Sowing the seeds of linen
The Linen Craft
At the beginning of spring the flax farmers prepare to go into the fields again. They follow the changing of the seasons closely and wait patiently until the time is right for sowing.
Spring is back!
Slowly Mother Nature wakes up and prepares to transform bare trees and empty fields to abundant green oases again. A kick start that will set in a slowly yet steady transformation of the flat Flemish countryside into a colorful and warm palette of blues and green. Flax farmers have to be early birds; before the official start of spring, they are already one step ahead.
Nathalie, Christine or Suzanne?
Flax plants exist in hundreds of varieties. The key to selecting the appropriate type is to know the field you will be sowing. A variable not to be misjudged, as every type of seed has its own strengths and weaknesses and will perform differently in another type of soil.
The farmer will only sow flax on the same acre every 7 years. Rotating crops on one field assures a good fiber and soil quality and therefore better flax fibers. Therefore he has to reassess what type of seed he will use to maximize the harvest every time. Given all the variables, quite a complex task!
Fun fact: for easily distinguishing the various types of seeds, producers give them a specific name, in most cases girls names.
Timing is crucial
As the farmer sows his flax commonly between 15 March and 15 April, the flax farmer prepares his machinery at the beginning of March. He then calls upon his expertise to decide when it is the best time to sow. Not too soon so Old Man Winter doesn’t freeze the germs and not when it’s about to rain to avoid the risk of the seeds washing away.
The sowing machine, developed purely for flax farming, pulls straight furrows in the acre while it simultaneously blasts fresh seeds under the upwelling dirt, which covers them up assuring the farmer they can germinate properly.
Weather is King
The most difficult and risky variable in this process is the weather. The strip between Caen and Amsterdam is renowned as being ideal to grow flax. It’s the shifting between sun and rain and the specific soil that makes the best flax fiber grow. On the other hand, those same weather conditions can irreversibly damage the fiber as well.
Before scattering the seeds, the farmer will keep a close eye on his thermometer, looking for a generous 3°C (37,4°F). After sowing, the next 100 days will be decisive for the quality of the plant. The farmer hopes the weather will remain free of severe frost and heavy storms.
Mild weather is ideal for a steady and qualitative growth. If all goes well, the plants can grow up to approximately 1 meter (about 3,28ft) high. Fingers crossed, we would say!
The Linen Craft illustrates the passion and dedication of linen artisans. Browse through the making of our linen, from fiber to fabric, with detailed images. A luxurious hardcover in three languages: English, French and Dutch.