Je me suis procuré un fil de lin de marque Goldchild 100/3 mais il manque d’être suffisamment lisse et uniforme. Il a des imperfections que je qualifierais de rustiques. On me dit qu’il en est de même avec le fil Fresia et de tout autre fil de lin. S’il vous plaît, j’aimerais avoir autres opinions. Qu’en pensez-vous? Existe-t-il de nos jours un fil de lin suffisamment lisse pour des travaux fins comme la dentelle d'Alençon par exemple? Merci à tous.

I bought a brand linen thread Goldchild 100/3 but it fails to be sufficiently smooth and uniform. It has imperfections that I would describe as rustic. The salor told me it is the same with the Fresia and all the others linen thread. Please, I would like to have other opinions. What about you? Are there nowadays a sufficiently smooth linen thread for fine work like Alençon lace by example? Thank you all.

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Thanks Carolyn, unfortunately this thread was sold. It was very expensive because seller has got a lot of 8 boxes with 6 skeins, and asked 150 $. I will continue looking for realy thread, thisone is the nearest what I imagine old thread.

I found this linen thread at ebay. It looks like thin and I am confused about name of thread. 

C.F.  fil coeur de lin  

extra fou,  

If I try translate, that means extra crazy, o my god, how thread can be crazy?! And coeur is menning heart, ok what is different between coeur de lin and others lin? Thanks

Hello friends, I am on the same research for finer linen threads. I was just wondering if any of you have any reference of how those thin linen threads were produced in ancient times. I mean, how they processed the fibers as for obtaining such fine threads. Any ideas about a book or historical reference regarding this? I would like to know, as I guess I maybe could learn and try to produce it myself. I have some free space in my backyard, so, why not to cultivate it there? I guess there must be a technique for producing the thread that could maybe be different from the one they use nowadays. Maybe that is why they cannot obtain finer threads? Regarding fertilizers, if I tried this project I would not use any, so... What do you think?

Veronica, There are a few theories about why linen thread is not as fine as it used to be. One is that the varieties of flax that made the best fibers were lost during World War 1. This is probably partly true, but I think the stronger theory is that the methods of growing and processing changed significantly since that time. Mechanization, changed soil management and use of chemicals (on the fields and in the environment in general), the chemistry of the water used for retting, etc. all affect the final product. Plus the market for really fine, smooth thread is small so it is not worth the time and effort for thread producers to make it the old way (if they even remember how to do it). 

You need to use seeds for flax that is specific for fiber production, not seed production. Common fiber varieties available in the USA (I don't know about for South America) are Marilyn and Evelin. The seeds should be sown close together in a patch (not in rows) to encourage straight, unbranched plants. It is essential to remove all weeds from the patch. The flax fibers thicken as the plant matures, so harvesting the plant at a more immature stage will yield finer fibers, but if too early then they will be shorter. Processing the flax to remove the fibers is long and somewhat complicated.....

There are a few books about flax, and those that our local flax and linen study group find most useful are Linen: Hand Spinning and Weaving by Patricia Baines, Linen from Flax Seed to Woven Cloth by Linda Heinrich, and The Big Book of Flax: A Compendium of Facts, Art, Lore, Projects and Song by Christian and Johannes Zinzendorf.

I would also love to find a resource that describes how the fine thread was made in the past. There are tales of women spinning in damp basements with one beam of sunlight to see their flax fibers - to get threads that are 2-3 fibers thick, and smoothed in the moist air. I've never heard whether these women used a spinning wheel or a drop or supported spindle to spin it. 

Carolyn, thanks very much for the information and book recommendations. I was indeed thinking about the fact that maybe they used a one-fiber thread, and and so if yes, it would only had allowed for very short working thread lengths. I will try to find information about the ancient techniques and processes they used. As far as I know, at the present the finest fibers are obtained from linen from Brussels and the Normandy French region. The article where I read that information mentioned that the environmental aspects, wheather, among other factors, had a place in the plants from there rendering finer fibers. Although, I wonder how many fibers current manufactured threads contain. And, if whether it would be possible to use onle one fiber at a time for making lace, or not. I will try to contact any expert people I can find, and I will search also for any historical references I can. I will post it here if I have any good news.

Thanks again! Have you all a nice day!


Thanks for the information. Your explanation makes sense.

Suite à mon questionnement initial en 2015, j'ai communiquée avec les religieuses de l'abbaye d'Argentan. Les dentelles qu'elles produisent jusqu'à maintenant sont faites à partir des réserves de fil de lin qu'elles possèdent et ont depuis longtemps emmagasinées. Selon elles, les produits chimiques utilisés aujourd'hui dans les champs conduisent à produire un lin beaucoup plus court et de ce fait, presque impossible à filer aussi fin qu'autrefois.
D'ailleurs, elles m'ont gentiment demandé de les tenir au courant si quelqu'un arrive à trouver un fil de lin lisse et fin quelque part dans le monde.

Following my initial questioning in 2015, I communicated with the nuns of Argentan Abbey. The laces they produce so far are made from the reserves of flax yarn they own and have long stored. According to them, the chemicals used today in the fields lead to produce a much shorter flax and thus, almost impossible to spin as fine as before.
Besides, they kindly asked me to keep them informed if anyone could find a smooth, fine linen thread somewhere in the world.
Christiane, thank you very much for this update! I wish any of us could find finer threads somewhere in the world...
I wonder if the shortness and/or greater thickness is imprinted in genetics of today's seeds due to so many decades of us using chemicals in the fields, or, if today's seeds could still produce those finer, longer fibers if no chemicals were applied...
Our group has 29 fiber flax accessions from the USDA germplasm collection, which were originally from all over the world. We've been trying to grow them out to get enough seed to do some field trials (they only send about 200 seeds). It's been a slow process because we are not farmers with large fields to use - and we need to keep all the accessions separate to avoid cross-pollination. But in addition to having the same genetic material as for the old threads, we need to use the same retting and processing procedures before we even get to the spinning stage.

You are correct when you use the word "imprinted" - flax is highly affected by something called epigenetic changes akin to animal imprinting, and so is easily modified genetically by its environment. The changes can last for generations. Flax has been a model system for studying these effects.

I have a microscope at work so plan to do some fiber size analysis once we have enough material to study. Somewhere I have close-up pictures of the thread in a piece of Alencon lace made for Napoleon in which you can sort of count the fibers - I'll post them when I find them!

In the meantime, maybe someone who has a stash of old linen thread will post pictures of it - as close-up (in focus) as possible - so we can start to compare them? The tricky part is getting a scale in the photo to measure the thread size, too.
Carolyn, the information you provide is so much, very interesting!!! If you want, I offer myself to put pictures to scale (approximately) by using AutoCAD. All we need is: each one of the people who take pictures showing a ruler in them in the same position with respect to the one on other people's pics (as an example, let's all of us take pictures putting thread in horizontal position while ruler in vertical position), and that we all agree to take pictures using rulers with the same measurement system of course (imperial, or metric). AutoCAD allows for measuring objects in it of up to numbers with about ten decimal digits. So it is not a scientific precision tool, but it could give us a good idea of thread (or, maybe even fiber?) thickness in comparative terms. One more thing to consider, is trying to avoid thread shades projecting in the background in pictures, so as for avoiding confusion about thickness of threads. So two or three lights pointing towards the thread from different locations as you take the picture, could maybe help with that. If it helps, please just tell me.
PS: I expressed myself bad, actually AutoCAD IS a scientific precision tool. Thing is, we would be taking measurements based on pictures, so precision level would depend mainly on the picture resolution (number of pixels per area unit). The higher the resolution, the more precise measurements would result.

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