‘Sowing is guessing’

‘Sowing is guessing’
28 April 2021 Marjan

This week, some farmers in Noardeast-Fryslân have sown the flax we want to use to make water-repellent textiles. The farmers have been waiting for the right weather conditions: ‘Sowing is guessing.’ – they say.

Eileen Blackmore of House of Design explains: ‘We are researching local renewable materials to make biodegradable alternatives to plastic items that are blown from the boat into the Wadden Sea. For example fishing gloves and boat cushions. For the textiles we work with the long fiber of flax, from which linen is made.’

Reviving flax cultivation
In the coming years we want to see if we can also use the rest of the plant, like the flaxseed, the short fiber and the oil. Then it becomes interesting for farmers to grow flax again. The Frisian clay is very suitable for flax cultivation. ‘In the nineteenth century a lot of flax was grown in Friesland, but with the rise of cotton, this changed in the middle of the last century. With this new initiative we are trying to revive the flax cultivation again.’ – says Eileen.

50 hectares
For the cultivation of flax we approached biodynamic farmer Pyt Sipma from Engwierum, of the Agrarisch Collectief Waadrâne. He and three other colleagues each sowed half an acre of flax. If all goes well, there will be between six and ten hectares next year and about fifty hectares in three years time. About 480,000 square meters of textile can be made from it. For the harvest and further processing of the flax, we collaborate with It Erfskip, D’Drive of the Friesland College, the Fine Art and Design teacher training at NHL Stenden,Van der Bilt seeds and flax museum ‘It Braakhok’ in Ee.

Wad of Value
The linen products are part of Wad of value, a new initiative with which we will develop biobased alternatives to plastic products that often end up in the Wadden Sea. In addition to fishing gloves and boat cushions, we will also research  biodegradable alternative to food packaging.

In the photos Bernhard Hansma sows the flax at the Humeldawei in Ee.
Photography Peter de Kan.