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Published: 16 October 2021

By Andy Ross

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Britain's forgotten crop

Blackburn in Lancashire was once known as a textile manufacturing centre. It may be again

This year 30 volunteers have taken part in a project to create their own clothing. Working with flax and woad they have grown the plants to make and dye linen cloth. It sounds like a Very Good Idea, given the interest in slow fashion and craft, and one that has big ambitions: to recreate the entire supply chain for the manufacture of linen in the UK. 

In the past flax was grown across the UK, and it was once grown in Shetland by the Viking population to provide cloth. In 1790 an attempt was made to reintroduce the crop to Shetland just as had been done in Orkney but, although it took root in the latter, Shetlanders proved to be more shrewd in their dealings; it was cheaper to purchase linen than to grow and process the flax themselves. Maybe now it is time to reintroduce flax again and try to make a Shetland linen once more?