Have you ever wondered what process a small flower of flax goes through to become a lovely linen bedding in your bedroom? Let’s find out and dig more into the background story of this remarkable material!
A Dash of Linen’s History
History of linen goes way back many thousands of years. In Ancient Egypt, linen was so valued that people even used it as a currency. Later on, linen was a fiber used for mummification as it symbolized the wealth and purity of the deceased pharaohs.
Mentioned several times in the Bible, as cloth of the angels, this natural fabric has been used as a cool, breathable material in the Middle East for centuries as well. Allegedly, traders then introduced linen to Northern Europe where it has become one of the most common plants for cultivation for centuries.
Nowadays flax is grown in different parts of the world, but the real high-quality flax is primarily cultivated in Western European countries.
The Manufacturing Process
Linen, like any other natural fabric, is made from the natural source – flax plant. The manufacturing process is not that complicated as it might look, apparently because of this linen has gained popularity among people and been used for such a long time.
First, the flax seeds are planted and after about one hundred days, when the flax blossomed and started to turn brown, it’s ready to harvest. After harvesting, the plants are dried, and the seeds are removed from the flowers.
The flax is then to be “retted”. This is a process when the flax plant is put into the water and left to rot. The special bacteria in the tank helps degrade the fibers from the woody stem. After the retting, the flax plants are going through the process called beetling. Beetling consists of beating the flax with a wooden mallet to loosen and separate the fibers from each other. Then comes the time of scutching. Using a special scutching machine any pieces of woody stem that remain on the fibers during beetling are fully removed now and finally, the flax fiber from the stalk is released.
After that, the scutched linen fibers are sorted and spun into yarns on a spinning wheel. The atmosphere within the spinning factory is very important, it should be warm and humid for the purpose of turning linen fiber easier into yarn.
Then these yarns will be woven and become the lovely natural fabric we all know as linen. Later on, linen can be bleached, dyed, printed on, or even embroidered.
Although growing and manufacturing of flax might look pretty intricate, it’s actually a very sustainable plant: flax is strong, naturally moth resistant, it requires less water, fertilizers, and pesticides than any other natural plant, including cotton.
The production of linen fabric is very earth-friendly. Almost the entire plant of flax can be used to create a worthwhile product, e.g the seeds can be used to produce linseed oil, which is great for wood preservation, or a flaxseed oil that can be added to many common foods.