What is linen?

   Linen is a fabric or yarn made from flax. Flax is the earliest vegetables fiber ever used. Linen 5,000 years old has been found in Egyptian tombs.
   All through history, linen has been used throughout the world. Today, Ireland is the chief producer of linen. The finest flax fiber is from Belgium.
   The best linen yarn must be made by hand. Because of high labor costs in the United States, very little linen is produced. France, Germany, England, and the Netherlands are large producers of flax.
Before being made into cloth, the flax must go through a number of processes. Toward the end of August, when the flax is a light brown color, the farmer harvests it. After the stalks are tied into bundles and dried thoroughly in the sun, they are passed through a coarse comb which separates the seeds from the stalks. This is called rippling. Next comes the retting process, which means the plants are kept moist and bacterial decomposition of many of the cells of the stem loosens the fine linen fibers. Then the plants are dried again; this is called grassing. After grassing, the stalks.are put through a scutching machine which removes the woody portions from the fibrous. The final step is hackling (heckling), which is another combing process to separate the best of the flax. For the finest linen, hackling must be done again and again, using finer and finer combs.
   The beauty of linen consists in the evenness of the thread. Linen with a round thread is considered better than that with a flat thread.
   The heaviest linens are made into tents, sailcloth, canvas, carpets, and carpet backings. Medium-weights include crash, ticking, sheeting, duck, and art linens. The finest linens are used for handkerchiefs, tablecloths, and fine clothing.