Thursday, May 20, 2010

Question from Reader: Flaxing over Wool?

In continuing our discussion from The Interlacing Technique ~ A Link to Crochet History?, Bobbins asks:

"I did wonder that linen was the chosen fiber, maybe cheaper, more plentiful, or common than wool?"

What a great question, Bobbins!

History tells us that some of the earliest uses of flax cultivation dates back to the Iron Age (12th century, bc). Flax was very valuable: it was used as a food source, to create linen, even collected as tax payments! Linen, made from the flax plant Linum usitatissimum, (the Egyptians called the pretty flax plant "woven moonlight") would prove repeatedly that it has superior qualities to that of cotton and other natural fibers. Every country, from Russia to Ireland, grew flax for creating paper and for creating clothing!

Some of the perks of Linen:
1. it can absorb and lose water rapidly; perfect for wicking perspiration from the skin, which is perfect for summer weather, and/or while wearing heavy armor during battle!
2. it is resistant to moths and carpet beetles (wasn't there a saying about not letting the bed bugs bite?)
3. it is easy to launder with minimal shrinkage. (can't say the same thing about wool, now can we?)
4. as it is laundered it becomes softer. Wool on the other hand, (remember, this is pre-modern times) can't make the same claim.

This, Bobbins, I think, could be some of the reasons they decided to use linen rather than wool. Thanks for the question! :)

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