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Growing and Harvesting European Linen for the 2023-2024 Season

Hello friends,

As a crafter and a gardener, I like to combine my hobbies in interesting ways. In this case it was growing and harvesting European flax (Linum usitatissimum) in order to prepare some linen for spinning and weaving.

Back when we lived in Wellington I bought some Essene European flax seed (Linum usitatissimum) from Koanga Gardens. In the first year I sowed half the seed packet into a 1 m x 2 m space, and grew the linen plants mainly for producing seeds, so in years afterward I could grow even more flax for linen. My linen harvests thereafter would be self-sustaining. I now grow linen every couple of years for collecting seeds, and stockpiling flax stalks for making linen.

This blog post is showing the process of growing linen from seed sowing to harvesting. In later blog posts I'll share as I go through the flax processing and then spinning and weaving it.

The first thing I did was buy the book "Homegrown Linen: Transforming flax seed into Fiber." by Raven Ranson. This book is very detailed, and shows all the necessary steps in growing homegrown flax for linen. I then used it to calculate how to grow it in New Zealand seasons.

The first step in growing flax seed is deciding when to sow the seed. Flax seed is sown in spring when oats and barley are sown, and in our case it was in mid-October. If flax is grown for linen then the seeds are grown very close together so that long tall stalks are produced, but if flax are grown for seeds, they are planted further apart to allow for branching and more flower production.

After weeding the patch of ground it was to go into in spring last year, I fertilized it with a high nitrogen fertilizer in the form of sheep pellets, and then prepared the soil to a fine tilth. I then sowed the flax seed in a broadcast fashion very close together, so that the linen plants would grow very tall, with little to no branching. After covering the seeds over with a fine layer of soil using a rake, I watered the seeds in, and then covered the crop with bird netting to protect the seeds from the local very hungry avians. It takes approximately 100 days from seed sowing until plant harvest, so this was classed as day 0.

Within a few days of watering each day, the flax seedlings began to appear. It is always very exciting to see them come up.

And within a week, the seedlings were actively reaching for the sky. In the photo below I was growing the linen plants for seed, but as you can see, I spread them a little too far apart.

Once the flax starts growing, it basically fends for itself. If sown very close together no weeds will grow, making it an easy crop to take care of, as long as it gets enough water. And once the flax reaches about 50 cm tall, it begins flowering at around day 60. The beautiful blue flowers open during the day, and close again at night. And now that the plants are tall, they sway very prettily in the breeze.

Flowering and setting seed boils takes around a month. One of our neighbourhood cats, who we call Patches, decided to make their snoozing spot inside the linen crop. No matter how many times I tried to shoo them away, they kept coming back, so I let them be. It's a good thing they're cute because they ended up squishing a bunch of linen...

Once the seed heads (boils) have set, now is the time to think about when to harvest. It's a good idea to set aside a section of your crop to let the boils (seed heads) mature and turn brown, which means they are then ready to harvest for next years seeds. Their plant parts will be dry and thick and yellow, and they won't make good linen.

The rest of your crop will be used for producing linen. When the bottom half the plant has turned golden, it is time to harvest the plants. The seed heads will not usually be viable for collecting seed, but I've found in the past that some of them can be.

The best way to harvest linen is to pull them out by hand in clumps. Lay the harvested linen plants out on the grass, all facing the same way, with the roots at one end, and the boils at the other. Once you've harvested all the linen plants, it's time to stook the plants, which means creating bunches of sheafs, and then tying them in the middle like the poles of a teepee. You want air to get up into the middle of the sheaf to dry it out. Place the sheafs upright with the roots at the bottom and let them dry in the sun on sunny days.


Once the linen plant sheafs are dry you can store them until you want to begin processing your linen. The next step is processing my current linen crop, and this will occur in a couple of weeks after autumn starts...

Have you ever tried experimental gardening? I've done this in the past with growing wheat, and it's very interesting to see how food and fibers are processed. It makes you appreciate how complicated food and textile production is.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky

A Home For My Stickers using My Cottagecore Apothecary Jars

Hello friends,

You know how sometimes you fall in love with something you've seen, and you need to buy them all, and in all the sizes available, but then when you get home you're not entirely sure what to do with them, yeah well that's me with the many apothecary jars I bought about ten years ago.

Back when we were living in Wellington, I saw the apothecary jars during one of my many visits to Pete's Emporium in Porirua, and I knew straight away I needed them in my life. But then when I got them home I wasn't entirely sure what to do with them. Over the years I've filled them with various different things, including dried herbs and flowers, and Christmas decorations, but it never seemed to be the right thing, so I gave up and put them away in storage.

