Textile Design Flax Harvest

Textile Design undergraduate and graduate students had their first immersive field trip of the 2022/2023 academic year on August 26th to Kneehigh Farm outside Pottstown, PA. The farm was a lovely, lush palette of produce and flowers—peppers, sun hemp, sunflowers, okra, flax, and many more plantings.  The farm is a women-owned and operated produce farm, where flax is grown in collaboration with the PA Flax Project.

The Pa. Flax Project aims to revitalize the flax for linen industry in our region to benefit both urban and rural communities by:

  • Creating an industry built on the principles of radical inclusion, environmental stewardship and social justice.
  • Creating clean jobs across the industries of farming, milling, weaving, cut and sew manufacturing.

Our host for the day was Heidi Barr, a partner in the PA Flax Project, which is working to reinvigorate flax in the Pennsylvania region. Despite the rather warm day, everyone jumped into the work and helped to harvest the flax—pulling it up by hand, roots and all.  While we worked, Heidi shared her vast knowledge of flax and regional opportunities.

Not sure what flax is? Hint, it’s not our favorite teacher and colleague, Becky. Rather, the flax mentioned here is the plant from which linen fiber is derived.  While growing, flax looks like tall, unruly grass. It’s harvested by pulling up by the roots rather than cutting. After harvesting, the flax is laid back onto the ground for approximately two weeks of dew-retting to prepare it for the next step in fiber processing. Dew-retting is the natural process of letting the inner stalk rot away, leaving the outer fibers intact. After that, the fibers enter the breaking, scutching, and hackling processes, and soon it’s ready to be spun into yarn.

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