FLAX CORD 101

What Is Flax Cord & Why You Should Use It For Your DIY Projects

Learn More About Amazing Properties, Benefits & Versatile Uses Of Premier Quality Linen Cord

what is flax cord

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Did you know that some of the oldest textiles in human history are made using flax cords? Its origins date back to tens of thousands of years ago in the Middle East and Egypt, but flax is still used today all over the world. And there’s a good reason for it. If you want a natural cord with numerous benefits, then flax cord deserves your attention.

Also known as linen cord, it has a lot of exceptional properties, like durability, strength, minimal allergenicity, biodegradability, moisture wicking, sustainability, etc. Throughout history, humankind has utilized flax cordage for various purposes: arts, crafts, fashion apparel, home essentials, industrial applications, paper industry, etc. If you are a novice crafter or an experienced hobbyist, you will be happy to know that you can use flax cordage for all kinds of DIY projects, such as jewelry making, crochet, macrame, knitting, weaving, string art, and other crafts.

In this article, we delve into the fundamentals of flax cord, exploring its origins, manufacturing process, remarkable characteristics, and extensive applications. Additionally, we'll highlight its sustainability benefits and the positive environmental impact of choosing flax cord for your projects.
Explore the distinction between 'flax' and 'linen' by visiting our dedicated link on the topic to deepen your understanding of these terms.

What Is Flax: A Brief Summary Of The Super Plant’s Specifics 

Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is an annual flowering plant that has been cultivated since ancient times for two reasons: for fiber and for seed. Fiber is used to make thread and textile, while seed is used to feed people and animals.

This highly useful plant can grow to a height of 16 to 36 in., depending on several factors such as species, soil fertility, moisture, etc. It has one main stem, with the possibility of development of two or more branches. The stalks are thin, less than quarter of an inch in diameter, with branches grouped at the top. Its five-petal flowers are blue, white, yellow, or pale pink, and its slender leaves are blue-green. Mature fruit, also known as dry boll or capsule, is round-shaped and holds several brown seeds inside.

What Is Flax Cord Made Of?

Flax cord, also known as flax yarn or linen, is made from the bast fibers of the flax plant. Bast fibers, which can be found inside the stem of the plant, are composed mostly of cellulose. Since they are located in the stem of the plant, it is important to keep it undamaged when harvesting. This is because the length of the fiber determines the strength and the overall quality of the cord. To get the maximum length of fiber and top quality of the final product, the plant is typically pulled out of the ground along with its roots.

Flax Cord Origins: The Oldest Fiber Known To People

A little-known fact is that flax has a very long and intriguing history. This remarkable plant was first domesticated about 10,000 years ago, in the Fertile Crescent region, or what is known today as the Middle East.

However, the earliest evidence of humans exploiting wild flax for personal applications dates back to 34,000 years ago in the Republic of Georgia. This is where the first traces of flax yarn were discovered. It is believed that our ancestors from ancient times used flax cord to make ropes, baskets, shoes, and other items, which helped them not only to complete daily tasks easier (collecting food, mobility), but also to survive the last ice age.

The real flax domestication began in ancient Mesopotamia, where the plant was originally cultivated for seeds and later for fiber, too. It was used mostly by the upper class and priests.
Flax thread was used for clothes making, fishing nets, mummification, sails, household items, etc. White linen was worn on a daily basis due to the extreme heat in the Egyptian region, and linen-making process can even be seen on the walls of the temples.

Today this high-quality fiber is harnessed worldwide, from Canada and northern Europe to Egypt and China. It continues to be used for numerous purposes, from kitchen textiles and fashion to industrial use. Its eco-friendly properties, such as reduced water consumption in cultivation and biodegradability, correspond with modern-day sustainable principles.

How Linen (Flax Cord) Is Made

Linen is made by spinning the long bast fibers of flax plant. Extracting fibers from the plant's stem includes several steps, each intended to transform raw fiber into fine threads, cords, or twine.
  • Harvest & Rippling: This initial stage involves the removal of leaves and seeds from the flax plant.
  • Retting: This step involves the decomposition of the stem that encloses the fibers. It's a crucial process to separate the valuable fibers from the rest of the stem.
  • Breaking & Scutching: After retting, the next phase is breaking and separating the woody matter from the fibers. This stage further cleans and prepares the fibers for subsequent processing.
  • Heckling: This process involves combing the coarse, long fibers and removing the finer, short fibers. It's a refining step that results in smoother, more uniform fibers.
  • Carding/Drafting: During this stage, machines are used to combine the fibers into a uniform strand.
  • Drawing & Spinning: The fibers are then drawn and spun, which smooths and uniformizes them, turning them into a thread.
  • Mixer: This stage involves smoothing the fibers further and forming them into longer strands. It's a preparatory step for the final yarn formation.
  • Finishing: In this final phase, the thread is converted into yarn, which can be either left as is, waxed, or dyed. The finished product is then wound into a ball or spooled.
Each stage of the process is crucial for ensuring the quality and characteristics of the final yarn product.

Major Benefits Of Using Flax Cord

Flax yarn has numerous benefits, namely its earth-friendliness, remarkable strength, and increased moisture absorption. These are just some of the reasons why you should make it a preferred choice for a variety of purposes.

Eco-friendliness

Flax cord is an environmentally friendly craft supply. The plant itself is drought-resistant, meaning its growing does not require as much water as other crops do. This makes it an eco-friendly option because it saves our planet’s most valuable resource – water. 

Durability

Linen is known for its fantastic resilience and strength, ensuring longevity without damage for a long time. 

Strength

As it has high tensile strength, flax cordage is not prone to breaking or tearing even when exposed to stress.

Abrasion resistance

This fantastic property means that the cordage is relatively resistant to friction and rubbing. It is adequate for all kinds of uses, including making household textiles and apparel.

