*An in-depth look at "RETTING", as it can be done in different ways:
After the flax has been pulled, it is spread evenly in the field, and over the course of the next 3-7 weeks - depending on climatic conditions - natural decomposing bacteria dissolve the pectin material around the plant stalks. It is a fully natural process, chemical free, no labor is involved, it's inexpensive, there's no environmental damage, yields more fiber, and creates greater natural antibacterial properties on the fiber. On the other hand, there's more room for error, it can produce inconsistent and poorer quality fibers if done improperly, it takes longer than other retting methods, it requires the use of the field for the duration of the process. This form of retting relies on the expertise of farmers to know when to begin, continue, or end the process – with much on the line, as over/under-retted fibers are of low quality for textile use. Dew-retted fibers are generally darker in color and more veritable in quality than others.
In water retting, the pulled flax plants are immediately collected from the field and submerged in a body of water; the bacteria present in the water then degrades the pectin and releases the fibers. Historically, water retting was performed in natural waters, such as bogs, ponds, lakes, dams, ditches or slow-moving streams and rivers. Nowadays, it is conducted in modern retting tanks. This process must be monitored at least on a day-to-day basis to achieve the optimal fiber quality. Generally, water retting produces a more consistent fiber than dew retting because conditions remain constant throughout the process. On the downside, water retting creates biological pollution, and therefore its wastewater must be treated prior to its release. On the one hand, it is a faster process, it can be performed in any season, results in a more consistent, finer, and stronger fiber. On the other hand, it can cause waterway pollution, wastewater requires treatment, there are little to no antibacterial properties in final fibers, it is water and labor intensive.
Chemical retting is an increasingly frequent, modified version of water retting that involves immersing the plants in a chemical solution to increase the speed of fiber release – taking only a few hours. On the one hand, it is the fastest form of retting, it can be performed year-round. On the other hand, it's expensive, it gives a low quality fiber, there's a significant wastewater treatment required, it's energy and water intensive, close control is necessary.
5) SPINNING, depending on the length of the plant when harvested, one of the following techniques is suitable for further spinning:
WET SPINNING for longer fibers
Fine linen thread needs to be spun wet. This process serves to obtain top quality flax yarn, often used in the clothing and household linen sector. In this process, the flax sliver is soaked in water of approximately 70°C in order to make it more flexible and thus enable the production of finer yarns.
DRY SPINNING for shorter fibers
Coarse thread from tow can be spun dry. In this case, the linen yarns turn out thicker, with more of a rustic feel to them. This process consists in spinning the linen ribbons without first soaking them in water. These yarns will be used for decorative fabrics or for technical purposes.
*During all these production phases, NO PART OF THE FLAX PLANT GOES TO WASTE, this is why linen production is considered as zero-waste
The seeds of the flax plant have always been harvested to guarantee successful sowing the following year. Linseed is also edible and it can be pressed to make oil. Linseeds obtained after dew retting are often damaged, and can usually only be made into oil. Higher-quality flaxseed is typically harvested at an earlier time.
Shives are woody fragments that break off from inside flax plant stems during the scutching phase. Shives are used as a basic material in lightweight building boards, as an aggregate in potting soil and, first and foremost, very successfully as animal bedding.
One by-product of this process is tow – short, coarse pieces of fibre produced during the heckling phase. Tow accounts for about 7-15% of flax straw. Higher-quality tow is used in the textile sector: it can be used as raw material for classic linen spinning mills, or shortened and refined tow can be used in staple fibre spinning mills. Medium-quality tow is used to make non-woven fibres; in the production of moulded parts or as natural insulating materials, for example. The lowest grades are used in the production of high-quality cellulose, which is necessary for special types of papers or filters.
Let's see all the PROS & CONS of Linen
Linen is made from Flax, which is environmentally friendly to grow, as it requires little irrigation and little energy to process. Furthermore, there’s hardly any pesticides needed as long as it is part of a crop rotation to protect the soil.
The flax has unique bactericidal properties, stops the development of bacteria that cause an unpleasant odor of sweat on the skin, minimizes the risk of skin diseases caused by increased sweating.
Flax fibers are known for their great ability to absorb water. This is due to a high amount of pectins, the components that hold the fibers together. Pectins in linen textiles give them a «lively», heat-regulating quality. Depending on the weather, they can retain water or repel it – up to 20%* of their weight – without feeling damp to the touch. Consider that the heat dissipation performance of linen is 5 times that of wool and 19 times that of silk, in hot weather, wearing linen clothing can make the skin surface temperature 3-4 degrees Celsius lower than wearing silk and cotton clothing.
A structure unique to xylem fibers (those contained in the plant stem, not the flower) makes linen textiles supple and resistant without pilling or becoming distorted. Linen is one of the most robust natural fibers used in clothing textiles worldwide- ranked second to silk and evidently 30% stronger than cotton.
Linen is ideal for all uses and easily associated with other fibers, linen can be used in all densities from ultra-light, transparent batiste to the heaviest canvases. It is at the heart of textile innovations thanks to skilled European spinners and weavers who modernize its hands, finishings, coatings and textures to keep abreast of trends running from casual to sophisticated.
When untreated with dyes and chemicals, linen is one of the most biodegradable fabrics in the world.
... Linen CREASES A LOT, but it's up to you to consider it a CONS or not
Linen fibers can vary – for example, depending on production or the addition of other fabrics. Thus, there are thicker and thinner flax fibers, which obviously affect fleshiness, bulkiness, degree of air permeability, etc. Thus, yarns made of coarse fibers are bulkier and have a more pronounced texture. Fine fibers on the other hand are more delicate, airy, soft and subtle. The latter tend to crease more – mainly due to their delicacy and uniqueness, which has been identified with nobility for years. There is a saying in Polish tradition “Linen creases but it creases in an expensive way“. These words emphasize the uniqueness of linen fabrics – by creasing, we can judge whether a person is wearing an expensive, unique fabric.