Friday, May 10, 2013

History of Linen

The fiber from the flax plant is extracted from the stem of the plant.  The fiber is very soft and flexible and is actually two or three times stronger than cotton but less elastic.   It is a very versatile fiber.  The best grades of flax are used to make linen fabrics where the coarser grade is made for ropes and twine.  Many types of paper will contain flax because of it durability
Flax, also known as linen, is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region.  In a discovery in 2009 a dyed fiber was found dating back 30,000 years.  These fibers were found in the caves of Dzudzuana, prehistoric Georgia. 

Fine linens were used as burial shrouds of the ancient pharaohs and pictures of the temple walls and tombs in Thebes depicting flowering flax plants.  In 1881 in the excavation of Ramses II they found linen in near perfect preservation.  The cloths date back to 1258 BC, about 3000 years ago.  Linen was the most important fiber used in ancient Egypt because wool and cotton were unknown to them.  They believed it to the gift of the Nile.

In the New Testament it states that the seven angels who held the past and future of mankind in their hands were clothed in white linen.  However the most prominent reference in the Bible refers to Jesus being buried in linen…
"When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph [see Joseph Of Arimathea], who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb [see The Garden Tomb], which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene [see Mary of Magdala] and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre." (Matthew 27:57-61 RSV)

Flax is knows for is luxurious nature.  The fiber is blonde in color and when bundles it resembles blonde hair,hence the term “flaxen”.  Timing is everything when harvesting flax.  If harvested to soon the fibers are fine and weak.  If harvested to late the fiber turns brown and is brittle.  When harvested properly the seeds from the plant are removed, which is called rippling.  The term dates back to early harvesting when the stacks were pulled through a row of spikes in a plank of wood.  After the seeds are removed the stalks are ready for retting.  Retting is the process of rotting away the inner stalk, leaving the outer fibers intact. After retting the final step is scutching, which is the removal of the fiber from the stalk.

Since its discovery the flax plant has been a staple in the lives of people.  Along with the flax fiber being used to make linen, the oil from the plant is edible. Linseed oil is the oldest commercial oil in use.   The seeds from the plant are used as nutritional supplement as they are high in Omega 3.  Flax plants are grown in flower beds round the world because of their ornamental qualities.  There are about 150 varieties of the flax plant. Flax is one of the few true blue flowers. Most "blue" flowers are really a shade of purple.

What is there not to like about the Flax plant?

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