Most people are familiar with cotton fabric and with flax seed oil but not so much with flax clothing. Few people know the popular linen is actually flax clothing, as the flax fiber was originally used to make it. There is one interesting fact about flax that is not well known: flax clothing is way older than cotton clothing as some linen clothing as old as 10,000 years has been found in some Swiss lake dwellings. Archaeology discovered cotton fabric dating back to 5,000 BC, making it only 7,000 years old.
Clothes made of flax fibers are quite difficult to produce even to this day due to how rare the fiber itself is. The flax fiber is highly resistant and while used to make linen, other products such as ropes are also made of it. The flax fiber is a bast type as it’s obtained from the skin of the plant. There are several processes involved in obtaining the fiber as well as about 3 methods.
It is important to harvest flax by hand as to ensure the longest fiber possible. Sometimes, the plant is removed with the roots solely for this purpose. Retting is the process that separates the fibers from the plant and it can be done either in a natural manner by using special type of bacteria or by the use of chemicals that usually damage the the fiber. Sometimes, the process used to obtain cotton fibers is used on flax as well. “Cottonizing” flax is faster and cheaper.
The fabric is perfect for summertime wear as it keeps the body cool and fresh. In addition, linen clothing is very lightweight thus adding to its popularity for the hot summer days. The best part is that it can absorb 20% of the humidity and it will still feel dry. The linen made of flax is being used for many products: from mens and womens clothing including runners to bed linens or aprons and many other products in between.
The flax fiber is not naturally white as it occurs in shades of ivory, ecru, tan, or grey. Bleaching or dyeing flax clothing is common practice, however its color alteration is done only after flax is turned into fabric. Using the least chemicals on the plant itself and then on the fabric, one can be sure that have eco friendly linen on hands. There are times when flax is blend with other fibers to increase the fabric’s properties, but only when the other fibers are natural and still not chemically treated, can the end product still be called eco-friendly.
Comparing flax linen to other fabrics, such as cotton, the first noticeable thing is that flax is not as flexible as cotton and wrinkles quite fast. In addition, if the flax fabric bents repeatedly in the same place, it can break faster. Unlike cottons or other natural fibers, flax is best ironed when still wet, if one wants perfect ironing. Unlike wool, flax shrinks just a little bit, and only once or a few times, when it’s first washed. Flax linen allows many different cleaning methods just like cotton and unlike silk, for instance.