Flax crop in the round with Alice Fox

24 July - 22 September 2024

Land based activity runs throughout our programme, parallel to the gallery exhibitions. A special focus  for 2024 will be a crop of flax planted in the round area of our meadow from April, overseen by fibre artist, Alice Fox..

Alice Fox has an international reputation and our workshops with her last year excited the local fibre arts community, resulting in a long waiting list and promises to bring her back again soon for more.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum) has been grown for linen by many cultures worldwide over thousands of years. The nature of flax’s ‘bast’ fibres, which are long and strong, make it one of the most important fibre crops throughout history. Flax is shallow rooted and grows well in our northern European climate. There are various steps of processing to remove the spinnable fibres from the other parts of the plant. It is ready to pull up around 100 days after sowing. The seeds are removed – called ‘rippling’ – and the plants are left to ‘ret’, after which the fibre can be removed through a series of steps including breaking, skutching and hackling. This leave us with long ‘line’ fibre and the rougher ‘tow’, both of which can be spun into linen thread.

Key dates:

Saturday 6 April, 11am – 1pm – introduction to the project

Note: we had hoped to sow the flax seed on 6 April but the ground it too wet, so we are now aiming for the week of 15 April and then harvesting on 24 July to coincide with the next visit from Alice Fox and the rippling.

Seeds monitored for germination and watered in early stages of growing if dry weather
Once growing, there might be some weeding needed (volunteers)

It may all need turning a few times to make sure drying is even (volunteers)

Wednesday 24 July, 11am start– pulling up the plants and rippling event – removing seeds and laying flax out in the orchard to ret. All are welcome to this free demonstration and invited to join in with the process. Please wear weather appropriate clothing to protect yourself and enhance your outdoor experience.

This will need monitoring to check when it is retted enough and how long it takes will be weather dependant. Once it is retted enough it will need taking back into the pavilion to dry again (volunteers).

Weekend 21-22 September – flax processing weekend workshop. For more information about this workshop and to book a place click here

Come along and help to process the Kestle Barton flax with artist Alice Fox. Learn about the different stages of growing and processing, taking the harvested and retted flax plants through a series of refining stages – breaking, skutching and hackling – to fibre that can then be spun into linen thread.

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Saturday 6 April, 11am - 1pm

On Saturday 6 April Alice will be at KB to present the process of sowing, harvesting and processing flax that she will oversee at KB between April and September.
Note: we had hoped to sow the flax seed on this day as well, but the ground it too wet, so we are now aiming for the week of 15 April and then harvesting on 24 July to coincide with the next visit from Alice Fox and the rippling.


Alice Fox

Artist Statement:

Sustainability is at the heart of Alice’s practice. The desire to take an ethical approach has driven a shift from using conventional art and textile materials into exploring found objects, gathered materials and natural processes. The work that Alice makes is process led. She gathers the materials that are available to her, testing, sampling and exploring them to find possibilities using her textiles-based skill set and techniques borrowed from soft basketry. Alice makes sculptural works, bringing different materials together to form tactile surfaces and structures.

Establishing her allotment garden as a source of materials for her work has provided a space where Alice can experiment, exploring the potential of what grows there – planted and wild – as well as other materials found on the plot. Materials are produced, gathered and processed seasonally and are hard-won: There may only be a small batch of each type of usable material each year. As a result, each bundle of dandelion stems, bramble fibre or hand processed flax is enormously precious by its scarcity and the meaning attached to it through its sourcing and hand-processing.


Following a first career in nature conservation, Alice studied Contemporary Surface Design and Textiles at Bradford School of Art (2011), followed by an MA in Creative Practice at Leeds Arts University (2019). She has had work acquired by Bodelain Libraries, Oxford, Newcastle City Library, the International Quilt Museum, Lincoln Nebraska and the Ahmanson Collection, USA. She was commissioned by the clothing company TOAST and Kettles Yard, Cambridge for their Re-New project in 2019. She is published by Batsford (2015 and 2022) and has a number of self-published titles.

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