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Flax or linseed?


From Kerry O'Connor


The name of the blue crop at Avon Farm depends on why it is grown. Historically it was grown for fibre to make linen and known as flax, today it is grown for the seed oil and is known as linseed. It was often harvested for both. Its species name says it all, Linum usitatissimum meaning very useful.  


Linen is the oldest known textile. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and its Textiles in London claims to hold the world’s oldest dress, 100% linen, with pleated neck and sleeves, dated to around 2800BC, nearly 5000 years old. Mummies were wrapped in linen. The Phoenicians brought linen to Britain, the Romans made it throughout their empire. Processing the fibres involved breaking, scutching, heckling and beetling then spinning, bleaching and weaving.


There are records of Linen Drapers in Salisbury from 1306, who probably produced their linen themselves from Wiltshire grown flax. The sight of this blue crop is a very old one, this view could have looked similar seven hundred years ago, but more built up as there was a town of Avon or Afene here. Cotton wasn’t king till the 19th century.  


 

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