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FINE LINENS

The journey you are about to experience will take you to the regions where the finest linens are grown. Through the farming and retting process and demonstarte how flax linen is a truly sustainable fabric.

 

There are several videos that cover each section, so you can watch them first if you prefer not to read each section.

 

Flax linen is primarily grown in 3 regions in Europe. France, Belgium, and the Netherlands covering 97,000 hectares which equates to 133,000 tins of long fibers.

 

flax linen grown in 3 European areas

 

These 3 regions account for 80% of the world's flax linen production. 

 

The production of linen in these European regions is carried out by a skilled local workforce using ethical production methods. All of their production methods are in compliance with the International Labor Organisation.

 

These areas of Europe have specific geo-climate conditions and when coupled with local knowledge that is unmatched, you end up with a very strong regional foundation to produce the finest quality raw materials.

 

The farmers and scutchers respect their ecosystems using zero irrigation, GMO-free and zero-waste methods.

 

Where is the finest flax linen grown?

 

Step 1. - Soil Preparation

 

The planting of flax determines the crop's future potential. Typically flax is grown according to a crop rotation method, with the rotation renewing every 6-7 years.

 

This regenerates the soil for succeeding crops such as beet, wheat, potatoes, etc.

 

With 0.5% of the European Utilized Agriculture Area, fiber plants represent a marginal surface area compared to other examples of agricultural production.

flax production compared to other agricultural methods

If you would like to take a deeper look into, What is Linen Made From?,  just click this link to learn more.

 

 

 

Step 2. - Sowing

Mid-March - Mid April

 

Today’s flax farmers can choose between the twenty or so varieties available.

In addition to improving yields, new varieties enable plot-specific sowing that takes into consideration potential lodging and disease criteria; incorporating fertilizer savings and early harvesting criteria for a regulated staggering of maturation.

 

Flax has a high density (on average, 1800 plants / m2), offering the best compromise between yield and resistance to plant lodging, fiber fineness, and solidity.

 

Step 3. - From Germination to 4 cm

 

The roots are ten times longer than the height of the plants. The silty soils and oceanic climate give the flax a special quality,
with the depth of the roots a major advantage.

 

Image_051

 

Step 4. - From 4 cm to 10 cm

germination to 4cm-10cm

 

Flax fibers are bast fibers. They are contained within the plant stem surrounded by a fine woody outer layer.

 

The number of fibers increases and are arranged in 20 to 40 bundles per plant.

sectional view of flax cell

 

Step 5. - From 10 cm to Flowering

 

Flax requires 600 mm of water over 100 days of growing, which is provided by rain (400 mm), the soil’s natural water reserves, and dew (200 mm)

germination to 10cm-flowering

Growth accelerates from 1 to 5 cm per day and the fibers begin a process of lengthening. By the end of this period, the number of fibers will be fixed.

 

 

Step 6. - Flowering

June

 

Many flowers bloom, 80 to 100 flowers per stem,
and the structure of the fibers evolves: their mass increases, they are made up primarily of cellulose (60-81%), hemicellulose (14-18.6%), pectin (1.8-2.3%) and lignin (2-3%).

 

This plant structure is the origin of the remarkable qualities the fiber exhibits in its textile and technical applications.

 

Step 7. - Maturity

July

 

The fibers represent around 40% of the stem’s dry mass.

 

The time to harvest has arrived.

time to harvest

 

Step 8. - Pulling

July

 

Pulling occurs about 5 weeks after flowering. Plants are laid on the ground in swathes.(layers of flax one meter wide).

 

pulling

 

The flax isn't cut but is instead pulled up, preserving the length of the fibers contained within its stem.

 

The roots that remain in the ground after harvesting enrich the soil and confer on flax its status as an excellent crop for rotation: an asset that increases the output of the following crops by up to 20%.

 

The technological skill of the specially-devised flax harvesting machines provides unrivaled expertise in the production and processing of flax/linen.

Pulling machines/ripplers, turning machines and balers serve a common purpose: to preserve the fiber’s consistent quality.

