The flax fibre

The flax is a 100% natural plant

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Linens were manufactured almost exclusively with fibres from the flax plant Linum usitatisimum. L. - Flax The term "linen" refers to fabric made from flax fibres, however today it is often used as a generic term to describe bed, bath, table and kitchen textiles because traditionally linen was so widely used for towels, sheets, etc. Today the word "linen" is descriptive of a class of woven textiles used in homes as towels, sheets, and tablecloths. In the past, the word also referred to lightweight undergarments such as shirts, chemises, waistshirts, lingerie, and detachable shirt collars and cuffs.

Linen is the oldest textile material in the world.

Its history goes back many thousands of years. Fragments of straws, seeds, fibres, yarns and various types of fabrics which date back to about 8000 B.C. have been found in Swiss lake dwellings.

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Flax harvesting, "Sennedjem"’s tomb, Ancient Egypt.

- Linen was used in the Mediterranean in the pre-Christian age. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of light and purity. Some of these fabrics, woven from hand spun yarns, were extremely fine and the fineness of the yarns in them cannot be produced on spinning machines. Today flax is a prestigious fibre, only produced in small quantities. It has a long "staple" relative to cotton and other natural fibres.

Description of flax fibres

Flax fibres vary in length from about 2 to 36 inches and average 12-16 micrometers in diameter.

- There are two varieties: shorter tow fibres used for coarser fabrics and longer line fibres used for finer fabrics. Flax fibres can be identified by their typical “nodes” which add to the flexibility and texture of the fabric. The cross-section of the fibre is made up of irregular polygonal shapes which contribute to the coarse texture of the fabric.

Properties of flax

Linen fabrics have a high natural luster and their natural color ranges between shades of ivory, tan, or grey. Pure white linen is created by heavy bleaching which is not good for the fabric.
- Linen typically has a thick and thin character with a crisp and textured feel to it, but can range from stiff and rough to soft and smooth.
- When adequately prepared, linen has the ability to absorb and lose water rapidly. It can gain up to 20% moisture without feeling damp. When freed from impurities it is highly absorbent and will quickly remove perspiration from the skin.
- Linen is a stiff fabric and is less likely to cling to the skin and when it billows away it tends to dry out and become cool so that the skin is being continually touched by a cool surface. It is a very durable, strong fabric and one of the few ones that are stronger wet than dry. It does not stretch and is resistant to damage from abrasion. However, because it has very low elasticity it can break if it is folded at the same place repeatedly. Mildew, perspiration, and bleach can also damage the fabric, but it is resistant to moths and carpet beetles.

- Linen is relatively easy to take care of since it resists dirt and stains, has no lint or pilling tendencies and can be dry cleaned, machine washed or steamed. It can withstand high temperatures and only has some moderate initial shrinkage.

- A characteristic often associated with linen yarn is the presence of "slubs", or small knots that occur randomly along its length. However, these are actually defects associated with low quality. The finest linen has a very consistent diameter with no slubs.

Linen’s history

Linen, which is made from flax, has been used for table coverings, bed coverings and clothing for centuries. The exclusivity of linen stems from the fact that it is difficult and time consuming to produce (flax in itself requires a great deal of attention in its growth). Flax is difficult to weave because of its lack of elasticity, and therefore is more expensive to manufacture than cotton. The benefits of linen however, are unmatched.

Due to the parallel arrangement of its fibres, linen is a stronger, sturdier fabric than cotton. In addition, linen is highly absorbent (perfect for dish towels and napkins). Due to its insulating qualities, linen coverings (such as our entertaining smock and chef’s jacket) produces an impression of coolness, ideal for warm kitchens. The subtle combination of firmness and softness of linen make this fabric a favorite. Linen can be machine-washed (and grows softer with time and use) and then ironed while still damp with a hot iron. Linen products tend to outlast cotton, enduring up to 20 years of use.

Linguistic note

The word linen is derived from the Latin for the flax plant, which is linum, and the earlier Greek linon. This word history has given rise to a number of other terms:
- line, derived from the use of a linen thread to determine a straight line; other uses such as ocean liner derive ultimately from this use
- lining, due to the fact that linen was often used to create a lining for wool and leather clothing
- lingerie, via French, originally denotes underwear made of linen
- Linnet, a European finch that eats flax seed
- linseed oil, an oil derived from flax seed
- linoleum, a floor covering made from linseed oil and other materials The word lintel, a supporting member above a door or window, is not related. In addition, the term in English, flaxen-haired, denoting a very light, bright blonde, comes from a comparison to the color of raw flax fibre.

Source : wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
Released from Saneco group.

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