The Story of Flax - Linen The smart green sustainable fibre

1st in the world in quantity and quality with ethical production carried out by a skilled local workforce, in compliance with the rules of the International Labour Organization.

Source: 2015 Harvest figures – 2015/2016 Campaign,
CELC Cultivation-Scutching, Sept. 2016

97,000 hectares
= 133,000 tonnes of long fibres
= 80% of world’s production

FLAX CULTIVATION
in 10 steps
and just 120 days

Step 1 _Soil preparation

early March

The plating determines the crop’s future potential.
Flax is grown according to a crop rotation method,
with the ratoation renewed every 6 to 7 years,
regenerating the soil for the succeeding crops:
beet, wheat, potatoes, etc

Step 2 _ Sowing

mid-March – mid-April

Today’s flax farmer 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 fertiliser savings and early
harvesting criteria for a regulated staggering of maturation.

Source : Le lin : culture et transformation © ARVALIS – Institut du Végétal – February 2013 

Step 3 _ From germination to 4 cm

Aprl

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.

Source : Le lin : culture et transformation © ARVALIS – Institut du Végétal – February 2013 

Step 4 _ From 4 to 10 cm

May

Flax fibres are bast fibres: they are contained within the plant stem surrounded by a fine woody outer layer.

Step 5 _ From 10 cm to flowering

May – June

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)

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

Step 7 _ Maturity

July

Step 8 _ Pulling

July

Pulling occurs about 5 weeks after flowering.

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

Plants are laid on the ground in swathes (layers of flax one meter wide).

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%.

Seed capsule extraction enables the collection of seeds which will be used for the following season’s sowing.

Source : Le lin : culture et transformation © ARVALIS – Institut du Végétal – February 2013

Step 9 _ Retting

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

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

The swathes are turned halfway through the process.

Step 10 _ Collecting and Stocking

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

Source : Le lin : culture et transformation © ARVALIS – Institut du Végétal – February 2013 

FROM PLANT TO
LINEN FABRIC
in 7 steps

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.

Step 2 _ Combing

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

Step 3 _ Preparation for spinning

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

This unique know-how, comparable to the methods used for champagne and cognac, allows the qualities of each batch to be combined and to produce a fibre that is smooth and consistent over time.

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!

Step 4 _ Spinning

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

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

Step 5 _ Weaving

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 equalling the fabric’s width). The rhythms this intertwining undergoes – weaves – create the fabric’s pattern and texture.

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.

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 colour or monochrome (damask); terrycloth and velvet, along with more unexpected possibilities.

Step 6 _ Finishing

Linen fabrics lend themselves to all kinds of finishings.

John England specialises in a pre-shrunk, sustainable soft wash finish. Popular are also loom-state, softened and classic formal finishes.

All finishing is now carried out in out Banbridge, Co.Down Factory (Northern Ireland), greatly reducing our carbon footprint.

Soft Washed linen is obtained through a combination of finishing technologies.

The result offers a cosy and soft handle and a supple texture that doesn’t require ironing.

FLAX/LINEN,
A RESEARCH NICHE

FLAX, A NATURAL EXCEPTION THAT
BENEFITS BOTH THE PLANET
AND HUMANKIND

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.

Extract of the ADVISORY COMMISSION’S REPORT TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. Brussels, May 20, 2008.

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

ZERO WASTE and NO POLLUTION
_ of neither soils nor water 342,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions spared each year in Europe 38,000 tonnes of the equivalent in oil saved each year 300 tonnes of phytosanitary products saved each year

ROTATED CROP _
which regenerates the soil for the next crop

BIO-DEGRADABLE

Based on the 90,000 hectares of flax and hemp under cultivation in the E.U

Sources : European Commission Audit, Report of the Commission to the European Council and Parliament, Bruxelles, 2008 / Eco-profile of a linen shirt, by Bio Intelligence Service for CELC, 2007
Calculations based on average harvests 2004/2011 in FR, BE & NL – Sources C.I.P.A.LIN (FR), A.B.V (BE), C.V (NL).

Flax, a low-energy fibre

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

Source : « Composites Design and Manufacture (Plymouth University teaching support materials)
Natural Fibres – environmental, technical and economic issues. »

Flax, a low-water fibre

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.

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

water used for cultivation, manufacturing, use, care and end-of-life

Flax, a fibre that respects
aquatic ecosystems

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

Source: Eco-profile of a linen shirt, by Bio Intelligence Service for CELC, 2007 

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 :

Renault Clio car driving around the world 62 000 times

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

Source: The Barometer of European Flax/Linen 2015, a CELC Report by BVA and BIO BY DELOITTE; CELC

THE REMARKABLE QUALITIES OF
FLAX/LINEN FIBRE

The Flax/Linen fibre
offers the best ventilation
and is the most breathable

Linen provides the best flow of air and vapour through the textile, between skin and the surrounding environment.

Source: Linen study on Comfort Performance by Cetelor Laboratory – Université de Lorraine, 2014

The Flax/Linen fibre shows exceptional absorbency and moisture management

Linen has a remarkable ability to absorb and evaporate water quickly, for optimal comfort and performance.

