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Flax in Sweden - cultivation, yarn and sustainability

Hållbart Hantverk Inredning Kuddar Lin Linne Made in Sweden Odling Slow fashion Stickning

If you find sustainability and locally produced to be important aspects when you shop newly manufactured, you must have noticed products marked made in Sweden. Surely you have seen linen with the label. But what exactly is made in Sweden? Is it just the end product or does in include raw material and the entire production chain? Although being more expensive than other alternatives, I choose to knit in yarn from the Swedish brand Växbo Lin. Made in Sweden then, you might think. Well, not really. But it's as close as it gets. Unfortunately, there is no Swedish-grown flax available. In the below text I will go into details on cultivation and preparation of flax, the company Växbo Lin and why I choose to knit in their yarns.

It is a long way for the linen from sowing to yarn.

To turn flax into textile fibers

There are two different types of flax, oil and fiber flax. And it is the latter that is used to create textile fibers that are either spun into  yarn. The flax seeds are sown in May. It forms long, slender blue flowers that bloom in the mornings. In August the flowers have turned into small seed pods and are ready for harvest. Since you want as much fiber as possible from each plant, it's pulled up with the roots. After harvest, the flax must be retted. It means exposed to moist to separate the fiber from the wood substance of the stem. Once retted the harvest must be dried. 

When the flowers have formed small seed pods that have turned yellow, it is time for harvest.

Breaking and heckling

 Once dried the stems are broken. This is, nowadays, made mechanically. When properly broken it's time to heckle. And no, I don't mean to make fun of them. By repeatedly pulling the linen through combs in varying densities, the fibers are put in order and loose the very last crumbs of debris. Only the finest fibers remain to be spun.

The linen yarn is spun in Sweden

Unfortunately, not enough flaxseed is grown in Sweden to be used in production. Flax is a plant that actually thrives in the Nordics. Not very sensitive to cold and rain, it has been cultivated to a greater extent in the past. What a dream it would be if someone was willing to pick up the cultivation of flax so that we got some all-Swedish linen again! But so far, it's only when it's time to spin that the linen enters Sweden. Mostly to be prepared for warp yarns used in weaving, but some are spun into knitting yarns as well. 

Beautiful natural tones of the flax yarn.

Växbo Lin in Hälsingland

The region Hälsingland knows linen. Here it has been grown and produced for centuries. In the 1990s, when the rest of the Swedish textile industry either closed down or moved abroad for cheaper labor, Växbo Lin was founded. Though the majority of the business consist of self-woven products in high quality, they also produce yarn for hand- and machine knitting.

Not just pillows. Here I am in the design Viola as a beautiful top.

Knitted linen is sustainable in multiple ways

Actually, I may not need more reasons to knit in linen other than  it being so damn beautiful. But it has more benefits than that. First of all, it's sustainable. Flax doesn't require much to grow. It is not particularly exposed to pests and therefore does not need as much pesticide or fertilizer as other plant fibers. It thrives in cold and rainy climates and even though it is no longer grown in Sweden to any great extent, it is very common in Europe. The linen from Växbo Lin comes from Belgium and France and has thus been transported much shorter than, for example, cotton. But the process of making linen is not completely without environmetal concerns. While using water retting as a method, the residual water released in the open creates oxygen- poor environments. However, commonly land, or dew, retting is used. By leaving the flax on the ground for some weeks after harvest it is naturally retted.

Viola black / nature and blue / nature on the cultivation bench.

Enjoy linen for generations to come

Perhaps the best aspect of sustainability is longevity. If you take care of your linen, it will last for generations. In addition, it gets more and more beautiful with years and use. When I knit in linen, I know that it is a sustainable and natural fiber. Because it comes from a plant, it works for everyone, even vegans. And you must agree, a linen pillow has a completely different, more luxurious feeling that looks great everywhere in your interior. 

Cozy under flowering bird cherries. Spot On is a cocky new design, here in cerise and black.


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