Flax: The Wonder Plant

Did you know that flax can be used to make clothing? Many people don’t know much about flax apart from the fact that it’s a great vitamin to take. But using fibers from flax is actually one of the oldest ways of making clothing and paper.

If you ┬áread my recent post about hemp, then you know that people have been using hemp in clothing for over 8,500 years. But the use of flax goes back even further. The use of flax in the production of linens and cloth has been dated as far back as 30,000 years ago. In fact, flax’s Latin name is Linum Usitatissimum, which is where the word linen actually comes from.

14th Century textile depicting flax production- Image courtesy Wikipedia

Flax is an incredibly sustainable crop because its growing cycle is so short- a mere 100 days between sowing and harvesting. During its bloom cycle, however, flax is incredible beautiful…dotting the landscape with millions of perriwinkle colored flowers. Take a look:

Flax Field

Gorgeous, right?

Flax is also eco-friendly because it requires only a tiny fraction of the fertilizer and pesticides that cotton requires.

Once the crop has been uprooted and dried, the plant is then picked apart…every part of the flax plant can be used.

Once they’re separated from the plant, the flax fibers are exposed to moisture. This helps break down the pectin that binds them together. The fibers are then separated into short fibers, which are used for twines, and longer fibers, which are used in linens and cloth.

The fibers are then spun together, and then go through a close inspection before they’re woven and dyed. Because today’s looms are so fast, the flax must be strong and of high quality to make it through the process. If it passes inspection, the flax then gets woven into linen.

If you’ve ever put on a piece of linen clothing, then you know how fabulous it is. Linen is soft, highly breathable and extremely durable. And the more you wear it, the more comfortable it gets. Linen can also hold 20% of its weight in moisture before it even feels damp. So in many ways, it’s the perfect summertime fabric.

Next time you have the opportunity to try on a piece of linen clothing, take a moment to remember the humble little flax plant. It’s truly an eco-friendly alternative to cotton!

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