If there’s one fibre that has a clear eco-conscience, it’s Linen fibre!
Cultivated since ancient times, woven to create the first fabric in the history of our planet, this long and silky fibre hasn’t aged a bit and remains relevant to this day. Linen fibre comes from the stem of the flax plant. Since fertilisation and watering of the crop are not needed, flax remains one of the most ecological harvests available. From beginning to end, planting to harvesting, only 100 days are required!
That delicate blue flower
Flax is sown in early spring, thriving in temperate and humid regions. Farmers rotate their crops in order to maximize yield and quality, by planting flax only once every 7 years per field. The tall flax plant produces several tiny blue flowers, with each one of these delicate beauties lasting only one day! The entire ephemeral spectacle of blue lasts a bit over a week.
Pulling, rather than cutting
After the flax has bloomed and reached maturity, it’s time to harvest it. Contrary to other crops, flax is not cut, but instead is pulled up, roots and all, and laid on the ground. This ensures that the linen fibres will be the longest possible, making them strong and resistant for future spinning and weaving.
Once the flax plant has been pulled and is laying on the ground, the retting process can begin. Natural elements such as sun, rain, wind and humidity work together with micro-organisms found in the earth and on the stems to break the fibres away form the woody exterior and separate the fibres inside. The flax is turned over about halfway through the process to ensure an even result.
The flax plants are collected, and the final transformation process of the linen fibre can begin. Grading, washing, combing and spinning are all a part of this chain of events. It is important to note that all the components of the flax plant serve a purpose: flax seeds, flax seed oil, linen fibre, even the woody stem by-product are all used in some way.
It’s up to us to continue to cultivate this marvellous fibre, and support the process that has proven itself time and again since antiquity.
Sources: European Confederation of Flax and Hemp (C.E.L.C); Masters of Linen, European Council.