Finally, I’ve managed to wish it up…a real, live heat wave! I couldn’t be happier; I’m really only comfortable about 6 days out of the year…today’s perfect!
Hot or cold, I’ve been a little preoccupied with linen lately. Today’s incarnation makes three for my linen pullover. I took some inspiration from this beautiful sweater from “Coastal Knits” (below is the Bayside Pullover by Hannah Fettig). Mine has a little motif that looks like corn or wheat. Really, I’m just working on the fit now. I’m using Quince & Co. Sparrow, which I love, but I’m hoping to make another in wool or a wool blend just to prove it can (and should!) be done.
Any idea how linen yarns for knitting and weaving are made? I was amazed at how labor intensive it is to extract the silky fibre. Linen is a bast fibre, which means the long, sinewy strands are wrapped around a sort of straw and encased in a stalk. Linen fibre comes from the area labelled ‘BF’ below.
Once the plants, whose carefully broadcast seeds are neither too close nor too far apart, have reached maturity, the entire plant is uprooted, bundled and placed to dry in the sun. Once dry, they are threshed to remove the seeds. Next, the retting, or ‘rotting’ process takes place during which the dry, outer stalk is removed by soaking in open baths or rotting in dew in the fields. Either way, I gather it’s a pretty stinky proposition.
The softened stalks are then dried and cured before they are broken and scutching knives are employed to remove remaining woody bits.
The silky fibre is then combed or heckled using a bed of nails which separates the fibers into long strands that can be spun. Can you imagine? Who was the first guy to say, “Um, yeah, I bet there’s some cool stuff inside that plant stalk…think I’ll work my butt off to get it outa there!” Thank goodness he did…look at this…I’ll sure never complain again about the cost!