A group of 30 volunteers began work in April on a plan to start growing their own clothing.
They planted two crops on unused land near Blackburn in Lancashire.
Fast-forward to early August and they harvested the small field beside the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
Flax was scutched, cutch, hackled and spun to create linen fabric.
The leaves of the woad were first heated, then they were cooled in warm water. This created natural indigo dye which was used to tint the blue linen.
- Homepun jeans showcased by Sewing Bee Judge
A portion of the linen from Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery will be on display this Saturday.
The event is part of British Textile Biennial 2021, a month-long festival celebrating UK clothing and fabric production. It will be held at 13 locations in east Lancashire.
Homegrown Homespun was formed to grow flax, woad and turn it into linen and dye.
Community Clothing, which is both a clothing company and a social enterprise, will be affected. North West England Fibreshed, a group of professionals in textiles, and The Super Slow Way (the organizers of the above-mentioned textile festival) are also included.
Blackburn, Manchester and Lancashire were once the center of global textile production. After World War Two, the industry fell into decline as more production moved overseas to cheaper countries.
Homegrown Homespun hopes that it will help Blackburn improve its textile industry by making linen clothing locally, from the cultivation of flax to the production.
Patrick Grant is a fashion designer, founder of Community Clothing and a judge for the BBC’s long-running Great British Sewing Bee.
“In this nation, we used to be totally self-sufficient in clothes. The majority of clothes are made from linen, wool or flax. Flax could be grown anywhere in the UK. According to the law, all landowners had to allocate a part of their land to flax growing in 16th-century England.
Sometimes Flax is called Britain’s forgotten crop. The British Isles are believed to be the first place where flax was grown for linen production during the Bronze Age. This is approximately 4,000 years back.
Around 50 million tons of linen were produced in Britain by the end of the 18th century. However, imported cotton replaced it and the UK’s linen production ceased.
In the UK, flax can still be grown for its fiber and oil. Flax is no longer grown in commercial quantities for its fibre. This was until the 1950s.
Grant says, “We are interested in seeing if it is possible to rebuild UK’s flax- and linen industries.”
We can now have local-grown fiber in our clothes for first time since a very long time. “We want to prove that flax, which can also be used for linen in the UK, can be grown sustainably.”
North West England Fibreshed’s founder Justine Aldersey Williams believes that flax can be a great crop in the UK. Flax doesn’t need to be fertilized or treated with pesticides.
It is labor intensive to pick and turn into linen. That makes it more expensive than imported.
She says that there aren’t any automated flax processing plants in the UK. So, she is learning from her pre-industrial ancestors.
Even though linen is still handmade, Grant said that more and more customers are choosing to buy linen for its environmental benefits. It’s good for the environment.
This contrasts with global cotton production which, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is “environmentally unsustainable”.
In order to reduce the carbon emissions from shipping fabric into the UK and the costs of producing linen clothing made in the UK, it would be beneficial for the UK to grow more flax.
The UK has a shortage of sheep’s wool, which is one type of clothing material.
Babs Behan is the founder of Bristol Cloth Project. She sells yarn, scarves and cloth made with wool from local farms. The wool is dyed with local plants by Behan and her colleagues.
It’s easy,” she said. We need to do less work, be more efficient, and keep it going. The things that we put into our homes – including wardrobes – must be appreciated and looked after. They should also return to the earth as food, not poison.
Justine Tabak is an Oxfordshire fashion designer who uses lots of UK wool. She primarily sources it from Yorkshire sheep for her clothing line.
Additionally, she purchases Irish-made linen as well as cotton lace from Nottingham. She also makes use of “deadstock fabrics”, which are the discarded ends and rolls left over by other designers and manufacturers.
She says, “It helps to limit over-consumption.” My clothes don’t come cheap but my customers love them. [them]Over many years the price per wear has remained low, so it is not surprising that this trend continues.
A report from Deloitte earlier in the year found that nearly half of UK customers are buying local-produced goods.
These findings are in line with the ones Kate Hills, founder of Made It British, has observed. Made It British promotes UK brands and assists businesses to get products made here.
“The majority our members had their greatest year yet in 2020,” said a spokesperson. [despite the pandemic]”Yes,” she said. “People wanted something made in China.
“[And]You leave a lot of carbon behind when your products are flying around the globe.
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Homegrown Homespun, based in Blackburn, aims to increase its commercial production capacity by 2023.
The team was able to collect enough flax for samples of linen this year, however Mr Grant stated that they have lots more land parcels in Blackburn which they are looking to plant.
We want to keep the jobs created in these areas. [like Blackburn]They are really needed,” he said.[And]”We want to demonstrate that there are better ways to make clothing.”