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Retting is the process of 'rotting' down the straw to make the drawing out of the fibre easier. The retting process is one of the most important elements of flax growing / processing - on the continent, this can be a make or break time for growers.


As mentioned elsewhere, laying the straw out in 2 metre mats with a space between the rows allows the straw to be turned by flipping the 'mat' over with a long pole. We work along each mat and each row and this is carried out every few days depending on the weather.

If it is constantly sunny the straw will barely change and make take weeks to ret whereas if it is raining all the time the straw will need turning on an almost daily basis to prevent moulds from building up on the underside of the mat.

The idea of retting is to get the straw wet and then dry out thus breaking down the pectins to make the fibre more accessible.

We test the straw in the field on a regular basis - changing to a daily test when we feel it is close to being ready. What is required is a straw which when wiggled will allow the bark to break off but not so much that the straw loses its strength. If it is under retted the bark will 'stick' to the fibre and make it difficult to obtain a good fibre, however, too much and the strength is gone, moulds may be present and your fibre is worthless!

If a lot of rain is expected when you are close to your flax being ready it is worth bringing it under cover until the threat has gone and then simply put it back out again (okay if you haven't got too much).












Copyright Flaxland 2009 Updated March 2020