Long ago, it was an integral part of the everyday life of Slavic nations. Now we have forgotten about it a little bit and we are not making full use of its advantages.
Many of you think of linen mainly as summer material. True, flax works perfectly well as a breathable sweater or a shirt made of knitted fabric for the heat, but that’s not the end of its applications. In this note I will take a closer look at its properties. But first of all, briefly about where the linen materials come from, so that you can create a wider picture.
Flax is a fairly tall plant, usually at harvest time it is about one metre tall. It is easily recognisable by its characteristic blue-violet flowers. In the middle of the last century, extensive fields of this colour were still a common sight in almost all regions of Belarus, Poland and Russia.
Flax has been used as a textile raw material for a long time. For centuries, the methods used to obtain flax have not undergone any fundamental change, they have simply mechanised manual operations. The whole plant is uprooted from the soil because its fibres include not only the stem, but also the roots and the top.
Flax is a very capricious plant. It needs a seven-field crop rotation: the field where flax was grown can only be sown again after seven years. In this case, it is important that the flax does not stand still and that the microorganisms can “work” on the flax that has been removed and placed in the field. In flax cultivation, as in any other industry, every little thing has an impact on the result.
Then the dewing process continues. The crops lie on wet meadows for more than a month or (slightly less) are soaked in water. This makes it easier to carry out further processes such as wringing, drying, moulting and fluttering. This tired fibre can be used to prepare the yarn. This can be a noble thread for a sweater, a dress, or other knitted clothes or a packet for sealing pipes.
Today, in Poland, flax is still grown, but not in the same amount as in the past. Most of the production is a high quality raw material for export. Exclusive textile products are produced in western companies from Polish flax.
It is a pity that so rarely does Polish flax go to our stores. We usually get products from a mixture of poorer Chinese flax and synthetic fiber-polyester, which is cheaper and of poorer quality, but looks good. On the labels we can often read the composition: linen 10%, polyester 90%, while on the package will be written a linen shirt. I would like to create a kind of fashion for Polish linen. A healthy snobbery that would help us appreciate it a little. I think we’re close now, because the linen sweaters I made disappeared from my shop in a blink of an eye.
Characteristics of flax
Flax fibres do not differ from each other as much as the wool fibres I wrote about recently. But still, depending on the production technique or just the beauty of a particular plant, we can get a thicker or thinner linen fibre, which determines its character. A yarn made of thicker fibres will give us a garment with a clearer texture, but a yarn made of thin fibres will be used to make softer fabrics.
Of course, linen is not suitable for formal dresses or suits, as it is a fibre with very little resilience. In short, it bends itself. You have to accept that, that’s the nature of linen. Besides, some people claim that linen shirts or pants are noble to me. It is worth looking at it this way, because the advantages of linen are invaluable.
The main one is, of course, air permeability. A linen fabric, especially one with a loose linen weave, does not stop the airflow, allowing our skin to breathe well. Note that in many countries with a hot and humid climate, including India, flax is commonly worn. Also because of the feeling of cool touch.
An additional advantage is the high moisture absorption. Len drinks our sweat and evaporates it quickly. It is also quite resistant to unpleasant smells and dirt. This is important not only in tropical climates. Not everyone likes the touch of linen materials, but the admixture such as socks or T-shirt should not disturb anyone, but will make the clothes more hygienic.
Flax is not susceptible to fungi or bacteria and does not cause allergies, so it can be called hypoallergenic. Some producers say that flax has medicinal properties, but in my opinion there is nothing to be excited about. So far, I have not seen any convincing arguments on this subject.
As far as hygiene is concerned, flax is very resistant to high temperatures. Even frequent cooking will soon destroy it. That’s why sheets, bedding, tablecloths and linen napkins are always a good purchase. Even a difficult stain can be removed from the linen tablecloth, and linen bedclothes are definitely healthier than polyester.
In my clothes linen is also available in knitted fabrics – as a mix with cotton e.g. 50% linen, 50% cotton or 100% linen on its own. In summer collections I have a large selection of such clothes, which is growing. They are usually openwork men’s shirts with hoods and women’s dresses. Tailor-made sweaters can be ordered from me from a thick linen weave, which distinguishes a wonderful shine of linen. Moreover, linen will work well in transition seasons – they will provide protection against slight cold, but will not allow us to overheat.
The antifungal properties of flax help in the treatment of fungal diseases. Therefore, shoe liners made of linen fibre are used to combat the unpleasant odour of sweat. The same effect is achieved for the body when you wear linen clothes.
Flax fibres have bactericidal properties. This means that the pathogenic microflora dies in contact with the linen fabric. Silica contained in the linen inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause fermentation and decomposition. Regular wearing of clothes accelerates the healing of wounds, eczemas and sunburn.
Back to the linen! To natural clothes!
Material that was once in common use today is being replaced by cheap cotton and synthetic materials. Some people prefer cotton to linen as the nicer to the touch, but remember that its hygienic properties are not so good. Len has its advantages, and its distinctive texture and light shine will surely enliven any wardrobe. And linen book covers, bags, curtains, furniture upholstery – don’t we see their natural beauty anymore? I would like to have a bookcase with albums at home, for example about photographs, which would be framed in beautiful linen frames, and not in glossy paper.
There’s another reason we should take a closer look at the lion. Let us not fool ourselves, its industrial production is not completely environmentally neutral. But they generally use less pesticides and less water than, for example, cotton plantations. In addition, flax is used properly in its entirety, almost nothing is wasted, which makes its production environmentally rational.
Let’s fill up our wardrobe with linen clothes, change ordinary bedding into linen bedding in the bedroom. And we will not regret our choice for a moment. After all, there is nothing more expensive than perfect health and well-being of the family. Encouraged?