Traditional flax production for linen

Traditional implements for linen production on display in Booth Pinezhsky Museum.

Prior to industrialisation even small farmers grew flax to produce linen for their own needs from home grown flax. In the UK and other Northern Europe countries linen was the only widely available alternative to wool until cotton became available. The flax used for linen production usually comes from slightly different varieties of the species of Linum usitatissimum than linseed or flax for human consumption. It is also harvested differently.

Tools for making flax, processed flax stalks and linen
Tools for making flax, processed flax stalks and linen

Flax and traditional linen production: ancient Russian instruments and the materials they were used on in the traditional production of linen from flax plants and their fibre.(Booth Pinezhsky Museum). 1-beater, 2-fiber after scutching Llano, Llano 3-fiber tow after the first 4-Llano after the second fiber tow, tow 5, 6 -Taylor (canvas threads from Llano), 7 – row (from hemp canvas threads), 8, 9 – Brushes for Sanchez flax and hemp, 10-comb for cleaning flax and hemp, 12, abusive pattern. Photo 3 November 2006. Photo by Schekinov Alexey Victorovich November 3 2006

The simple equipment was typically homemade and everything from growing to harvesting, scutching to spinning and weaving was carried out by the family.

Flax fibres before processing into linen. In the foreground a broken stem shows the fine linen fibres beginning to separate out.
Flax fibres before processing into linen. In the foreground a broken stem shows the fine linen fibres beginning to separate out.

Traditional flax growing and linen production is written about and illustrated in “How a Shirt Grew in the Field”, a children’s book, originally in Russian.

 

Linseed health food for animals too

Front pf a Victorian postcard promoting the health benefits of feeding linseed cake to beef, horses and other animals.

Linseed: food for health and beauty

Linseed in recent times is beginning to be understood as an amazing health food for people. Doctors and researchers are constantly making new discoveries about how it helps people with health and beauty.  From healthier immune system, to combating dry eyes, better cardio health, fertility, supple joints to strong nails and shining hair scientists are beginning to understand the extent of linseed’s health benefits.

Farmers knew the benefits of linseed before doctors

150 years ago farmers were in no doubt about the benefits if linseed. They were responsible for the livestock which would often number in the hundreds so it didn’t take them long to notice the health benefits of feeding linseed Continue reading

Linseed poultice

Field of ripe linseed and seedheads

A traditional remedy

As long ago as the seventeenth century, herbal and linseed formentations and cataplasms (poultices) were recommended by the great English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper for the treatment of abscesses, tumours and inflammation.

The Royal Army Medical Corps is nicknamed the Linseed Lancers
The Royal Army Medical Corps is nicknamed the Linseed Lancers

The Linseed Lancers

In the first world war the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) became known as the Linseed Lancers because linseed poultices.were often the only treatment they had to offer their patients during the Boer war and WW1 1914-1918.

CBD: Cannabidiol in linseed

In recent studies cannabidiol has been found in linseed fibre, It is an active ingredient with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, which must have seriously contributed to the efficacy of linseed poultices.

To make a linseed poultice

For inflammation such as bruises, strains, cysts, bursitis, boils, ulcers, and skin conditions.

To 1 cup ground linseed (or coarse ground linseed flour) add 1 cup hot water from a kettle. Mix to make a past and allow to stand somewhere warm for ten minutes.

Spread the paste onto the middle of a suitably sized linen (or cotton) cloth, cover with linen, muslin or similar fine fabric.

Wipe the affected area with cold-pressed linseed oil to make it easy to clean.

Then apply warm poultice to affected area, with muslin next to the skin, bandage with piece of folded towelling and hold in place with tape, safety pins and/or bandage. It should be firm but not tight.

Suitable for adults, children and animals

A gentle, chemical-free treatment that can be used for the whole family and pets too.

 

 

 

Tincloth, Tin cloth, Oilskin

Royal-Navy-wearing-oil-skins
1914-1918, UK woman wearing oilskin
1914-1918, UK woman wearing oilskin

Linseed for waterproof fabrics

Linseed oil has a long history in making waterproof fabrics often including tincloth and oil-skin.  Tincloth is a extra hard-wearing close woven fabric coated with a blend of linseed oil and beeswax. It is extremely waterproof and hard and was worn by miners of the Alaskan gold rush. More recently oilcloth was extensively used for weather resistant, waterproof clothing in WW1 and WW2.

