Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knitting and spinning flax

I might seem out of place when I take up a pair of knitting needles and start knitting away since I'm a 20-year-old heterosexual man. But that's how seriously I'm taking this journey to self-reliance: I don't want machines and businesses providing the things I need to survive. For me, this is just the first step in learning how to provide myself with the things I need (like clothing). I found the following video that goes over the most basic steps in learning how to knit, and even though I'd received needles, a ball of yarn, and a knitting lesson for Christmas, it was nice to see something a little more structured (even if a little bland):

Knowing what to do with yarn is just the first step. For me, the next step is providing myself with my own yarn rather than purchasing it from the store (which could get very expensive very quickly). There's plenty of information out there about cotton, hemp, and wool; but I can't use any of these. Cotton won't grow in this climate, hemp is illegal to grow, and even if I weren't vegan, I don't have the resources to raise animals for wool. I found my answer in The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour. The answer was flax.

Flax seeds are becoming popular as a "health food" in these parts at least. They can be used whole, ground into meal, or even pressed for oil. The stalks, however, are very fibrous and have been used in many other parts of the world for creating fibers for clothing, rope, etc. The history of the flax industry in Oregon seems to have some pretty violent and highly political roots, so it never really took off. However, for the self-supporter, flax seems to be a good alternative when cotton, hemp, and wool are not options. I found the following videos that describe how to process and then spin flax, though it seems in this day and age, the tools would have to be built by hand:

I find the videos immensely helpful, but written instructions can also be found in The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It and on the All Fiber Arts webpage.

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