Freshly pulled flax plants; the retting process begins.
One of Coyuchi’s core values is to share the stories that help create our products, from the field all the way to the comforts of your home. Our CEO, Eileen Mockus traveled all the way to Portugal and France to share with us the captivating details that make our linen so exceptional. We take a dive into Eileen's fascination with linen, the importance of quality within our products and a step-by-step journey showing us how Coyuchi's linen is produced to create beautiful textiles that make our bedding, bath, and apparel remarkably soft, extremely durable and superior to anything else.
Love for Linen
“Let me start by sharing how much I’ve always loved linen. I’m not sure when the fascination started, maybe setting the table for my Mom and choosing from her trove of perfectly pressed heirloom Irish linen tablecloth and napkins. In a former life, I had the pleasure of visiting Baird McNutt’s mill in Ireland, followed by a trip to Italy where I slept on these amazing sheets and had beautiful jacquard flat weave towels in the bath. All were perfectly pressed, yet so soft and comfortable, and they were linen!” -Eileen
Coyuchi and Linen
Coyuchi introduced linen around 2010. Last year, we pulled off the near impossible providing organic linen sheets and duvets. In Eileen’s years of experience developing fabrics, she has been handed old garments or vintage fabrics as a designer’s inspiration. Thus, vintage linen tablecloths served as the inspiration for how Coyuchi's linen fabrics feel.
BeStitch Linen Tour
Eileen’s journey started at BeStitch in Guimaraes, Portugal where Coyuchi's linen is woven, cut and sewn. Our chambray weave is achieved with the yarns dyed first, and then weaving white in one direction and color in the other. Coyuchi fabric has a heavier construction than what some of our competitors run because we don’t want to compromise on quality, ever. Linen should last for years to come and we believe a little extra weight in the fabric will give you an extra couple of years of use. Additionally, if we are going to garment wash, we want to start with extra weight. We call it a garment wash, but it’s really a sheet wash, where the entire sheet set is washed in a commercial washer and dryer, just like all your favorite jeans. This entire process will get us closest to those vintage products that got us hooked on linen in the first place.
A special viewing of how linen is woven at BeStitch. Our linen wasn't in production during Eileen's visit.
BeStitch is an enthusiastic partner with a commitment to creativity and quality. After joining Eileen on her trip to where the linen is grown, BeStitch holds a greater appreciation for processing this special fiber. Witnessing the commitment and miracle of farming linen makes a huge impact on the entire process, beginning to end.
The colorful umbrellas of Trouville-sur-Mer
Journey to Terre de Lin
“We visited Terre de Lin in Pierre Le Viger, France, with a stop at the beautiful beaches (and umbrellas) of Trouville-sur-Mer and Deauville. The countryside, the homes, the winding roads were inspiring enough, and then we got our education on growing and harvesting linen.” - Eileen
Flax fiber comes in from the field after the retting, ready to be processed at Terre de Lin.
Anne from Terre de Lin provided some amazing stats that show how special linen is. From the amount of linen grown in Normandy, in the EU, and in the world all the way to the quantity farmed organically. Terre de Lin has 650 farmers working with the cooperative (15000 ha of flax). The production of organic flax in Terre de Lin represents less than 1% of the whole production. Other figures are as follows: Europe= 80% world flax production = 130/140 000t of scutched flax annually, France = 80% European production, and Normandy= 50% French production.
A beautiful flax flower that blooms just for one day!
The Linen Process
While growing in the field, flax is a vibrant green grass with tiny cornflower blue flowers that only bloom for a day! Around day one, once the plants have partially lost their leaves the pulling begins. Remember the plants are uprooted rather than cut. Once the pulling is complete the retting begins. This result turns the field into beautiful ombre stripes of green to yellow. Finally and very meticulously, the farmer has to plan the harvest and avoid rain in the first 3 days or the quality of the crop can be severely impacted.
Flax after pulling with their seed pods still intact.
On day ten, the seeds are carefully removed, and the retting continues. Linen seeds are very precious, especially with the increase in linen's popularity; more seed is needed to further growth next year. Linen also needs rich soil and Normandy is particularly well suited with lime in the soil and damp, foggy weather, much like our northern California coast. Linen can only be planted on the same plot of land every 5-7 years so farmers rotate crops, also planting wheat, alfalfa, potatoes or rapeseed.
A dramatic rape weed plant, grown adjacent to the flax.
The retting process is crucial. It all depends on the weather and patience. It can take 3 weeks all the way up to 2 months for retting to be achieved. The plants need to alternate between rain and sunshine so that the retting process can be done properly. Once the retting is complete the fiber is gathered from the field and kept in the farmer’s warehouse.
Harvested flax plants.
Now the scutching process begins. Scutching is the process of extracting the fiber from the plant. For the span of the following year, the farmers will take the flax straw to the cooperative where the crop is then scutched. Once this process is complete, the fibers are sorted and graded. Occasionally the scutched flax is hackled. Hackling is the first spinning process. It consists of stretching and aligning the fibers to achieve a continuous sliver.
Processing the flax fiber at Terre de Lin.
The Organoleptic Classification of 5 Criteria for Flax
An appealing luster will show up with some color variation from yellows to grays (gray receives a higher rating, but not too gray or the rating drops). The strength is then measured, as is fineness, greasiness (not too dry) and overall consistency that lead to the value of the fiber for the farmer.
Flax fiber post processing and the classification criteria are now visible.
“There’s a transformation that’s starting to happen in the formulation of our amazing linen sheets. Grapes to wine, milk to cheese, and fiber to fabric. It starts with great land, a solid crop, and some creativity along the way to bring the finest things to your home.” Eileen
If you’re interested in visiting Normandy and learning more about linen, the Festival Du Lin is an annual event in July. Maybe we’ll see you there!www.festivaldulin.org