In 2011 we started a small pilot project called Sow Sew. We used a small plot of ‘meanwhile’ land (land that isn’t being built on for a short time) donated by Urban Splash’ to see if we could grow flax to create an organic local sustainable material.

The cultivation was hard but the flax thrived and grew. We brought local schools down to use it for educational purposes and the local press showed an interest – see our pictures. The flax was harvested and is currently being processed and dyed by a fabric company in Leicestershire.

On its return we will be working with local artists and schools to make our Manchester Fabric into all manner of things from linen jumpers to works of art. If you are interested in working with a portion of the flax harvest please fill in our expression of interest form. The flax will be available as both yarn and material. We aim to exhibit the best pieces in 2013. With all the multitude of uses of flax the only limit is your imagination!

From this learning we aim to develop major projects of flax growing, in Manchester, across the North West and in other areas of the UK. We would like to make much more use of large and small areas of redundant land, making cities greener and more bio-diverse whilst allowing the local community to connect with nature and create a sustainable crop they can wear.

We are delighted to have received a grant from Ernest Cook to explore the educational aspects of flax and flax growing and are now looking for additional funders to work with us to expand this exciting project into other areas such as urban development, climate change mitigation, saving our heritage, creating a sustainable social enterprise and collating the learning and experience from this pilot to offer it as a franchise to other communities.

For further information contact –

Perspective view plans for Sow Sew
Our plot was a building site full of rubble
Compost being delivered from fairfield composting
An encouraging thumbs up from the MERCi Director
Sowing the flax seeds, 10 - 12 grams per m2
MERCi staff wait patiently for the flax to grow
Our flax was in flower for 2 weeks
Harvesting three weeks after flowering
  • Planting
  • Harvesting
  • Retting
  • Laying Out
  • Drying
  • Scrutching
  • Heckling
  • Spinning
  • Uses


See video


  • You can grow flax organically in the North West.
  • Flax grows on land that isn't overly fertile, much like wild flowers, so it is a great way to use land you'd otherwise not know what do with.
  • Flax is a viable alternative to cotton. It's estimated cotton accounts for 16-24% of the world use of insecticides, but cotton is only grown on 2.5% of the world's cultivated land. Flax as an organic local alternative is much less environmentally detrimental.
  • Locally grown flax will decrease in Co2 emissions due to decreased transportation.
  • Flax is is strong enough to be used as a natural alternative to fibreglass.
  • Flax is versatile and all of the plant can be used.
  • Flax can be made into: clothing; lace; bed linen; tennis rackets; bike frames; bank notes; rolling papers; writing paper; building insulation; fishing nets; rope; boats; cat litter; compost; Omega 3&6 rich supplement; resin; oil for wood treatment.... the list goes on.