Tincloth recipe:

Tincloth is made by mixing equal parts boiled linseed oil (you can use a raw oil but it will take longer to dry) and beeswax, heating it gently until it melts and combines. You can add a little turpentine to make it thinner and easier to apply. It is then used to coat the canvas by painting it on or dipping it, then the fabric is hung up to dry, preferably with direct sunlight.

Linsey woolsey, lincey or linsey

Flax drying for linen fibre

Linen warp and woollen weft threads

Linsey-woolsey (also called linsey and lincey) is a fabric made with linen warp and woolen weft threads. It was made between 16th to 19th centuries in England and America.  The wool gave the warmth to the fabric. It was popular with the poor. Primarily it was used for clothing including women’s dresses, various undergarments and bed hangings.

Bible forbids Wool and linen mix

Interestingly the Bible forbids this sort of fabric. Deuteronomy 22, Sundry laws, 11: “You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.”

The origins and history of linseed and flax

Field of linseed towards gate

The origins of the linseed and flax

Field of linseed in flower
Field of linseed in flower

Linum usitatissimum is just one species of the Linum family. Some are annuals others perennial.  The original ancestor of our domesticated flax and linseed  Linum biienne, was a little wild plant widely spread across Eurasia. It had delicate wiry stems and dainty blue flowers. Way back in history our ancestors  would have found linseed amazingly useful Continue reading

Culpeper’s Herbal: FLAX

Linseed is a Culpeper herbal remedy for constipation.

Flax (linseed) remedies from Culpeper’s Complete Herbal,

Culpeper herbal entry for flax (linseed) detail 1
Culpeper herbal entry for flax (linseed) detail 1

by Nicholas Culpeper, 1653

The entry for flax/linseed in interesting in many ways. Apart from nicely clarifying part of the relationship between flax and linseed; in those days they were growing flax for clothing and the seeds were really a by-product, but usually called linseed – even though they had come from “flax” plants.

Flax in 1653, as good then as it is now

His reference to using linseed for tumours and the use of linseed oil as clysters (enemas) has similarities with the Budwig Protocol.

Culpeper refers to it as useful, it’s Latin name, usiatissimum, means “useful”. Three and a half centuries later and linseed is still being used for treating the same complaints and we thought it was a new idea using linseed oil as a remedy for asthma!

Culpeper herbal entry for flax (linseed) detail 2
Culpeper herbal entry for flax (linseed) detail 2

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, entry for flax/linseed:

FLAX.— (Linum Usiatissimum)

Time.— It flowers in June, the seed only is used.

Government and Virtues.— Mercury owns this useful plant. The seed, which is usually called linseed, is emollient, digesting, and ripening ; of great use against inflammations, tumours, and imposthumes, and is frequently out into formentations and cataplasms, for those purposes.  Cold-drawn linseed oil is of great service in all diseases of the breast and lungs, as pleurisies and peripneuemonia, coughs, and asthma and consumption.   It likewise helps the colic and stone, both taken by mouth, and given in clysters.   The oil, by expression, is the only official preparation.

 

Buy online: Culpeper’s Complete Herbal is available from Amazon

 

Linseed: flax and its other names

Field of ripe linseed and seedheads

Linum usitatissimum

Linseed, traditional bronze linseeds
Linseed, traditional bronze linseeds

Linseed was one of the first plants cultivated by man probably around 10,000 years ago and has been widely grown throughout the temperate zones. Consequently if has developed a lot of different names.

Its scientific name is Linum usitatissimum, meaning “the most useful linum” referring to its uses from food, medicine, beauty products, Continue reading

Liquorice and linseed cough medicine recipes

liquorice and linseed ingredients for traditional cough medicine remedy
Nicholas Culpeper, 17th century herbalist
Nicholas Culpeper, 17th century herbalist

Traditional liquorice and linseed  cough medicine

Linseed as a natural remedy for coughs goes way back in time. It was already a standard remedy when Nicolas Culpeper wrote his herbal in 1653 and is still a component of commercially produced cough medicines. We still get testimonials from people using linseed to cure their coughs. Continue reading