In the beginning . . .
A tricky pickle, this. Managing work flow while moving looms, ordering heavy equipment like 1,000 pound compressors, air dryers, setting up the install of same into a building meant as a lakeside cabin. Waiting on one guy to determine whether I order something else from another. Waiting, waiting, waiting for my new AVL IDL! AVL is the brand, and "IDL" stands for 'Industrial Dobby Loom'. They are busy in Chico, CA manufacturing looms of all kinds. I wait on my loom, so excited to really start this mill of mine. But hey! I have already started! I continue to receive orders for the linen products I weave and sew. LOVE that side of the work!! After all, I LOVE linen!!
Let me distract myself from WAITING by informing you about linen. Everything about linen asks me the question . . . Why isn't linen being used the way cotton is?? What does cotton have that linen doesn't?? You do know that linen comes from the flax plant, right? Yep! And the Characteristics of linen are really impressive! It is about 20% stronger when wet, making it very suitable for the washing machine, or for fabric being used in active-wear, while still coming out looking great. It is known for its spectacular durability and long life. The tensile strength (the resistance of a material to breaking under tension) of linen thread twice as high as that of cotton and three times that of wool. We're talking STRONG! Linen is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, just plain not attractive to tiny bugs and microbes! Cool! And linen is highly hydroscopic!! Hydroscopic?? That's when a "material has the ability to attract and hold water molecules from the surrounding environment". Flax fibers have tiny microscopic nodes along their length which absorb moisture, then swell and release the moisture to the outside air, creating an evaporation cooler! You know how much cooler your skin feels when water is evaporating from it! Linen does this same thing and you don't have to be doused with water to feel the positive effects! Now that really is cool! But that's not all! Linen can absorb up to 20% of its own weight in moisture while still feeling dry to the touch! This is one of the many reasons why linen cloth always feel cool and fresh to the touch. Now, remember when I said that little bugs and microbes aren't attracted to linen? The same goes for bigger bugs such as moths, so they won't eat at your linen clothes, like what happened to your favorite wool sweater. Dang!
So why aren't we making use of this great fiber more? Why did cotton pull out in front? I have a feeling it was more because the plantation owners in the 17-1800's in the South (USA) were growing cotton and had the use of (despicable) slave labor. They were also rich and powerful men, influential both politically and socially. To add to that pressure, there was the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney, which basically was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. Whitney's invention made upland short cotton into a profitable crop, which strengthened the economic foundation of slavery in the United States. It also caused the price to dramatically drop for cotton goods. And it just picked up speed from there.
But conventional cotton, produced on the grand scale of corporate farms both in the US and in huge cotton nations such as China, India, Pakistan, Brazil and Uzbekistan, have been the biggest users of pesticides and herbicides in the world. While using only 2.5 percent of global cropland, conventional cotton growth uses up to 24% of global sales of insecticides and 11% of global sales of pesticides! Cotton is also a major drain on water resources. Growing cotton accounts for 2.6% of the world’s yearly water usage. One t-shirt made from conventional cotton represents 713.265 gallons, and a third of a pound of chemicals, which often contaminate water supplies.
"Most people think of cotton as a “natural” product. The reality: Cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 84 million pounds of pesticides were applied to the nation’s 14.4 million acres of cotton in the year 2000, and more than two billion pounds of fertilizers were spread on those same fields. Seven of the 15 pesticides commonly used on cotton in the United States are listed as “possible,” “likely,” “probable” or “known” human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency. And cotton defoliants are “the most toxic farm chemicals currently on the market,” says Fawn Pattison, executive director of the Agricultural Resources Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the use of harmful pesticides. " This quote is from the National Wildlife Federation; (https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Green-Living/Archives/2006/Cotton-and-Pesticides.aspx)
But that, of course, is what regular cotton grown around the world is about. Organic Cotton is completely separate from these statistics and a whole different story, and I would really enjoy having the opportunity to weave some of that wonderful fiber! There are wonderful emerging farms and cooperatives in the south such as Allred Farms (http://www.allredfarm.com/) in Texas, and Vresis (http://www.vreseis.com/) in California who are working diligently and steadily to be able to save us from ourselves and the likes of 'Fast Fashion' summers.
But even though linen has yet to catch on in the US, I believe it is only a matter of time before it will grow into a US industry all by itself! Then we will have organically grown wool, cotton and flax, and the world will be perfect and balanced without crazy politicians or celebrity gods! I look forward to that day!