In April 2021, a team of 30 volunteers in Blackburn called ‘Homegrown Homespun’ started working on a massive plan to grow their our clothes alongside the help of Patrick Grant who has helped lead the project.
What is the project?
Back in April, on a patch of land in Blackburn, Lancashire, the group had planted seeds for both flax and woad crops with the intention to harvest and create their own linen fabric. In August, they harvested the small field and the flax has since been broken, scutched, spun, and woven into linen. The woad was grown to use as a natural dye and has been harvested, then heated and cooled in water to create an indigo dye to colour the linen blue.
On 16th October, a bulk of the linen will go on display at Blackburn’s Museum and Art Gallery and will be part of the British Textile Biennial 2021 festival. The festival is a month long and will be across 13 venues across east Lancashire. This involves Community Clothing, a fashion brand that does all its manufacturing in the UK, and The Super Slow Way, who are the organisers of the textile festival.
Homegrown Homespun hopes that producing the linen locally in this way that it will help to revive Blackburn’s textiles industry.
“The idea is to rebuild the entire supply chain”
says Patrick Grant, fashion designer and founder of Community Clothing
Inspired by history
Back in the 16th Century, we used to be a completely self-sufficient country in regards to clothing. Most clothes were made out of linen, wool, or flax that was grown within the UK. Flax is commonly called ‘Britain’s forgotten crop’ and was first grown in the UK over 4,000 years ago.
By the 18th Century, there were nearly 50 million yards of linen produced in the UK and then during the 19th Century, it was slowly replaced by imported cotton. Patrick Grant’s mission is to see if we can rebuild the UK’s flax and linen industry, to create locally grown and spun fabric.
As the industry died down many years ago, it’s labour intensive to harvest as there are only pre-industrial methods to compare to and be inspired by; everything was done by hand. The downside of this is that it is labour intensive to harvest, which is the factor that makes it more expensive than imported cotton.
Sustainability and the Future
According to a report from Deloitte, Over half of UK consumers are making a conscious effort to buy local goods and to try to be more sustainable in their lifestyles. People are becoming increasingly more aware of the environmental factors of their clothes and where they come from. Growing and harvesting more flax would cut down on carbon emissions and the cost of flying fabrics into the UK. The focus for the future, as a whole, is to make things last longer and be made of better quality.
Homegrown Homespun plans to make this a focus, and aims to scale up to commercial production by 2023. They harvested enough flax to make fabric samples of the linen, but they needed to up-size the production. By doing this, they will create jobs in the areas, like Blackburn, that really need them.
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