- 1 Linen Fibre Production
- 2 Properties of Linen Fibre
- 3 Applications of Linen Fibre
Linen is sometimes combined with cotton or silk; in colonial times it was generally mixed with wool to make “linsey-woolsey”
Linen fibres are much stronger and more lustrous than cotton they yield cool, absorbent fabrics that wrinkle easily.
The use of linen, or “flaxen cloth,” dates back to people who lived about 10,000 years ago. These people dressed in skins but they made coarse cloth and fishnets from flax.
Fragments of the cloth and nets have been discovered in parts of Switzerland, the home of the Neolithic Lake Dwellers. Fine linens have been the burial shrouds of the Egyptian Pharaohs, the textile of Bible time.
Linen, then, has served man as a textile for thousands of years, and it has been more important in the past than it is today.
Linen is a vegetable fibre obtained from the inside of the woody stalk of the flax plant. However, the flax plant supplies many other products of use to ancient man, making it one of the most important crops after those supplying food.
Flax is grown for:
- Fibre for weaving into linen.
- Seed; used for next years crop.
- Seed ground into flour for bread.
- Seed crushed for oil and animal feed.
Flax plants raised for seed do not produce good fibres and vice versa. The seed is sold to manufacturers of linseed oil for paints and varnishes, and the woody stalks of the plant the straw- are used as fodder for cattle.
The best portion of the flax straw may be used for backing rugs and upholstery and for twine and rope Consistent moist but mild climate is necessary for growing flax for fibre.
The fibre requires more care than cotton before it can be made into cloth, and much of the labor in foreign countries is done by hand.
Linen Fibre Production
In northern countries, flax is sown in the spring, like wheat and rye. Little care is needed until harvesting time, which comes in late July or August.
Flax plants are pulled up by the roots when the stalks begin to turn yellow at the base and when the seeds are turning from green to pale brown.
In this way, the flax is dried and seasoned Stalks of uniform length are arranged together and are then threshed or rippled. When done by hand an iron comb with 18-inch teeth, called a rippler, fastened upright to a plank is used.
This device strips seeds or bolls from the plants. Stalks are spread out like a fan and pulled through the teeth of the rippler. This operation is also called “deseeding.”
The object of retting is to loosen the flax fibre from the outside woody stalk. Retting, or rotting, is done by the following methods:
1 Cold-water Retting of Linen
Flax straw is submerged either in ponds, lakes or streams. Flax is submerged and weighted down until retting is completed.
Bundles of flax are anchored in the river, the fresh running water rets the stalks. A strong clean fibre is thus obtained.
This method is an excellent one, but it takes several months.
2 Dew Retting of Linen
Flax plants are spread on fields and are subjected to rain, sun, and dew until the stalks can be separated easily from the fibre. This process takes a long time, but strong, lustrous soft fibre results.
After the flax is thoroughly dried, it is run through a machine which breaks the wooden stalk by crumbling or crushing it. The flax is now ready for scutching – the removal of the fibres from the woody stalks.
Hackling corresponds to the carding and combing of cotton. The object is to prepare the fibres for spinning by laying them parallel with one another.
When done by hand, a series of combs with iron teeth ranging from very coarse to very fine is used for this process. The scutched fibres are pulled through each comb, beginning with the coarse one.
Some short fibres adhere to the teeth of the comb, become entangled, or drop to the floor. These short fibres are called a tow and are used in irregular or uneven yarns found in inexpensive table linens and dish towels.
Properties of Linen Fibre
a) Color of Fibre
The average linen is a yellowish buff to gray in color. The best flax is pale, yellowish white. Flax retted by dew is steel gray; Egyptian varieties are pearl gray.
Linen fibres hare a characteristic silky luster, much more pronounced than that of untreated cotton. Linens are rarely mercerized, but natural luster can be increased if the linen is beaten or pounded after it has been woven.
Linen is stronger than cotton, and its tensile strength increases when the fibre is wet. Over-retting weakens the fibre appreciably. If linen becomes bone-dry, it is difficult to spin; that is why linens are often spun in damp cellars. A great deal of bleaching causes linen to lose strength and tends to decrease its weight.
In comparing cotton and linen by feeling, linen is found to be less elastic than cotton. This is why linen fabrics feel hard and smooth and why they wrinkle and crease easily.
e) Heat Conductivity
f) Hygroscopic Moisture
Linen can absorb about the same amount of moisture (water) as cotton–between 6 and 8 percent. Linen dish towels will dry more dishes than cotton before feeling damp. Linens dry faster than cotton.
g) Composition of Fibre
Like cotton, linen is composed chiefly of cellulose, but it has 15 to 30 percent more of natural impurities. When linen is bleached, it requires more care than cotton because more of the natural impurities must be removed to obtain a clear white.
h) Hygienic Quality or Launder Ability
Linen fibre is smooth; dirt and germs do not collect on it easily.
This quality makes it especially hygienic and adaptable to sanitary use. It launders easily, but not so easily as cotton.
The linen fibre is attacked more readily by alkalis and, like cotton, is destroyed by concentrated mineral acids. It is more difficult to bleach than is cotton because of the natural impurities in its fibre.
Weak alkalis, such as borax, ammonia, phosphate of soda, and laundry soap, do not injure linen.
i) Action of light
Ultraviolet rays of the sun attack linen, but not so quickly as they attack cotton.
j) Affinity for Dyestuffs
Linen has a very poor affinity for dye because of the hardness and lack of penetrability of the fibre. Its cells are held together with tissue that is broken down only under a severe bleaching process.
Linen (a vegetable fibre like cotton) may be attacked by mildew
Applications of Linen Fibre
Apparel – dresses, suits, separates, skirts, jackets, pants, blouses, shirts, children wear.