11 April 2017 At Shop Fog Linen, we get excited by linen and the versatility of flax, the plant that linen comes from. But people have been excited about linen for thousands of years, using it to create durable textiles, and these days, not much has changed; linen is still beloved for clothing, sheets, and towels. But dig deeper, and it turns out that flax's reach has expanded. Manufacturers have harnessed its natural qualities of strength and lightness and using flax to build cars, furniture, fishing rods, and even surfboards.
These innovative uses might seems worlds away from the linen in your home, but they all start with flax. Fog Linen Work products come from flax grown in Lithuania, an area well-known for its flax production. Flax is cultivated worldwide for its oil, seeds, and, most important for linen production, its fibers. Fibers run the full length of the 3-4 foot stalk into the plant's roots. Long fibers that are elastic and lustrous translate to higher quality linen. To capture the flax fibers at this moment, the plant is harvested at about 100 days old. The mechanized harvesting process pulls the plant up from the roots, preserving the integrity and length of the fiber.
After plants have been pulled from the ground, they are laid flat to dry for several weeks. Next comes retting, a process of exposing the plants to moisture to break down the internal cellular structure so that the fibers can be separated. The fibers are pulled apart from their woody stalks in a process called scutching. Finally, the fibers are combed through to separate long fibers from short, and they undergo polishing in preparation for spinning. When spun, flax fibers produce a fine, thin yarn. Multiple lengths of this thin yarn are spun together to produce a thicker weave. To create fabric, flax yarn is woven into sheets that can be bleached, washed, or dyed, or simply left untreated and spooled.
At Fog Linen Work, goods are created by designer, Yumiko Sekine, in Tokyo and seamstresses in Lithuania. A years-long working relationship between these parties results in small-batch production of the clothing and soft goods that make up Fog Linen Work.
As flax becomes a darling in the world of science and technology, it's finding applications beyond what we can envision. From the kitchen cloth in our hand, to the surfboard under our feet, the many uses of this natural fiber continue to captivate us. To learn more, here's a super-cool video about innovations in flax, and here's an artistic take on linen production through the years.
*image by jenny hallengren