The personality of linen
Linen has very diverse applications. From book bindings, via painting canvases and curtains, to the contemporary and trendy shirts you will find at Vertigo. One characteristic underlies this versatility: linen has personality! Linen is made from flax, the basic industry inextricably linked to South-West Flanders and the Leie region. The Golden River, which cuts right through Flanders' Texas, has been partly overtaken by history and new evolutions, but linen is more than ever a top product.
It is a symbol of self-willed creativity, seems to have a will of its own and is at the same time very forgiving, elegant, timeless and fine. It is a lot at once and that is what makes it a popular material. Free from fluff, completely vegetable and extremely strong, you don't need much imagination to add to the list of assets. The more you wash it, the softer it gets and the biggest advantage has not yet been mentioned: linen is breathable and ventilating. It cools the body down.
A top product for a long time
Not surprisingly, linen has already had a few "golden ages". In Egypt, 8000 years ago, they reached a degree of perfection that was the envy of the rest of the world for a long time. The Phoenicians - merchants pur sang - introduced it to Europe and in a later phase the Romans linked all that with their love for linen. They discovered that the conditions in Northern France and Flanders were ideal for growing flax. Charlemagne, father of Europe around 800 AD, made wearing a linen shirt and trousers 'normal'. Initially because it was thought to be healthy for the skin and to prevent disease, but very quickly also because it was elegant and stylish. Stylish and elegant, which brings us to the Renaissance. Rich refinement was the aim in every social sphere and in the field of clothing linen was the inevitable choice.
Linen clothes feel fresh and cool. There is nothing better for summer clothing. Sometimes - soft and spoilt as our modern bodies are - the somewhat stiffer and harder flax fibre can be a bit of a deterrent. Especially since we are used to a lot of artificial elasticity, which linen naturally has less of. Using it together with cotton makes it softer and more wrinkle-free. Purists, however, swear by 'the real deal': breathable, comfortable, strong and a little wrinkled. A linen shirt is a good way of telling you which chair you were sitting in last time. That's called 'personality'.
From flax to linen
The fertile soil and humid climate of South-West Flanders are ideal for the demanding fibre plant whose lilac-blue flowers bloom for just a few hours in June. Because they do not all bloom at the same time, we can usually enjoy them a little longer, but then comes the time to harvest the flax. Originally this harvest was left to dry in the field and the flax was 'turned'. After this drying period the flax was 'rippled', whereby the seeds were removed, and 'retting' was necessary to break the fibre structure and make the flax firm and flexible. In ‘dew-retting’, the grower spreads the flax across the field and lets the elements do their work. The faster 'water-retting' - in rivers and streams - created the typical golden glow that gave the Lys from France to Astene its nickname.
The fibres lying on top of the woodpile of the flax stem were soaked loose in the Golden River over a period of 7 to 10 days. During the braying process, the wood pulp breaks into small clay pieces and the fibres and wood are separated. The remaining loam pieces must literally be knocked out of the fibres during 'scutching'. Then the fibre bundles are split and the long flax fibres are specifically selected during the 'heckling'. The other, short, stiff fibres end up in rougher yarn. The long 'flax ribbon' is 'carded' and 'combed' and is ready for spinning. The spinning is done wet, for a strong, smooth and shiny yarn. Flax yarn, which is called 'linen'.
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