Making Linen

Linen is made from the stem fibres of the Flax plant. Flax is a versatile plant which also gives us linseed oil.
It takes around 100 days from seed to harvest.
After flowering it starts turning golden brown. It is uprooted and dried. Then it is
pulled up by the roots, laid out on the ground and kept damp until the woody stems have rotted away exposing the flax fibres within (this process is called "dew retting").
The retted stems are then broken (scutched) to remove the woody waste, and the flax fibres combed (hackled) until they are tangle free and lying parallel with each other.
The fibres can be spun - and are then called linen.
Linen can be woven, knitted, and used for making paper (bank-notes in the UK) are made from linen.
The following section tracks linen from yarn to cloth:

Strands of linen (around 1200) are wound round a frame to produce a "warp" which is the length of the linen web
The ends of an undyed warp are spread out evenly through a comb called a "raddle".
The warp is wound onto a holding "beam" which is at the back of the loom.
Each thread is individually "tied in" to the end of the previous warp
The new warp is pulled through the "reed" (the comb at the front of the loom) and weaving can start.
The crosswise threads (the "weft") are carried across the loom by a bobbin contained in the "shuttle". Each shuttle can carry a different colour - up to six in one web.
 

Page updated 03 September 2013