The Journey of Linen
Artisans in our region have been working with flax for centuries. Their skills and expertise have been passed on from generation to generation. From field to fiber, from yarn to fabric, the making of linen is a story of passion and craftsmanship.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Oramai Linen.
HISTORIC FLAX REGION
The flax plant grows best in the north of France, in Belgium and in the Netherlands. This region’s rich soil and mild North Sea climate, where sun and rain alternate, are ideal for growing a fiber that is known worldwide for its quality.
Every year about 136 000 acres of flax is sown in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, which represents 80% of the worldwide flax production.
1. GROWTH & BLOOMING
MARCH - A NEW FLAX SEASON
At the beginning of spring the flax farmers prepare to go into the fields again. They follow the changing of the seasons closely and wait patiently until the time is right for sowing. Severe frost and unstable weather are to be avoided. After merely 100 days, the flax will have reached a height of approximately 1 meter/3 feet.
JUNE - BLOOMING
The blooming flax attracts many people to the fields every year. A flax flower lasts only a single day. By the end of June the fields turn blue for a couple of days, after which the flowers disappear.
JULY - PULLING
When flax is harvested, it is pulled rather than cut. The customized machines pull two rows of flax from the soil simultaneously. The flax is laid on its side and placed on the field in parallel rows. After this process, the fields are covered with green flax.
However, that soon changes…
AUGUST - RETTING
Mother Nature has a crucial role in the retting process where sun, dew and rain alternate. Micro-organisms dissolve the pectins and loosen the fibers. The soil also plays a part in the process. It contributes to the typical beige color of flax.
Retting can take up to two to six weeks, depending on the weather. Only an expert can determine whether the flax has been sufficiently retted. It is an important task. If the retting period is too short, the fibers are difficult to extract. If the period is too long, the fibers will start to rot, causing a decrease in tensile strength.
SEPTEMBER - HARVEST
After retting, the flax is picked up by customized machines and tied together in large bales, weighing about 300 kilograms (611 lb) each. For a short time, these large flax bales adorn the fields.
2. PROCESSING THE FIBER
Time to free the flax fibers! Large rollers in the scutching machine break the woody stems of the plants to separate the fiber from the shives (the wood particles from the stem). The quality is assessed manually as soon as the flax comes out of the machine.
The recovered shives are further processed into chipboards or animal bedding. The scutching tows are used for spinning coarser yarns or as raw material for the paper industry.
Thousands of pins comb the flax until only the purest fiber remains. The remaining short fibers, the hackle tow, are separated from the longer fibers, the line. The line is used to produce the finest textile. The tow is processed into coarser yarn.
3. SPINNING THE YARN
Before the spinning starts, fibers of various fields and regions are mixed to obtain yarn of equal color and quality. Next, the line flax is fed across the flax spinning machine. The line is clamped between two rollers. Two more rollers below the first two rotate at a higher speed. The line is, thus, lengthened into a yarn of a certain metric count or weight.
The spun yarn is wound on a spool. A ring travels around the spinning spool at a high speed to ensure an even distribution of the yarn. The spindles’ rotating movement twists the fibers to ensure the required torsion. This brings together the different fibers into a yarn. In the last stage, the yarn on the spools is combined into bigger bobbins.
Appropriate preparation is essential for efficient operation of the weaving mill. During the warping process, large metal beams are filled with warp yarn, sometimes up to 10 km. This is high-precision work with no margin for error. In the next step, three essential components for weaving are added to the warp beam: dropwires, heddles and reed.
In the weaving mill, the rhythm of the looms can be heard day and night. At full speed the rhythm of each loom is different, yet harmonious.
Mechanics, technicians and weavers work the looms while foreman keep a general overview. A central monitoring system keeps track of the activity and efficiency in the mill. The humidity is kept constant and quality is monitored around the clock.
While the energy is bustling in the weaving mill, in quality control concentration reigns. The menders inspect the loomstate fabric yard by yard and mend every flaw by carefully following the path of the yarn with their needle. Precision, a keen eye and the ability to concentrate are essential qualities of a good mender.
Next, the linen fabric is fed through a machine where shearing blades remove the last pills and impurities. This is a required step for a perfect finish. The shearing dust is collected and upcycled. It can be used for paper or insulation production.
A linen fabric is finished to bring out its unique qualities and to add to its natural patina. The fabric can undergo many treatments, such as washing, bleaching, dyeing and special finishes.
Linen has a natural flax color. The exact color depends on the sun exposure and the influence of the soil during the retting process. Expertise in finishing is therefore essential to achieve consistent results.
FINAL QUALITY CONTROL
After undergoing finishing the fabric comes back and is carefully inspected again. The color of the linen is checked under different light sources. It has to be consistent for the whole length and width of the fabric. The hand of the fabric is assessed manually.
After a thorough control, the linen is ready for production.