Linen is one of the oldest textiles known to man, rated highly for comfort, durability, and keeping its cool in sweltering hot weather. Spun from lustrous fibres tucked inside the multi-layered stem of the flax plant, linen yarn may be one of the most labour-intensive fibres to manufacture, yet this amazing list of properties make it worth all the effort- three times stronger than cotton, absorbs moisture easily, resists pilling and lint, drapes with ease, and gets softer with every wash.
Flax plants are not difficult to grow, they thrive in a cool, humid climate, grow to a height of about four feet with a very slender stalk, and are ready for harvest in less than three months. While they can bloom in blue or white, it is the pretty sky-coloured flowers that are known to produce the finest quality fibres for spinning into yarn.
As soon as the flowers and leaves die off, and stems start to turn yellow, plants must be pulled from the soil or risk losing their hidden luster. Hand-pulling is still done in some parts of the world to ensure that the entire root and stalk remain intact, this keeps the sap from draining out, and protects the integrity of the linen fibre. Plants are tied in bundles or beets, and dried, in preparation for the next step- extraction or retting.
To extract the long silky fibres from the flax plant, the bark and inner pectin must first be rotted away in a process called retting, by submerging stems in pools of stagnant water for a few weeks, or by the use of chemicals in large vats. The outer layer of the stem is soaked away until the linen fibre is revealed, then rinsed, combed, straightened, and placed through spreaders, machines which line up the fibres and overlap the ends to form slivers. From this step, slivers are passed through rollers which produce linen rovings, resembling luxurious locks of blonde hair, and are now ready for spinning into yarn.
Catch the breeze in this airy boatneck pullover, knit in one-piece from cuff to cuff. A new design for Spring 2013 in Katia’s Sport Collection, knit in Linen by Katia, a classic favorite in a collection of fifteen neutrals, tan, chocolate, slate, and sand (shown above).
Heading south? Shed those winter layers, and embrace the fresh air in this gauzy pullover with resort appeal. Knit in Lino by Katia, a pure linen yarn that gets softer with every wash. Available in eighteen tempting spring shades, including taupe, silver grey, and greige (shown above).
A great jumping off point for first-time lace knitters, this butterfly-style top is worked up in two squares, with wide borders picked up and knit on each side. Knit in Pima Lino Lace from Diamond Luxury Collection, is just the right blend of natural linen softened with pima cotton. Choose from one of twenty quintessential colour choices, ranging from Caribbean brights to basic neutrals- wheat, straw gold, emerald, fuschia or soft blue (shown above).