Why have we chosen linen for our summer clothes?
Linen: a local fibre
Some 80% of the world’s linen comes from European flax plants and France is the leading producer. However, it represents only 1% of the world’s total textile fibres.
The downside is that competition from Asia in the 1990s resulted in the relocation of spinning, with China now responsible for 80% of spun linen, the rest being produced in Eastern Europe, Italy and Spain. This means there is no longer any linen spun in France, though a project is being considered to remedy this for 2021.
The linen in our collections comes from crops in France and Eastern Europe, and it is processed and spun exclusively in Europe.
“Each flower lives for only one day…But luckily they don’t all flower on the same day!”
Linen: naturally ecological fibre
Flax requires very few pesticides or herbicides and needs little water. It is included in crop rotations every seven years, thereby contributing to the maintenance of biodiversity in agricultural systems and landscapes.
“Wheat is best when grown after flax as the latter improves soil structure.”
Linen production produces no waste because the whole plant is used. It can be used not only for textiles, but also for insulation, paper pulp, mulch and the seeds can be eaten or used to make oil.
All the processing operations – retting, scutching, heckling, spinning, weaving – are natural or mechanical and no chemicals are used.
Flax crops are genuine carbon sinks with one hectare of the crop absorbing 3.7 tonnes of CO2 each year. It means flax also plays a role in combatting global warming.
Linen: sustainably processed fibre
Retting is the first step. This takes place naturally on the ground through the action of the sun, rain and micro-organisms. These facilitate the separation of the filamentary bark and stems. The stems turn black after three to nine weeks.
Next comes scutching, which is a process of crushing and threshing flax straw to separate textile fibres from the wood and bark. This process produces loose fibres known as tow, shives and the all-important long fibres destined for the textile sector.
Then the fibres are spun into a single thread. Spinning can be done ‘wet’ by dipping the fibres in water at 60-70°C to make them more flexible. This produces fine and homogeneous thread which is used for high quality fabrics.
The last step is the only one which uses chemicals since it involves dyeing the thread. At Racines du Ciel, our dyes are GOTS or Oeko-tex certified, guaranteeing the highest environmental standards.
So, to make a linen garment, you must first plant the flax seeds, then carry out the stages of retting, scutching, heckling and spinning. Next comes weaving or knitting, dyeing and finally cutting and sewing! Around 10 trades are involved in the production of a linen garment. A strong link has been forged between agriculture and manufacturing. In addition to the comfort it provides, wearing a linen garment undoubtedly brings an added touch of soul.
See you soon,
Les Racines du Ciel