Safe for kids and pets

Another phenomenal attribute is that it is completely safe for use by kids and pets. You can use flax cordage to craft handmade pieces with your kids or for playing with your beloved pet.

Biodegradability

Untreated flax fibers are biodegradable material, which means that they are fully capable of naturally breaking down at the end of their lifecycle. Thus, they are not an environmental pollutant.

Sustainable farming practices

Compared to some other crops, flax is more resilient, meaning it does not require the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Flax plant growing encourages sustainability.

Low carbon footprint

Flax cultivation has low environmental impact for several reasons: it does not cause soil erosion, it does not require large quantities of water, it does not rely heavily on chemical treatments, and it consumes less energy compared to other fibers. Furthermore, it has a low impact on our environment since it can be processed by using mechanical methods.
benefits of using the flax cord

Moisture-absorption

Exceptional moisture-wicking properties help maintain durability even in damp environments. Linen can absorb moisture without becoming damaged.

Natural sheen

The qualities of natural gold sheen and even texture add not only to the visual interest of cord, but also to overall longevity.

Relative resistance to UV light

Relative resistance to UV light damage means that flax cord will not be significantly damaged when exposed to direct sunlight. This contributes to its overall longevity.

Softens when washed

This is another fantastic feature. Linen gets softer and shinier the more you wash it, while maintaining its strength.
flax uses

The Versatility Of Flax Cord: An Overview Of Its Many Uses

With continuous innovation in cultivation practices and technological advancements, flax cordage finds countless applications in all spheres of our lives.

Here is a list of some of flax cord applications:
  • Arts & crafts - Flax yarn can be used for miscellaneous DIY projects, such as knitting, crochet, macrame, string art, weaving, scrapbooking, etc.
  • Gift wrapping – Add a gorgeous and rustic detail to gifts you are wrapping with a beautiful textured flax cord.
  • Apparel - Flax cordage is popular for manufacturing breathable clothing and fashion accessories.
  • Packaging – Due to its fiber strength and durability, it is used for packaging.
  • Home decoration - Its natural look and sheen add a touch of rustic appeal to home decor items.
  • Plumbing - Its fantastic moisture absorption and durability properties make flax cord suitable for all kinds of plumbing applications.
  • Luxurioustextile production – Linen is also used to produce damask, lace, and sheeting.
  • Bookbinding & leather products – Bookbinders and leather workers have been using flax cords because it is flexible enough but it does not stretch.

A Hot Debate: Natural Flax Cord vs. Synthetic Cord

Let’s explore the differences and similarities between synthetic ropes and natural flax cords and determine why linen should be your first choice.

Differences

  • Flax cord is made of cellulose-based bast fibers found in nature, while synthetic ropes are manufactured from chemical polymers.
  • Natural flax cords are biodegradable and eco-friendly, while synthetic polymer cords can take decades, even hundreds of years to decompose completely.
  • Compared to natural fibers, synthetic fibers are more susceptible to heat. For instance, when submerged in hot water, it tends to shrink.
  • Flax cord is 100% kid-safe and pet-safe material. Synthetics aren’t the safest option for children and pets, and they are typically colored with chemical dyes.
  • Linen is naturally hypo-allergenic material, while artificial fibers are known to cause skin reactions.
  • Synthetic rope is more resistant to water or stains, although flax fiber can take up to 20% of its weight in water, which is a substantial level of moisture absorbency. ur custom text goes here

  • Artificial cord is more affordable than flax cord. ur custom text goes here

Similarities

  • Both are very durable with high tensile strength.

  • You will get good value for your money, whichever you choose.

  • Both float on water, which makes them suitable for boating/marine applications.

Flax vs. Hemp: What’s The Difference?

Flax cord is made from the flax plant, while hemp cord is made from the hemp plant. Since flax and hemp are natural fibers and come from plants, they share some similarities. However, they do have distinct features in regard to texture, usage, and specific characteristics. Whether you choose flax or hemp rope will depend on the specific craft you plan to work on.

Fiber Qualities

  • Flax: Its fibers are strong, but fine and even textured. They have a natural sheen and soften with every wash.
  • Hemp: Compared to flax, hemp fibers are coarser and not as smooth, but they are also exceptionally strong and durable. They do not have luster and appear more matte.

Strength and longevity

  • Flax: Flax has a high tensile strength. Although it is not the strongest cord on the market, it is pretty strong considering how thin the fibers are.
  • Hemp: Hemp cord is exceptionally strong and durable.

Softness

  • Flax: Flax is considered slightly softer to the touch, which is why it is suitable for making products that come into contact with skin.
  • Hemp: Hemp cord, depending on the finish, can be somewhat rougher. It is perfect for crafting items like bags, wall hangings, or other home décor pieces. It does, however, become softer when washed.

UV light resistance

  • Flax: Flax fibers have a certain degree of natural resistance to damages made from direct sunlight exposure.
  • Hemp: Hemp is highly effective in resisting UV-A and UV-B rays.

Sustainability

  • Flax: Requires less water and pesticides for cultivation and mechanical treatments instead of chemicals during processing, making it a more sustainable option than other materials.
  • Hemp: This is one of the most environmentally friendly plants. Growing hemp leads to less waste and less pollution, needs little water for cultivation, and is biodegradable, making it an environmentally low-impact crop.ur custom text goes here

A Few Final Thoughts

Natural flax cords' distinctive beauty and eco-friendly features make it a perfect choice for all arts & crafts, DIY projects, packaging, gift wrapping, macrame, weaving, boating, gardening, and so much more. Strong, flexible, gentle on the skin, and safe for everyone, including kids, pets, and even our planet. It is one of the most versatile and earth-friendly supplies that has stood the test of time since ancient times.