Linen is a strong, breathable and widely used fiber in the fashion industry. A huge part of summer collections are made of this material because of its absorbent and breathable qualities. Linen has a special place in my closet. I wear it through the whole year and have been a fan of its aesthetic for years.
Linen has been produced in The Netherlands for centuries. In the past a fully stocked linen closet represented wealth and was a respected craftsmanship to create linen goods. But in the 1970’s and 1980’s the production was moved to East Asian countries where it was produced and sold at the lowest price possible. Therefore the linen production in The Netherlands has been vanishing rapidly.
I know very little about the production process of linen. Therefore I placed myself in the shoes of a linen farmer. By doing so I want to experience and understand the energy, effort and care that goes into producing linen. Next to that, I would like to see if the linen production could be reintroduced to The Netherlands in an eco friendly manner.
The Linen Project by Craft Council Nederland is currently developing a project about the reintroduction of linen in The Netherlands. Please read here.
To answer this question I ordered seeds from Cruydt Hoeck and on the 5th of May I sowed the seeds on my balcony. I am very curious to see how long it takes to see progress and if it is at all possible to grow linen on my balcony.
May 5th 2020
The day of sowing the seeds.
May 12th 2020
In 7 days most of the seeds are already showing results. The plants are around 1-2 cm long with two leaves each.
May 19th 2020
More seeds started to grow. The plants are between 3-6 cm long with the second row of leaves starting to grow.
May 28th 2020
The plants are way bigger than a week before. They are around 10-12 cm long but are not very strong. Some of the plants fall over and some of them are growing straight up.
June 16th 2020
It has been dry and cold the past two weeks and linen has been hanging down towards the ground. I thought it is not going to survive because of the cold. This weekend it has been raining a lot and the temperature has been rising and so have the linen plants. The plants are around 25-30 cm tall and have multiple leaves on each plant. However linen is quite weak, if a bit of wind blows the plants start to hang instead of staying tall. Hopefully this will not effect the end results.
July 2nd 2020
The past two weeks have been raining a lot and the linen looks lush green. The plants are around 50 cm tall and still growing. There are some yellow leaves on the bottom of the plants but nothing to be worried about I think.
For comparison I ordered dried linen from Edenique Floral Design. If everything goes according to plant, the linen that I sowed will look similar to the one shown on the picture. However, at this point I have no idea how much linen I will be able to produce and if it is enough to make yarn or other types of fiber from it. To answer this question I will have to wait 3-4 months to calculate the amount of harvested linen from my own balcony.
As a next step I would like to design a (digital) series of posters where the amount of seeds, soil, water and time is visualized. By doing so, the poster series could become an educative model that represents the resources needed for growing one cotton t-shirt or a collection of t-shirts. The viewer can compare these visualizations and be introduced to the amount of materials needed for a garment.
The goal is to experience and understand the process of growing linen. By doing so the production of linen could be reintroduced to Europe and of course The Netherlands. During the global COVID-19 pandemic the demand for local production is rising harder than before. Western countries are realizing their independence on East Asian countries when it comes to production of goods. Therefore, combining critical thinking, agriculture and simple curiosity could be a changing factor in future production of linen and another textile goods.
So far into the process the effort, energy and care that goes into the plants is more than I expected. Every morning I check on them before I make breakfast for myself. If the weather is dry, I can only hope for a little rain that will help the plants grow faster. Of course I give them water but natural rain is always better.
I have also been thinking what I would want to do with my produce after harvest. As an answer for now I would not want to sell it to any company especially not to a fast fashion company. It would not feel ethical to grow these beautiful crops and sell them to a company that is socially and environmentally not responsible. Therefore, I am researching another possibilities such as making my own yarn from it or collaborating with a designer or another professional in the creative field.
If you have any suggestions pleas send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an ongoing investigation and experimentation about materials that I find in my closet.