Preparing flax



Preparing flax
Pliny says that one can determine that the ripeness of flax by the swelling of the flax seed or its yellow color. Flax is prepared for weaving linen in a labor intensive process. Pliny provides the beginning of this process in 4-steps.
1. Pull Flax up by the roots.
2. Make into small sheaves that will fill your hand.
3. Hang in the sun to dry for one day with the roots turned upwards.
4. Turn it, and for five more days with the heads of the bundles turned inwards and reclining against one another "so that the seed may fall into the middle."

Pliny. Natural History. Trans. H. Rackham. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), 431.
The seeds can also be removed by a process called rippling. Next is to extract the bast fibers through a process known as retting, by immersing the flax in water. Once retted, the stems are dried and then smashed. This is called breaking and scutching. After, the fibers are removed from the outer cover and core they are combed across a board with spikes attached. The result are very thin fibers that are ready to be spun into thread.

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