The beautiful natural colors of linen are the result of the flax plant basking in the sun and soaking in the rain. The luster of linen is from the sap within the stems. The process of making linen depends on nature's gifts, without any need for chemicals.
Long before machines were invented, people grew flax and processed it into linen with their hands. Flax has been a staple crop among Ukrainian peasants for centuries, as well as hemp. Most linen is now made in mills, but people still make their own linen in rural areas.
The process begins in the early spring, as the ice melts away. The seeds are planted in the fields, where they will grow until the beginning of summer-about 100 days after planting. The plants flourish in cool, humid areas with moist, well-plowed soil. The plants have beautiful small blue flowers that only open for only one day on each plant.
Once the plant turns brown, it is ready to be harvested. The plants are taken out of the ground with the root, to preserve the sap inside and the luster of the final product. They are tied in bundles and left for 5 weeks to rest. Then they are submerged in water to undergo retting. A bark surrounds the inner stem and fibers used in linen, and this and the pectin holding it together is what needs to decompose to separate it from the fibers. After retting, it is dried out and then is sent through the process of breaking; crushing the stalk along the length of it in order for the bark to break into pieces and be pulled off, leaving only the linen fibers. From here, the fibers are ready to be spun into thread, and then woven into a fabric.
Flax does is not difficult to grow, it doesn’t need much watering, but it does soak up a lot of nutrients, so fields need to be rotated with other crops to replenish the soil.
I feel a pride in owning linen knowing the process behind creating it and knowing it's not contributing to pollution and can be absorbed back into the Earth when its life cycle ends.
Flax linen: natural, environmentally friendly, sustainable.