The preindustrial method of linen production hasn`t changed in centuries. Though over the last hundred years we`ve developed machines that complete the task of harvesting, retting and dressing flax, these processes damage the delicate fibres such that finest linens are still manufactured almost entirely by hand. Because the process is still so laborious, even mechanised production actually requires a great deal more handwork than other mass industrially-produced textiles like cotton and rayon. This is how the process looks like today :
Planted between March 15th and April 15th, the seed takes 100 days to grow and reach 1 meter when it flowers.
June - though the Linen flower only lives a few hours atop its supple stem, all flowers in a field do not bloom on the same day; This is what gives the landscape a delicate blue-ish colour for a few weeks, moving like an Impressionist sea in the wind.
We don't reap linen, we pull it up! It is pulled up when the leaves have dropped off the bottom third of the stem. The plants are then placed in swaths of cloth ( one-meter wide linen sheets) which give the field a graphic beauty. The capsules holding the seeds take on a brownish-yellow colour.
The first phase of transforming the plant to fibres : Mother Nature takes over. Sun, dew and rain help detach the fibrous skin from the central wood, the stems take on a beautiful russet hue. Then comes the time for gathering.
The second phase for mechanically transforming the plant into fibres: to use the linen fibres which surround the central wood like skin, it is necessary to separate them. Scutching, a specialised mechanical process, includes shelling, stretching, grinding and treshing. The sunny, sensual fragrances of cut grass and warm bread float in the air.
Combing is the preparation for spinning, a homogenization of fibres into soft, lustrous ribbons like blond hair.
The third phase of the transformation, from fibre to yarn is spinning.
Untangle, regularised, stretch, thread fibres. The metric number (Mn) corresponds to the number of kilometres of yarn, made out of 1 kilogram of fibre. The higher the figure, the thinner the yarn.
Weaving is the process in which the flax threads are interlaced to form the linen fabric. On a loom, or frame, the length-wise threads known as the warp are fixed under tension while another thread is woven through the warp which is called the weft. The warp threads are separated and the weft is carried through them on a shuttle. Linen can be developed in serge, herringbone, glen plaids, double-weaves, velvet, floating yarns, gauze, satin...
After several years of investing in R&D, European spinners have succeeded in improving the numbering of the yarns and facilitating knitting operations to give birth to a new generation of ultra fine, regular and particularly smooth yarns. the aim is to produce sensual, caressing, supple and elastic linen knits.
The ultimate step in fabric processing, finishing includes treatments designed to change the appearance of the yarn or linen fabrics and giving them the values sought by consumers in terms of comfort, aesthetics, functionality. Four categories are distinguished: bleaching, dyeing, printing and finishing.