But while I was renovating my craft room I found a pile of them in a cupboard, and thought now was the perfect time to use them. And I finally found their new home with my huge stationery sticker collection. You see I also have a problem with buying and not using stickers, especially because I put them away somewhere safe, and then forget to use them. I was so happy and excited about this exciting mashup, that I got started on this project straight away. I separated my stickers into different collections and then got to work.

First up was my apothecary jar sticker collection, which was quite serendipitous...

Next up was my collection of cat stickers. And because I am a crazy cat lady, I do have a lot of cat stickers.

And then of course there is my book sticker collection, which usually includes also cats, tea pots and flowers...

And I also have a huge collection of nature stickers including leaves and mushrooms and cute woodland animals, so they also had to find an apothecary jar of their own...

And don't even get me started with my Scandi christmas themed stickers, which I also have a lot of. I mean who can resist stickers featuring hot chocolate, snowflakes, reindeer and gnomes...

And then there's all my witchy stickers. You put moons and starts and cats and other witchy things on a sticker, and it's like take all my money...

And with all that done, I have a whole set of apothecary jars filled up with lots of beautiful stickers. I laid them all out along the windowsill behind my computer desk in my craft room. And now whenever I'm at my desk I can look up and see both my beloved apothecary jars and stickers.

Already I've found that I've been using my stickers more often now that I can see them. I hope to decorate all my diaries, journals and notebooks with my beloved stickers from now on. Do you have something small like apothecary jars and stickers that bring you joy? I'd love to find out.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky

Carrot Forest Sampler Cross Stitch Project Framing

Hello friends,

Last year I finished the Carrot Forest Sampler cross stitch project from Owl Forest Embroidery (if you want to see more information about this project, please check out the original blog post here), and one of my tasks over the Christmas holiday break was to finally get around to framing it, and then getting it up on the wall in my craft room.

The size of the project was a little weird, so it took me a couple of months to track down a frame that would fit it. I ended up finding an old wooden picture frame at one of our local second hand stores, but it wasn't in a colour that I wanted. So the first task was to sand the picture frame down, and then paint it using some white chalk-based paint.

After a quick sand down, it was time to paint the frame with an undercoat. I unfortunately, however, chose an undercoat that took 5 hours of drying and curing, so I had to wait until the next day before I could paint it with two coats of the white chalk paint.

And finally when the paint was dried and cured, it was time to frame my cross stitch project using my pretty newly painted frame. I used the same framing method that I used for the Christmas Cross Stitch project last year, and you can find the information to do that here.

And now that it's done, I'm really happy with the finished project. The carrots in the Carrot Forest Sampler really pop against the black aida and the white picture frame, and the white rabbits make a cute feature.

And now my Carrot Cross Stitch Sampler hangs on the wall beside my beloved Mushroom Sampler by CutePatternsByMaria on Etsy. One day I'll share with you about my Mushroom Sampler, as it really is a beautiful project to work on, and to have on your wall afterward.

The next couple of weeks are busy for me, as I am in the middle of renovating my craft room (and moving my office into it when finished), painting our woodshed before autumn, and my parents will be staying with us when my dad goes into hospital for knee replacement surgery next week. I hope to keep to weekly blog posts, but if that doesn't happen, I will get back to it as soon as possible.

Have a wonderful day.

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Spinning Ashford Avacado Merino/Silk Fibre

Hello friends,

Over the summer holidays I caught up with a few crafting projects that in the last few months have been left languishing on the to do pile because of the busy Christmas season for work. When I'm not gardening, crafting, reading, or writing this blog, I have my own online Felt store, Hearth & Oak, selling textile products that I make.

The first crafting project I got to do over the holidays, was to finish spinning 200 grams of Ashford Avacado merino/silk blend I've had for over a year. I love the colours that Ashford use in their colour ways, and their merino/silk blends are always very easy to spin.

I learned to spin when I lived in Wellington, and was first taught to spin on a drop spindle by Frances Stachl at a workshop at Holland Road Yarn Company in Petone. I bought my rimu drop spindle off Frances at the workshop, and my drop spindle is my pride and joy, and I'm glad I got one of hers before she stopped woodworking. It is light and perfectly balanced, and spins like a dream.

When I started this project last year, I had begun spinning it on my drop spindle, but when I started again in the holidays, I switched to my spinning wheel, which is a New Zealand made Majacraft Suzie Professional spinning wheel. I bought this wheel when I lived in Wellington, and I love the weighted wheel and double treadles, which makes it easy to spin for a long period of time without any issues. In general I just spin for the fun of it, and then decide what to make with the yarn later, and that's what I did this time. I know some people will have conniptions about this, but sometimes I just like to spin for the fun of it.


It didn't take long to spin up the 200 grams of fibre into two 100 grams singles.

After letting the bobbins rest for a day, I set up my spinning wheel for plying, and it didn't take long at all to ply the yarn in the "Z" twist direction.

