearing and wondered whether our garment would last 100 years.  Let’s hope.  After sorting, rippling and retting with 90 kids, Nat and I needed a bit of a lie down. How do teachers do it?

We’re gearing up for our big community workshops, too.  The first one in two weeks in Brockwell Park and then on 11th October in Hackney.  I think it might just work (fingers crossed).

Cassie, the gardener at Chisenhale School instructing the class on the flax process.
Cassie, the gardener at Chisenhale School instructing the class on the flax process.
Sorting the seeds after rippling.
Sorting the seeds after rippling.
Retting the flax at Chisenhale School
Retting the flax at Chisenhale School
Retting at Chisenhale
Retting at Chisenhale