Linen mania spreads as Gates, Sherman spin off Aldrete’s research

Fueled by Prof. Greg Aldrete‘s exploration of the linothorax, Profs. Heidi Sherman (History) and Alison Gates (Art, and Women’s and Gender Studies) planted a plot of flax seed Tuesday on the plaza above the Student Services Building. Flax is the plant from which linen is processed.

The project has been made possible by Sherman’s receipt of a Research Council award, a Grant Integrating Research and Teaching. Because (as in a feudal society) our campus planters have been designated for growing both food and fiber for cloth, the flax team has also sown seed in an off-campus location. They plan to compare crops to determine which situation yields the best crop for fiber processing. While flaxseed is also used for oil and food, this particular variety is not edible. When the flax is harvested it will then be put through a rigorous process of drying, retting, braking, scutching and hackling before being used to spin into linen thread for weaving.

Students Alicia Engstrom and Travis Willer assisted with the planting and Engstrom will be working closely with both Profs. Sherman and Gates to document the experience, and will eventually present her findings. The flax team is interested in connecting with anyone else on campus who might be interested in the process. For more information please contact Prof. Gates at

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