Shrewsbury Flaxmill was one of the very early industrial flax mills. Flax is more complex to prepare and spin than cotton or wool, so the technology was developed later. Flax is also a very flammable fibre, and six out of ten of the first iron-framed buildings were for flax spinning – so less risk of fire. (1) Flax therefore has a very important part to play in the heritage of the Mill.
In 2010 an Arts Council Funded project by Maralyn Hepworth, a tapestry weaver and community artist, enabled over 60 people to grow flax, 12 spinners to learn how to process and spin it, and to provide education sessions and demonstrations in schools, colleges and at the Flaxmill. Volunteers have made a replica flax breaker, scutching board and also hackles and we can provide demonstrations and hands-on experience of the processes.
In 2014 the Friends also grew a field of flax at Acton Scott Victorian farm. This was sown and harvested by the visitors and could be seen being spun in the Cottage there. We now have rather a stash of flax ready for processing
HERITAGE STITCHERS GROUP
Amongst its many uses, flax makes linen. In the last 2 years we have had a talk and two workshops by Sarah Thursfield, who is a specialist in Heritage Clothing, and she continues to advise and encourage us.
A group of hand stitchers meets monthly at the Visitor Centre to make clothes for education and interpretation. These are, as much as possible, fabric and methods that would have been used in the first 50 years of the Flaxmill, with some deviations for preference and ability. (Watch out for the penguins!)
The group is fortunate to have attracted talented and skilled hand stitchers from education, arts and historical research backgrounds, re-enactment and even a pattern cutter, and we welcome both beginners and experienced stitchers.
Discover more about the process of growing flax here:
1. List from “Industrial England” by Michael Stratton & Barrie Trinder. Published by English Heritage.