Summer is coming! Time to knit with those lovely, light, plant fibers! This week we get to play with Fibra Natura’s Flax Lace, a lovely complement to Flax, Fibra Natura’s double knitting weight 100% pure linen yarn.
Flax Lace comes in 11 of the 26 colors available in Flax; taupe; pale blush, potent berry, blue spruce, jade, turquoise, mineral, white, pewter, black, and purple. Flax Lace extends the style possibilities of Flax by making such features as lacy cap sleeves, openwork midriff sections, or lacy yokes possible. Our sampling and posts this week are done in mineral, a soft, greeny-blue, and white – a pure, pure white. The turquoise and mineral are for “something blue”. Yes, we’re doing a wedding theme this week!
Today, though, we’re talking about the fiber itself. Linen is a bast, or plant, fiber, which grows in the stem of the flax plant. There are several varieties of flax: the one that produces fiber grows to about 5 feet tall. The fibers extend right down into the roots. Preparing the fiber for spinning is labor intensive: the plant is first retted, a process of soaking the stalks of the plant to rot away unnecessary components of the plant. The stems then go through a process to break away additional unwanted parts and separate the long, strong fibers (called line) from the shorter fibers (called tow – pronounced as in tow truck). Both line and tow fibers can be spun into yarn, but the best linen is “wet spun” from the line flax.
Why wet spun? Because linen fibers are actually stronger when wet. Incorporating water into the spinning process helps smooth the fibers and lends a sheen to the yarn that rivals a silk blend!
Over time, the sheen may soften, or even disappear, however, over time, linen garments become softer and more (and more) comfortable.
Linen is an exceptionally absorbent fabric (it is more absorbent than cotton). It wears well and dries quickly – that’s why it makes excellent tea towels. It has no elasticity, whatsoever, except for what our knitted stitches might allow. For this reason, clothing made from linen yarn (woven or knitted) has plenty of drape. Plant fibers (cotton, linen, ramie, and bamboo) have little insulation value, so they’re far more practical for summer garments than they’re for winter ones.
I designed these luxurious face cloths for A Needle Pulling Thread magazine for a sport weight linen yarn. Even though the cloths are lacy, they are sturdy, and will outlast any similar cloths made from cotton yarn.
Although the processing requirements of flax makes linen an expensive fiber, it wears extremely well. Projects made from linen last for years, which makes it a good investment for classically styled garments.
Tomorrow, we’ll take our Flax Lace yarn out for a tension swatch!
This is part 1 of 5 in this series.