Nearly 8 million hectares of flax are sown each year, but this
includes different varieties that are cultivated both for the production
of textile fibres and linseed oil . Western Europe ranks second among the
producing countries of the primary vegetable textile material, the USSR
being number one. A fiber from fields of the European Community, flax is
grown mainly in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Ideal conditions for
its growth include a homogeneous soil, adequate daylight, cool and short
nights, and weather that is both damp and warm. The seeds are sown, fairly
densely at around 2,000 seeds sq.meter, as this encourages the young plands
to grow straight and tall towards the light and air, and also encourages
the development of long fibres. Normally flax is sown at the end of March
or the beginning of April and is ready for harvesting in a comparatively
short period of around 100 days.
Flax is harvested from the beginning of July to mid-August.
Unlike cereals, textile flax is not cut, but pulled in order to preserve
the full length of the fibres which run the entire length of the plant.
In times gone by this was done by hands, one bundle of flax plants after
another - painful and tiring work requiring a lot of manpower. Today mechanical
pulling machines are used ; these ensure a speedier harvest with less exposure
to weather conditionsa and consequently is less costly. Once pulled, the
flax "straw" is dried b y spreading it out on the fields to form
There are three degrees in the ripening of the textile flax: green, yellow
and brown. The second of these - yellow - has proved to be the most suitable
for fibre production. Flax that is pulled too early - green - produces very
fine but weak fibres. On the other hand , in over-ripe flax - brown - the
stems are strong but brittle and produce too high a proportion ot tow. However,
when the flax is yellow, the fibres are long and supple, and therefore ideal
for further processing.
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