Today, we continue our tour of fiber with linen. This summer fiber is best known for its lightness and ability to wrinkle quickly (ah … the joys of trying to iron a linen dress that will be immediately crumpled as soon as we put our buttocks on a chair). Beyond that, flax is a fiber of history and very interesting to know. I’ll be honest with you, I was afraid to knit linen at first … I thought it would be very rough and really not that nice on the skin. I learned more about this fiber, I understood how to work it and today, I can say that it is a pleasure to knit 🙂 Let’s go for our fiber tour!

The structure of the fiber

As in the last article, I will try not to go into scientific complexities. We can already say that flax fiber is one of the most used natural fibers. It is a sustainable material grown in many parts of the world.

It is a cellulosic fiber (it is made from cellulose fibers that grow inside the stems of linen), which makes the flax fibers 2 to 3 times stronger and shiny than cotton. They produce absorbent tissues, it can absorb up to 20% of its weight before one begins to feel it wet.

Just like cotton, flax fibers are hollow which makes this fiber very interesting both for the summer with its breathability and for the winter when it will retain the heat perfectly. Linen is a natural insulator.

Linen has natural colors that vary from ivory, bronze and gray. White flax is only obtained by various bleaching processes.

One of the characteristics of flax fiber goes with its solidity: it is very rigid. Nevertheless, no worries, flax will begin to soften over time and over washings. It is for this reason also that it is important not to knit too much. He will not react like wool, he will not let himself be and you will have to learn how to handle it. Once it is done, you will not have any more difficulties to knit it, it is a shot of needles to take 😉

The properties of flax

Flax fiber is a natural plant fiber, it has a huge amount of “holes”, it allows air to circulate even through the garment, which makes flax so pleasant to wear in summer. The length of the flax fibers varies between 25 and 150 mm and have a diameter of 12 to 16 micrometers. There are two varieties: a longer flax fiber (lines) will produce a very smooth and fine yarn while a short fiber (tows) will give a more rustic feel and a thicker yarn.

Flax has healing properties and could even reduce conditions such as arthritis and dermatitis. Egyptians used flax for its natural ability to repel microorganisms. Flax is known to be a fiber tolerated by people with allergies and skin problems.

Interestingly small: Flax is a renewable resource and could be much more environmentally friendly than cotton. It requires much less use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. It grows best in traditional farming methods where crops are rotated and fields are left fallow; it also benefits from a longer life. Flax has been cultivated for thousands of years and is always in the utmost respect for the environment. Flax is a plant that grows naturally with very few chemicals used (much less than other crops). No irrigation is necessary for flax cultivation. Flax is gentle on the earth and flax is easy to incorporate into the rotation cycles of modern crops. Flax treatment requires very little energy and does not harm nature.

Flax spinning

You should know that linen can be spun in three ways: wet spun, semi-wet spun or dry spun.

Wet spinning is recommended for the longest and thinnest flax fibers, which means, for simplicity, that the spinner incorporates heated water before rolling the wire. This is done to inflate the fine wire in order to make the spinning process possible. Wet spinning gives a smooth and shiny appearance.

Shorter yarns are usually semi-wet or dry-spun, resulting in a more irregular, more “rustic” appearance.

Choosing the right flax for your projects

As you can see, the composition of flax balls can be more or less adapted to certain projects:

  • For a ball 100% linen, you have a classic ball. It has all the capabilities of flax (strength, high absorption capacity …). It will be perfect for summer highs, sweaters, cardigans, scarves and shawls. In any case, avoid projects that need to be elastic such as socks, mitts, hats …
  • With a ball of flax mixed with viscose (we are usually on 60% viscose and 40% linen), you will have an interesting mix that will have a softer and more mellow texture while often maintaining the shine of linen. The drape of the wool will also be particularly nice. It will be perfect for clothes that require a light and slightly structuring drape.
  • With a ball with a mixture of linen, silk and wool you will often have a mix with the rustic touch of flax. It will be a very hot wire while being fluid and light. It will also soften over washings.
  • If you have a ball with a mix of cotton and linen (usually we are on 60% cotton and 40% linen), the texture of the fiber will be slightly thick. The thread will soften over washings. It’s a thread that will be perfect for hot and cold seasons. Cotton will add softness to the fiber while linen will add strength and structure.

My tips for knitting linen

When you take the linen in your hand the first time, it’s a little confusing … it does not act at all the same way as wool (or a mixture of wool). Linen is not elastic, I advise you to let slip the thread between your fingers, try not to mistreat it and not to knit it too tight.

Second tip: never take (I said never) your wool yarn in the center … it will be the apocalypse if ^ ^ More seriously, the thread tends to entangle so take the side, it will save you headaches.

I also advise you to knit with wooden needles for the shot 🙂 If you knit linen with metal, the linen thread already slips a lot so it is better needles with materials that will retain it like wood or bamboo.

For this fiber, the sample is also required! I remind you that flax softens when washing so if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, make a sample, wash it and block it to test the reaction of the thread.

I hope that this article will have been useful to you and will allow you to better know this fiber which is flax 😉 And you, have you ever knit linen? What ball of flax do you use?

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