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Flax origins


Flax is one of the first known cultivation. Humans are probably using this fibre for 10,000 or 15,000 years. Flax origins come from the very first civilisations and we can find proof of flax use in many ancient archaeological places as Mesopotamia, Assyria and Egypt. It appears that pharaoh’s Egypt age allowed flax use development. Its 6,000 years old production had for uses garments, funeral fabrics, sails, ropes or nets. 

Flax fibre arrives in Greece and Rome thanks to Phenycians.

In Gaul flax was cultivated long before the roman invasion. However Charlemagne provided the impulsion to this know-how. From XI century flax use expands. Bayeux tapestry is a proof of flax use at this time.

In the XIII century, flax culture expands more and more, especially in Flanders, Britain and Anjou.

Flax peak happens in XVII century. We can also find it in the manufacturing of Cambrai canvas, laces as this one from Alençon, blouses, tissues.. 

In the XIX century there is a declin of flax use because of the intensive use of cotton.

During the second part of the XX century flax makes its come-back in fashion industry, which is in expansion.
During the following decades there is an emergence of agricultural mechanization, of varieties creation and scutching improvement.

Today cultivation and manufacturing are industrialised and flax fibre has not lost its noble character combining tradition and modernity.

Flax cultivation areas


Nowadays there are more than 75 000 cultivated hectares a year and France is the first wordwilde flax fibre producer. 

Main flax cultivation area is indeed in Westearn Europe and specially we find flax in a broad costal brand between southern Normandy, Northern France, Belgium and Nederlands. It is a 600 kilometers linear zone from Caen to Amsterdam ; this is the reason why we can call it "cultivation of proximity”. 
This European space represents 70 % of the worldwide production.
Plus, european flax cultivation is 
non relocatable, and especially because it is the only vegetal textile fibre from European continent.

Its reputation and its excellency come from the unique mix between a wet a et son excellence résultent d

e la rencontre unique entre a temperate climate with natural humidity, a low thermal density, generous soils and the know-how of the scutching companies. These advantages are accompanied by a very positive image. Flax is synonym of naturality, nobless and elegance. During its growth flax needs deep soils and under 25°C temperatures. If we can find flax in Northern regions of France, it is because these regions have indeed the necessary climatic conditions for flax cultivation and they have 99% of the parcels. Their scutching capacity varies between 300 and 12,000 hectares year. 

Flax fibre contribuates 

Flax fibre helps to maintain an economic and social network in rural regions. Its cultivation, its first labor, its location generates 1,500 jobs.


Flax cultivation and harvest

Flax cultivation is composed of several steps :

- Planting : According to regions and soils state this step happens between mid-march and mid-april. Planting density is between 1,800 and 2,000 seeds/m². Flax grows quickly : From raising to maturity there are about 120 days.

- Flowering : We are now in the middle of june. There are several flower varieties (bleue, purple or white), and every flower is ephemeral since each flower only exist for some hours at midday. A field can flower during several days. Flax needs no water input and other inputs are ten times less than other cultivations.

- Harvesting : This step begins when flax is mature, offently middle july. We can see that flax is mature when the stem colour turns from green to yellow and capsules turn brown. Flax is not cutted but torn off because we need to keep the fibre length which is in the stem (in the ground). Then plucked flax is laid on the field. The aim is to expose flax to climate variations for the retting step.

- Retting : This natural step is unavoidable for the fibre maturation process beforce scutching. Retting allows the natural decomposition of glues which link flax fibre to straw. With the cohesion decrease, scutching is facilitated.

- Turning : The aim of this step is to turn the straw windrow to expose the against ground face to light. This must allow an homogeneous retting and support straw drying. Sometimes turning is not necessary when windrows are thin and when the weather is warm and wet. In contrast turning can be done two or three times if windrows are thick.

- Winding : This step is the last one of the harvest. It is when we remove flax from field. It happens when flax is retted. Stems are rolled up to allow scutching step.

Flax scutching


Flax scutching is a very difficult process. Each scutching company has its own quality secrets. There are more than twenty scutching companies in France, they are in the middle between agricultural industco2ry and textile industry. 

In simple terms, the process of linen scutching can be explained as the technique used to separate the flax fiber from the plant's straw. This operation holds great significance for the future quality of the fiber and is, therefore, a pivotal step in linen product manufacturing. It requires expert skills and an excellent understanding of the plant.

Following the scutching process, the various components of the plant are then separated:

  • The long fiber (tow)

  • The short fiber

  • The linwood (shives)

  • The seed

  • The dust



Linen fiber is regarded as a long fiber. While it is primarily used for spinning and therefore in the textile industry, it possesses highly interesting properties for integration into various technical fields.

Indeed, linen exhibits numerous properties such as lightweightness, mechanical strength, antibacterial qualities, and many others.

As a result, linen can be found as an insulator, in composites, in reinforcements, and... even in cups!

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