[Sca-cooks] flax processing (was Bread labor)

jenne at fiedlerfamily.net jenne at fiedlerfamily.net
Mon Nov 12 09:48:38 PST 2007

> One interesting bit of information that I picked up in my meandering
> was that, despite its many useful qualities, hemp wasn't used in
> period as a fabric because it was so difficult to perform the
> equivalent retting process-

Phlip, I don't know where you found that piece of 'information' but it's
nonsense. Remember Shakespeare's 'hempen homespuns'? Yeah, people of the
lower class wore hemp cloth. Markham gives instructions for retting hemp
along with his instructions for retting flax.

Archaeologically, it's apparently impossible to tell different bast fibers
from one another without destructive testing, so there's little
information out there about what is found.

The long length of hemp fibers (circa 15 feet) and their strength appears
to have been the reason they were used for ropes, etc-- flax fibers are
much shorter.

Now, it may be true that hemp was used primarily for coarse cloth in
period because it was harder to process it into the fine fibers for
high-class clothing.

Or it may just have to do with Western European fashions and ways of
processing fiber, esp. spinning.

-- Jenne Heise / Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
jenne at fiedlerfamily.net

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