The sum of temperature is used to forecast the different steps of flax growth:

temperature of sowing flax linen

Thus pulling takes place when the sum of temperature reaches 950°C to 1100°C depending on the growing site and geo-climatic conditions.

 

Step 9. - Retting

July - September

 

Since the 1950, retting has taken place directly in the field, and no longer in tanks or in rivers, thus further preserving ecosystems.

retting process

 

The first natural phase in the processing of
the plant into fiber, retting stimulates the separation of the fibers by breaking down
the natural cement binding them to the straw.

 

flax linen retting

This natural action is performed by microorganisms present on the soil, a suitable dose of rain, and zero chemicals.

 

The swathes are turned halfway through
the process. The experienced and judgment shown by the farmer-scutcher duo is the determining factor in ensuring the success of the process and the consistency of the result.

 

 

Step 10. - Collecting and Stocking

August - September - October

 

Swathes are rolled up into large balls, collected by machine and stocked until it is time to extract the fiber. Thus harvested,
the flax can keep for a long time without deteriorating.

scutching-linen

 

Step 1. - Scutching

 

Scutching is an entirely mechanical process, without the use of chemicals, that takes place throughout the year. Facilities for scutching are located in the immediate proximity of the fields.

scutching

It allows the 2 categories of fibers to be separated: Long Fibers (scutched flax) and Short Fibers... as well as the seeds and the co-products. (shives and dust)

 

 

Step 2. - Combing

Combing, also known as hackling, is carried out by the scutcher or the spinner.

combining flax fibers

The fiber has any impurities removed, it is separated and laid parallel, graded, and stretched out into slivers, soft and glossy continuous ribbons.

 

Step 3. - Preparation For Spinning

 

During preparation, slivers of combed flax are mixed together, blending several batches of fibers originating from different fields, regions, and years.

preparing for spinning

This unique expertise, comparable to the methods used for champagne and cognac, allows the qualities of each batch to be combined to ensure high quality and consistency.

 

The higher the required yarn quality, the higher the number of batches: a requirement that in recent years has led to extreme mixtures, with up to 32 different batches!

 

Mixed together, equalized, and stretched out, the slivers become roving before being spun.  

 

mixing flax yarns

The European spinning industry handles fibers with care, refining them exclusively by a mechanical process in order to preserve their structure and qualities.

 

Step 4. - Spinning

 

The techniques vary depending on the type of yarn that is being produced: 

  • Fine yarns destined for clothing, home linens, etc., re-obtained through “wet” spinning with immersion in water heated to 60°C. This soaking facilitates the smooth separation of the fibers and allows for a great fineness to be achieved. 
  • More rustic and thicker yarns, for decoration, rope, etc., are produced by “dry” spinning.

For example:

  • Nm 2.6 for upholstery fabrics,
  • Nm 26 for average shirting fabric,
  • Nm 39 for upmarket shirting or fine jersey, and up to Nm 50 or 70 for exceptional qualities.

As for bleaching, the European spinning industries comply with the strictest environmental rules and favor peroxide-based rather than chlorine-based agents.

 

 

Step 5. - Weaving

 

Linen has freed itself from the vagaries of trends to become synonymous with innovation.

It includes classic fabrics, twills (like denim), herringbone; more sophisticated satins and crêpes; jacquards that accommodate designs woven in color or monochrome (damask); terrycloth and velvet, along with more unexpected possibilities.

 

A fabric is the result of the crisscrossing of warp yarns (running in the direction of the fabric’s length) and weft yarns (running crossways, its measurement equaling the fabric’s width). The rhythms this intertwining undergoes – weaves – create the fabric’s pattern and texture.weaving

The exceptionally broad range of possibilities, combined with the choice of thicknesses and thread effects make it possible to develop a multiplicity of creative fabrics for fashion, home linens, decoration, and so on. 

 

Step 6. - Knitting

 

Knitting brings suppleness, elasticity and a wrinkle-free added value to linen.

knitting linen

Linen’s naturalness, solidity, thermoregulation, moisture absorption, and softness, along with being hypoallergenic and antibacterial, making it a choice fiber for knits. 