Source: Linen study on Comfort Performance by Cetelor Laboratory – Université de Lorraine, 2014

Flax/Linen is the
thermoregulating fibre of choice

Breathable in summer and insulating in winter, linen regulates the body’s temperature and can be worn in all seasons.

Source: Linen study on Comfort Performance by Cetelor Laboratory – Université de Lorraine, 2014

Flax/Linen, the healthy fibre
for well-being

Linen textiles are indicated for sensitive skin. They are hypoallergenic, have beneficial effect on skin conditions and do not support bacterial growth.

They promote relaxation and sleep.

Tolerance and benefits of linen cloth for preventing and treating dermatological disorders – Università degli Studi di Milano – Istituto di Clinica Dermosifilopatica II – Dr M. Polenghi, Pr A. Finzi, 1985

The functional properties of Tencel® – A current update – Heinrich Firgo, K. Christian Schuster, Friedrich Suchomel, Johann Männer, Tom Burrow, Mohammad Abu-Rous, 2006

The Flax/Linen fibre is
hypoallergenic and safe

Linen textiles are very well tolerated, even by sensitive skins.

Dermatological ‘patch test’ experiments conducted on subjects with or without a history of skin allergies have shown no allergic reaction after flax/linen textile application.

They also have a beneficial effect on the healing of certain dermatological disorders, thanks to its thermoregulating and moisture wicking properties.

They do not promote the growth of bacteria: laboratory-tested in the presence of bacteria, cellulosic fibres obtained significantly better results than synthetic fibres.

Sources: Tolerance and benefits of linen cloth for preventing and treating dermatological disorders Università degli Studi di Milano – Istituto di Clinica Dermosifilopatica II – Dr M. Polenghi, Pr A. Finzi, 1985

The functional properties of Tencel® – A current update – Heinrich Firgo, K. Christian Schuster, Friedrich Suchomel, Johann Männer, Tom Burrow, Mohammad Abu-Rous, 2006

Linen promotes relaxation
and sleep

“Able to absorb and evaporate water quickly, linen keeps the skin dry and thus promotes sleep. Linen, as a non-allergenic fibre prevents any discomfort; its softness helps the feeling of wellbeing, a pre-condition for sleep.”

Proffeseur Luca Imeri,
Centre for Sleep research,
Univerity of Milan

Linen takes colour very well

Linen is capable of obtaining deep and intense ranges of colour: thanks to its exceptional absorption capacity, it is suitable for dyeing in an infinite number of shades.

Linen is hard wearing
and easy to look after

The Flax/Linen fibre is the most resistant of natural fibres.

It is long lasting and pills very little, thanks to the length of the fibre.

Source : Gabriella Alberti Fusi, Centro Tessile Cotoniero e Abbigliamento S.p.A.

WASHING

Linen is easy to take care of, it can be washed at a high temperature, and it becomes more supple and soft with repeat washing. It stands up well to spinning and machine drying, is easy to iron or, in the case of washed linen, linen knits and linen towelling, doesn’t need to be ironed at all.

In general, white linen can be washed up to 95°C and colour from 40°C to 60°C, on a normal programme. Follow the instructions on the care label which take into account the different parametres: the type of weave and knit, dyeing, finish, accessories, embroideries, etc. For example, fine linen jersey knits should be machine washed, on a delicate cycle.

WHITENING

Choose detergents and whitening products with a base of oxygenated agents. Avoid products with a chlorine base (bleach…) which could have a yellowing effect on linens if not rinsed immediately.

TUMBLE DRYING

After a moderate spin, linen can be dried in different ways: hanging, flat (for knits), in the tumble dryer (see label).

IRONING

The new generations of linen knits and washed linen don’t need ironing. For other cases ironing linen that’s still damp, with or without steam, is easy and gives an excellent result. Ironing should preferably be done on the reverse side.

The temperature of the iron should be chosen based on the fabric’s weight and composition. Pure linen can be ironed at a very high temperature. Experiment first on a corner of the fabric as a too-hot iron can make dark colours turn shiny.

PROFESSIONAL CLEANING

Dry cleaning is sometimes recommended, depending on the garment’s finish and its components (linings, buttons, etc.). 

Courtesy of COFREET, owner of the textile care symbols and eco-friendly logo clevercare.info – www.lavermonlinge.com – www.clevercare.info

THE CERTIFICATIONS OF
TRACEABILITY FOR
FLAX/LINEN

EUROPEAN FLAX
premium quality European Flax for all uses

EUROPEAN FLAX® is the qualitative standard of European Flax fibre 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.

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

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.

FLAX/LINEN, THE HOLISTIC EXPERIENCE :
… AND A SENSE OF HUMANITY

FLAX/LINEN, THE HOLISTIC EXPERIENCE :
… AND A SENSE OF HUMANITY

36000 years BC

Flax is the first textile produced by man : discovered in a cave in Caucasia, at a time when humanity used bone kooks.

3000 years BC

The Phoenicians export linen to Scotland, Persia, India and China.

Thomas Ferguson Established 1854

1810

Philippe de Girard develops in France the flax spinning machine : the start of the industrial revolution

1854

Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen Weavers and manufacturers established

1964

John England Irish Linen established