Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Fabulous Fiber Flax

Dearest Friends,

As I was cutting out my shift, I was thinking about the first ancient people who figured out how to process flax for cloth.  It would hardly seem intuitive to take a plant, beat it, comb it, spin it and weave it into fabric, but thank goodness they did.  So today I sing the praises of "Linum usitatissimum".   From the Egyptians to it's numerous Biblical references, to the legacy of Irish linen, it is a cloth that has been held in high regard for centuries.

And what a perfect fabric for a shift - it's soft on the skin, it absorbs lots of moisture before feeling damp, it can withstand repeated washings,  and unlike some fabrics remains strong when it is wet.  It's the natural version of polypropylene -- absorbing water and wicking it away!

But one of my favorite qualities of linen is that it is so easy to cut it straight as well as to sew a straight line on it. For you readers who have not worked with linen before, it's tabby weave (simple up and down and back and forth pattern) makes it a joy to work with.  To create a guide for cutting, merely pull a thread in the direction you want to cut.

Close up view of pulled thread showing cutting line

Then cut along that line and voila -- perfectly straight!

So now I'll cut out the pieces I need for my shift, which I'll show you in my next post.  Very ingenious geometry!  But in the meantime, thank you humble flax plant for producing such a wonderfully practical fabric.
Field of flax

Mrs. S


  1. Mrs S., that is the most ingenious straight-line method I've ever seen. If only it worked on other textiles!

  2. It works on other textiles, just not quite as neatly and easily as on linen! It works best on tabby weaves, not at all on some fancy weaves.