 

Thanks to the innovations of European spinners, linen can be knitted in various ways.

Knit fabric or “jersey” is knitted on circular machines, then cut-and-sew assembled for collections of T-shirts, tops, sweatshirts, etc.

kniting linen-2Knitwear, on the other hand, is produced on flatbed knitting machines in set forms, ready to be assembled, or in 3D without seams.  

 

Step 7. - Finishing

 

Linen fabrics lend themselves to all kinds of finishing's.

Boasting an excellent ability to take color and perfectly suited to low environmental impact dyes, linen fabrics can be equally well printed with offset or screens as it does new digital processes and takes metallic coatings for a ‘glitter’ effect.

 

linen fabric colors

Linen lends itself to any decorative finishes, it can
be embroidered, burnt out, needle punched, etc.

On the technical side, various treatments add and increase linen fabrics’ performance capabilities, for example, anti-shrinkage, wrinkle-proofing, stain resistance, or waterproofing for fashion and outdoor decoration.

 

Washed linen is obtained through one or a combination of finishing technologies. Mechanical processes involve warm air flow or stonewash. Wet processes use softeners or enzymes during washing.

The result offers a cozy and soft handle and a supple texture that doesn't require ironing.  

 

For centuries Flax/Linen has been used to produce, os had been used in, many innovative products. In a recent article, "Why Ancient Linens Are Still Coveted Today," you'll more about why fine linen is such an exceptional fabric.

 

 

Flax/Linen fibers can be used for multiple applications.

  • Short Fibers - Used to produce dollar bills and used in the automotive industry for a multitude of products
  • Long Fibers - Used in the fashion and upholstery industries
  • Shives - The agricultural industry uses shives
  • Seeds - Used to make stains for home and industrial applications

multi-use-application-for-linen

 

Less than 1% of the world's textile fiber production is produced from Flax.

 

In our article, "4 Reasons Why People Love Flax Linen," you'll perhaps come away with a deeper appreciation of why people chose linen.

 

flax fiber production

 

Anti-Counterfeiting Solutions

 

In order to protect the integrity of natural linen production and manufacturing, and to ensure consumer confidence in their purchasing decisions, the Bast Fiber Authority is now the warrant for reliable compositional treating, product compliance and correct labeling.

 

This allows brands and distributors to meet their legal obligations.

 

The Bast Authority established the first reliable method to identify bast fibers namely Flax/Linen, Hemp, and Ramie, which is supported by a network of independent expert laboratories and providers of testing and control services.

 

The new method was voted on in 2015 to become an ISO standard: ISO/WD 20706-1.2 is expected to be finalized by 2019.

 

If you have thought abought purchasing fine linen from another country than the 3 main regions we outline here, our article on "The Benefits Of French Linen, Strenght, Durability and Elegance," is worth reading before making a purchase.

 

Does linen shrink is a question often asked? Click on the previous link to learn more about how washing linen may affect it.

In 2008, an Advisroy Commisison's Report ot the European Parliant stated, "Concerning the environmental impact of flax and hemp cultures, the evaluation report underlines that these cultures clearly need less fertilizer and chemical pesticides than replacement cultures. In addition, they have positive effects on the agricultural eco-systems’ diversity and landscape. In this context, growing these fibers offers a welcome ‘environmental pause’ in order to maintain soil quality, preserve landscapes and encourage bio-diversity."

 

All the signatory producers of the European Flax® Charter are reducing the ecological footprint of European Flax.

 

  • A CARBON SINK _ in European agriculture : 250,000 tonnes of CO2 stored
  • ZERO WASTE _ everything is used or transformed !
  • ZERO IRRIGATION
  • NO POLLUTION _ of neither soils nor water
  • 342,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions spared each year in Europe 
  • 38,000 tones of the equivalent in oil saved each year
  • 300 tones of phytosanitary products saved each year
  • ROTATED CROP _ which regenerates the soil for the next crop
  • BIO-DEGRADABLE

 

Studies clearly show that for all environmental impact indicators, flax fibers score much better than other fibers,  reducing for example the energy consumed to produce 1 KG of fiber.

flax is a low energy fiber

 

Source :  Composites Design and Manufacture (Plymouth University teaching support materials)

Natural Fibres - environmental, technical and economic issues. 

