The Cleveland Flax Project
Midwesterners know about wool… but when it comes to cellulose fiber, “Isn’t flax something you eat?”
Yup! But that’s not all. Flax is also LINEN! That’s right. Those gorgeous linen table cloths and napkins and T-shirts and summer dresses. Those all originated from some farmer growing FLAX!
As we explain fibershed to a wide variety of folks in our region, they are commonly unfamiliar with the concept of fiber as something that is grown. As we continue to spotlight the beautiful protein fibers of alpaca, sheep, goat, and rabbit fiber farmers in our area, there’s an excellent opportunity for this community to concretely see fiber from seed to skin through a flax-to-linen project such as this. The community will be involved with soil prep, planting, harvesting, processing, and workshops led by spinners and weavers from our local guilds to weave the fiber into a community cloth. The cloth will be a concrete tool to further educate the importance of “materialism” in the sense of being connected to the materials we use and their origins, as well as establish a baseline of data for appropriate seed varieties, generating interest amongst farmers, other producers,and funders, and the potential of full-scale, regenerative flax industry in the future of this fibershed.
Currently, there is no commercial bast fiber being grown in our fibershed. Our region is ripe with alpaca and other protein-based fibers, which provide a great clothing option in the cooler months, but our region also has warm summers where local linen would provide a light-weight option that takes up natural dyes well. We have talked with designers who are interested in partnering with producers and product chains to produce garments made from alpaca fiber and sheep’s wool, but they are equally interested in working with linen.
So, in order to create a space where people can connect with the origin of their clothing, we have partnered with Frayed Knot Farm to grow 1/5 acre of flax!
We have the following goals for The Cleveland Flax Project:
To increase awareness and community involvement of the soil-to-skin textile process in our bioregion
To collect data for seed varieties, cultivation techniques, and soil improvement to begin exploring the cultivation of flax in this region
To gain attention of partner organizations whose expertise would be valuable, such as universities, agricultural organizations, and corporations
To gauge the interest of farmers, fiber processors, makers, and other entrepreneurs in the potential for local flax.
What if textiles could be the next steel in our Rust Belt Region? It’s not impossible. But we need something concrete, such as a piece of hand-woven flax that was grown here, to add to our wool collection to show possibility of regional fiber. We also recognize that as a supplemental benefit to this project, individuals may at minimum consider the origin of the clothing they already own and quite possibly consider the ethical and human rights concerns of the fast fashion industry.
Stay up to date with FIELD DAYS for the Cleveland Flax Project- where EVERYONE and ANYONE is invited!