The whole mature flax plant is pulled up with the roots, not cut, so as to maximise the fibre length. After this, the flax is allowed to dry, the seeds removed and the flax stalks are then retted. Threshing or rippling flax is the process of removing the seeds from the rest of the flax plant before the flax is retted.
Typically the seeds are removed by drawing handfuls of flax stems through the widely spaced teeth of a rippling comb although the flax can also be threshed with a flax flail to remove the seeds.
Take the flax in small bundles, as it comes from the field or stook, and holding it in one hand, put the seed end on the far side of the rippling comb. Draw the flax plant towards you evenly through the rippling comb so that the seed heads are left around the rippling comb. Draw the same bunch of flax several more times through the rippling comb until all of the seed heads have been removed and the seed is threshed out.
You can make your own rippling comb with six inch (15 cm) nails mounted in a block of wood. Drill a row of wholes in the wood slightly smaller than the diameter of the nail and closely spaced, around one nail width apart if at all possible. Mount the block of wood in a bench at hip height so that you can comfortably pull the flax through the comb. A portable work bench such as a ‘Workmate’ or equivalent works very well for this as the height is adjustable.
Sowing Flax and
Retting Flax and
Top of page