Linen fabric: manufacture and properties (part 1)
The first mentions of linen fabric and its use date back to several thousand years ago. Some historians think this fabric is 5000 years old. The earliest use was found in Ancient Egypt. It was an expensive material, so only rich families, the pharaoh’s family, and his court could afford linen clothes and bedding. Also, pharaohs’ mummies were wrapped in linen fabric. Slavic communities knew about linen (or flaxen) fabric in about 9th century. Thanks to the properties of this plant’s fibers, fabric and clothes were thin and durable at the same time making the products made of it long-term. Unlike other countries, here linen was not a luxury. Linen clothes can be seen on people of various social classes. The difference was only in the thickness of the fibers, finishing, and dyeing.
Since Catherine the Great made it possible to export linen threads outside the state, most weaving mills in Europe worked with fibers grown in the Russian Empire.
The plant, growing conditions, habitat
Cultivated linen that is used for various industrial purposes can be of different sorts. This culture is mainly cultivated for seeds, fibers, and oil. It is common flax that is used for fabric manufacture. The stems that produce the fibers can be different, and the quality of the threads depends on them.
Flax is a capricious plant to cultivate. It is best cultivated in regions with a moderate climate and nonchernozemic soil. This culture is very demanding for soil composition, mineral fertilizers contained in it and weather – precipitation during maturing period can damage the whole crop. Sprouts appear in early spring at +4-5 Celsius and can endure frosts up to -4 Celsius. It takes from 68 to 84 days from the first sprouts to appear to the harvesting. In Russia, this plant is cultivated in various regions, on thousands of hectares of land. But only a small part of it is dedicated to the cultivation of the sort that gives the best raw material for thin fabric manufacture. That is why linen fabric is quite expensive.
Flax fibers and their processing
There is a certain period for getting the most qualitative and thinnest fibers because the thinner the raw material the better the linen fabric. The plant’s stems must be of light-yellow color while its bolls – of green. Flax is gathered with roots and soaked to easily separate the fibers from the rest material. Then it is dried and sent to manufacture. Further processing does not differ much from the one that was used in ancient times. Flax is broken, pulled, and hackled, only such procedures are done by machines on modern factories.