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Thousands of Years of Lithuanian Linen

Pre-2010 flax field in Panevėžys from

Flax plant and paintings from

The traditions of flax ("linas") cultivation and processing in Lithuania stretch back several thousand years. Lithuanians have given a special place in their folklore and overall perception of the world to this plant, which has accompanied them since ancient times. Flax has even been associated with a couple of old Lithuanian gods: Vaižgantas, patron of flax [and hemp] cultivation, and Gabjauja, guardian of the flax harvest."

Unfortunately, Lithuanian flax cultivation for use in textiles ended around 2010, when, because of a radical reduction in subsidies to flax farmers back in 2004, when Lithuania joined the European Union, not a single acre of land was planted with flax to be used to make linen. Today, Lithuanian linen is made from flax imported from Belarus, France or Italy, with The Netherlands claiming to to grow the finest flax.

The dictionary definition of linen: cloth made from fibers of the flax plant. Commercial "linens," however, cover everything from bed sheets to napkins, handkerchiefs and clothing, and could be made from flax-cotton blends (reduces cost, adds body, reduces creasing), flax-silk blends (adds sheen), flax-polyester blends (reduces cost), and even 100% cotton.

There are lots of internet sources of 100% flax linens made by Lithuanians -- in Lithuania or elsewhere. I'm the proud owner of a linen shirt I bought in Kaunas in the 1990's -- so it's likely to be made from flax grown in Lithuania! A collector's item?

Consider growing your own ornamental flax plant:


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