 

Cotton fabrics are sometimes used in place of linen fabric, however, our article "Linen vs Cotton: Which Is Better For You?," takes a serious look at the differences between the two fabrics.

 

Flax is a low-water fiber

 

If tomorrow, all French people bought a linen shirt instead of a cotton one, the savings would be equivalent to the amount of the water drank by the population of Paris in a year.

Buy a linen shirt

  • save 13 bottles of water
  • 19.5 liters or 5.15 gallons

flas a a low water fiber

 

Sources: Eco-profile of a linen shirt, by Bio Intelligence Service for CELC, 2007 ; The Barometer of European Flax/Linen 2015, a CELC Report by BVA and BIO BY DELOITTE

 

Flax is also a fiber that respects aquatic ecosystems

The growing of flax requires very few inputs (e.g. fertilizers) and no defoliant: it aids in the
preservation of aquatic ecosystems.

 

Further, explore the capabilities of linen by understanding how to wash linen.

 

Analysis of the comparative life cycle of a linen shirt and a cotton shirt “worn over a full day” shows the significantly lower environmental impact of flax/linen cultivation.

 

The impact of the linen shirt on the most important environmental indicators is up to 7 times less than that of the cotton shirt.

 

flax-linen-aquatic-systems

Flax, a breath of air for the planet

 

Every year, the growing of Flax in Europe results in the capture of 250,000 tons of CO2 equivalent to the CO2

emissions generated by :

A Renault Clio car driving around the world 62 000 times

… or driving 3 231 round-trips from Shanghai to the Moon !

fine linen is better for the planet

 

According to the Barometer of European Flax/Linen Report of 2015, 6/10 consumers declared themselves ready to pay more for a product with a certified European Flax origin.

 

You'll need to make sure you have a good quality linen supplier to work with. In our article "What to Look For, In A Linen Supplier, you'll learn what to look for and what to avoid when choosing your linen supplier.

 

 

EUROPEAN FLAX - premium quality European Flax for all uses

 

EUROPEAN FLAX® is the qualitative standard of European Flax fiber for all uses - fashion, lifestyle, home and composites - promoting origin, know-how and innovation.

 

The EUROPEAN FLAX® Charter, signed by all the Flax producers, guarantees local farming that respects the environment: ZERO IRRIGATION, GMO-FREE, ZERO WASTE.

The EUROPEAN FLAX® label audited by Bureau Veritas Certification certifies traceability at each step of the processing, right through to the finished product, and provides reassurance to a demanding consumer.

 

Each Company commits to the criteria in accordance with its activity, as part of the VALUE CHAIN:

european flax charter

 

Each Company commits to the criteria in accordance with its activity, as part of the VALUE CHAIN:

european flax value chain

 

Masters Of Linen

 

MASTERS OF LINEN® the guarantee of linen traceability, 100% Made in Europe from European Flax® fiber, to yarn to fabric.

masters of linen-europe

The European agro-industry of Flax & Linen is a remarkable combination of sustainable cultivation and manufacturing excellence, from field to 100% Made in Europe transformation: spinning, weaving and knitting.

A club of companies which preserves and enhances Quality, Creativity and Local production; a laboratory of ideas and innovation.

 

The Masters of Linen® certification is awarded to European spinners, weavers and circular knitters mills under strict criteria:

  • commitment to European production and supplies percentage
  • yearly audit by accredited Institutes or Auditor,
  • labelling fabrics exclusively woven in Europe from yarns spun in Europe;
  • transmitting the label to brands and retailers under same conditions.

 

The certification is a reliable guarantee through a certified traceability chain.

masters of linen certification trail

 

To understand more about what a linen company should provide, click this link to delve a little deeper into what a supplier should give you.

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