LINEN


Flax is a plant that is grown for two primary reasons: seeds and fiber. The seeds are sold as food or part of supplements, while the fibers are processed into yarn. This yarn comes in a wide variety of weights and is used to make fabric or sold directly to consumers.

Flax has been cultivated for over 5 millennia—it even stretches back to the pharaonic times of ancient Egypt. It is a plant native to the Mediterranean region. In ancient Greece and Rome, flax was also a popular trade commodity and is believed to have once been the most valuable textile in the whole world. Durable, hardwearing and comparatively easier on the environment than cotton or silk, flax has stood the test of time and is still one of the most luxurious kinds of linen available on the market.

Flax linen is a plant-derived material that originates from flax or linum usitatissimum. In technical terms, flax is actually considered a vegetable. The cellulose fibre in the stem of the flax plant can be harvested and then spun to produce flax linen or to harvest flax oil. This cellulose fibre—commonly known as a bast fibre—is a fibre that is recovered from the inner bark of a plant.

The process of producing flax linen is time-consuming, weather dependent and labour-intensive. Flax is not particularly challenging to grow, however, it thrives in cool environments with moist, damp soil, and struggles to survive in extreme heat. Flax is also a fragile plant—the cellulose fibres that are trapped in the woody stalk have to be removed with extreme caution—meaning that in parts of the world, this extraction is still prepared by hand as has been customary for centuries. Flax is cultivated in many parts of the world, but the best flax grows along the flax belt—a stretch of Europe that spans across Belgium, France, Holland, Eastern Europe, Russia. Russian Linen fabrics are considered to be one of the best in the world, as they naturally grow in the best climate conditions. 

Flax harvesting is a slow, time-consuming process—it takes roughly 100 days to produce flax linen from seed planting to harvesting. Flax needs to be shallowly planted, in damp soil and only grows in cool temperatures. Once it turns yellow or brown, the flax is ready to harvest. At this stage, the woody bark that contains the cellulose fibres is chemically retted or decomposed using water in order to retrieve the useful part of the plant. The flax plant is then squeezed, dried, combed and spun—a process through which the stronger or longer flax fibres—called line or dressed flax—are separated from the weak—called stricks. This separation is integral: the dressed flax will produce more luxurious, hardwearing linen or clothing.

Its highly porous nature makes it ideal for summer clothing. It naturally has very little elasticity. 

Linen is available in almost any colour imaginable as its fibres hold dye colours better than most other materials. 

In addition, it has anti-bacterial properties, which is why it has been commonly used for bandages throughout history.