Flax Fiber | Properties of Flax Fiber | History of Flax Fiber | Applications of Flax Fiber | Uses of Flax Fiber

Flax Fiber
Flax is also called Linen. The fibre is obtained from the stalk of a plant (Linum Usitatissimum - A literal translation is “linen most useful.” ) which is from 80 to 120 cm high, with few branches and small flowers, of a colour which varies from white to intense blue, which flowers only for one day. Common flax was one of the first crops domesticated by man.

Flax is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe; the Swiss Lake Dweller People of the Stone Age apparently produced flax utilizing the fiber as well as the seed. Linen cloth made from flax was used to wrap the mummies in the early Egyptian tombs. In the United States, the early colonists grew small fields of flax for home use, and commercial production of fiber flax began in 1753. However, with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, flax production began to decline. Presently the major fiber flax producing countries are the Soviet Union, Poland, and France.
Flax Fiber
Common flax (also known as linseed) is a member of the Linaceae family which includes about 150 plant species widely distributed around the world. Some of them are grown in domestic flower beds, as flax is one of the few true blue flowers. Most "blue" flowers are really a shade of purple.

Properties of Flax Fiber
70% is composed of cellulose, it cannot provoke allergies, absorbs humidity and allows the skin to breathe: therefore it is very indicated in the manufacture of summer articles. Very resistant, above all if wetted it can be washed many times without alteration, rather it becomes softer, something very important for articles of clothing and for daily use which require frequent washing such as shirts. Having very low elasticity, linen cloths do not deform themselves.

European linen fabrics today are luxurious, elegant, comfortable and practical. Linen is thermo regulating, non-allergenic, antistatic and antibacterial. Because it can absorb up to 20 times its weight in moisture before it feels damp, linen feels cool and dry to the touch. It is not by accident that the world’s oldest and most useful fiber is still in great demand.

Flax History | History of Flax Fiber
Flax fibres are amongst the oldest fibre crops in the world and the use of flax for the production of linen goes back 5000 years. Pictures on tombs and temple walls at Thebes depict flowering flax plants. The use of flax fibre in the manufacturing of cloth in Northern Europe dates back to pre-Roman times. In the USA flax was introduced by the Pilgrim fathers. Currently all flax produced in the USA and Canada are seed flax types for the production of linseed oil or flaxseeds for human nutrition.Flax fibre is soft, lustrous and flexible. It is stronger than cotton fibre but less elastic. The best grades are used for linen fabrics such as damasks, lace and sheeting. Coarser grades are used for the manufacturing of twine and rope. Flax fibre is also a raw material for the high quality paper industry for the use of printed currency notes and cigarette paper.

The major fibre flax producing countries are the former USSR, Poland, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic

Applications of Flax Fiber
  1. Table wear
  2. Suiting
  3. Clothing apparel
  4. Surgical thread
  5. Sewing thread
  6. Decorative fabrics
  7. Bed linen
  8. Kitchen towels
  9. High quality papers
  10. Handkerchief linen
  11. Shirting
  12. Upholstery
  13. Draperies
  14. Wall coverings
  15. Artist’s canvases
  16. Luggage fabrics
  17. Paneling
  18. Insulation
  19. Filtration
  20. Fabrics for light aviation use
  21. Automotive end uses
  22. Reinforce plastics and composite materials.
  23. Flax could conceivably be mixed with excess grass seed straw or softwood fiber in composite boards
Consumers around the world buy linen because they like the way it looks, feels and performs. With new varieties of flax; new processing techniques; and new ways of spinning, weaving and finishing, the European linen industry has reinvented itself. And all of the links in the supply chain are working together through the European flax and linen organization, Masters of Linen, Paris, to market linen globally to a new and growing trade of niche players.

The flax plant has also a couple of other important end uses

Industrial Uses:
Flax is still produced for its oil rich seed. Linseed oil has been used as a drying agent for paints, varnishes, lacquer, and printing ink. Unfortunately these markets have eroded somewhat over the years with the production of synthetic resins and latex. One bright spot in the market has been the use of linseed oil as an anti-spalling treatment for concrete where freezing and thawing effects have created problems on streets and sidewalks. Occasionally the straw is harvested and used to produce some paper products.

Livestock Feed:
Linseed oil meal is an excellent protein source for livestock containing about 35% crude protein. Flax straw on the other hand, makes a very poor quality forage because of its high cellulose and lignin content.

Human Food:
Recently there has been some interest in seed flax as a health food because of its high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the oil.

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Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant and researcher on online business promotion. He is working with one European textile machinery company as a country agent. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

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