And after letting the plied yarn rest on the bobbin for a couple of days, I wound it into a skein, and then washed it to set the twist. And now my Ashford Avacado merino silk yarn is now ready to be turned into something new, my plan at the moment is to weave it into a scarf, but that will happen later on in the year.

Did you get up to much over the Christmas break? I love to use that time to do stuff I've been wanting to do for a while.

Have a wonderful day.

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Christmas Cross Stitch Framing Project

Hello friends,

I finished a Christmas cross stitch project in back in December last year, and it's been sitting in my craft room, judging me, ever since then. And since December is nearly upon us once again, I thought it was finally time to get it finished, and I thought I'd share with you my method of framing it.

The Christmas cross stitch project I finished was the pattern "Stitch Into Christmas" Stitch-along, which was designed by Caterpillar Cross Stitch in 2022. The pattern was split up into 6 parts, and every two weeks a new part was released for you to stitch. I finished the pattern on the 28th of November in 2022, and I used the called for DMC floss, and a fat quarter of 16 count navy aida.

The first step in prepping a project like this for framing, is to wash and wet iron the project. The project is soaked in luke-warm water for an hour with a small squirt of Eco Store Eucalyptus Eco Wool Fabric Detergent, along with a couple of Sard Colour Catchers (you can get them from your local supermarket). Even though DMC and Aida are technically colour fast, it always pays to be careful, since hundreds of hours of stitching work are on the line.

After this, the next step is to rinse the project in more luke-warm water. Once the water runs clear and bubble free, I throw the project into the washing machine on fast spin setting to remove all the excess water. The next step then is to iron the project while it is wet, as this helps remove any creases that have formed over the long term.

In order not to squish the cross stitch stitches, a double-layered towel is placed on the ironing board, and the cross stitch project is ironed upside down on this, with the iron set to a low cotton setting with full steam.

Once all the creases are out, the project is then left to air dry for a couple of days. After that I repeat the ironing process to remove any remaining creases.

The next step is to get a picture frame that the project fits into. I usually look for old picture frames in second hand stores, but sometimes the only choice is buying new if you can't find a picture frame that fits. In the next set of photos, I'm sharing the set up I used for framing a cross stitch project for my sister.

The back of the picture frame is used to measure out board foam which will be the backing for the cross stitch project: all that I had on hand was 5 mm board foam, but 3 mm is better. Cut out the measured board foam with scissors or a craft knife. Then check the foam board fits within the picture frame with a little bit of wiggle room to spare, as you have to leave space for the cross stitch fabric.

Then use a ruler and a light pencil to make a small X in the middle of the foam board to find the exact middle, and then place a pin vertically through the middle of your cross stitch project by using your pattern as a guide. Then place the pin vertically into your foam board in the middle of the X drawn. Your cross stitch project will then be centered, and then you rotate your project to get it squared up using the aida lines as a guide.

Once you have your cross stitch project all centered and in the right place, it's time to hold it in place using Sequin and Bead Pins. I'm not sure exactly when and why I got my set of pins, but I've found they're perfect for framing cross stitch projects. Slide them into the foam board through the cross stitch fabric, and all the way in, so it's permanently in between the two cardboard layers of the foam board. I start by putting one in the middle of each side, slightly pulling on the fabric as I go to straighten it, and then placing more pins all the way along the four ends of the foam board, until the fabric is taut and even and squared across the whole piece. If the cross stitch project is skewed, just take the pins out and try again. Once you're totally happy with the way it looks, it's time to frame the project.

After cleaning the inner glass surface of the picture frame, and removing any cat hair, or any other hair or fluff from the cross stitch project, insert the cross stitch project and foam board into the picture frame.

Flip the picture frame over to make sure you have the project in the right direction, and that it looks squared against the picture frame, and then it's time to trim off any bulky cross stitch fabric on the back side. I try not to trim too much just in case I want to reframe the project in the future, but it's a good idea to remove anything too bulky, especially if there's not a lot of space to fit the backing board back onto the frame.

Once you've trimmed off the cross stitch fabric, just put the picture frame backing back into the picture frame. If it's too snug, and you can't get the pins around the picture frame to fit back onto the frame backing, just grab some tape, and tape it in place. It's probably not the best way to do it, but it's worked for me in the past.

And there you go, framing your cross stitch project is finished! I'm really pleased with how the project has turned out, and it's already up on the wall for Christmas. I found this picture frame at a second hand store for only $5, so it was a great deal.

I hope you give this framing method a go, it's not really too hard, and you can keep playing with things until you are happy with the outcome you want.

Are you getting ready to decorate for the holiday season? We don't decorate until the 1st of December, or the first weekend after that, whichever comes first. We are off work on the 1st, so we'll be pulling out all the decorations, and the Christmas tree then.

Have a wonderful day.

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

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