How Was Linen Made in Ancient Times?

Linen is a luxurious fabric that has been used for thousands of years. It is made from the fibers of the flax plant and is known for its strength, durability, and breathability.

But have you ever wondered how linen was made in ancient times? Let’s take a journey back in time and explore the process.

Harvesting Flax

The process of making linen begins with harvesting flax. Flax is an annual plant that is typically harvested when it is fully matured, which usually takes around 100 days after planting. The plants are pulled out of the ground by their roots, or they are cut at the base with a sickle to preserve the long fibers.


After harvesting, the flax needs to be retted to separate the fibers from the rest of the plant material. Retting involves soaking the flax in water or exposing it to moisture in order to break down the natural pectins that hold the fibers together. This can be done in a variety of ways, including immersion in ponds or tanks, laying it on moist ground, or spreading it out on grassy fields.

Dew Retting

One common method of retting is dew retting, which involves spreading out the flax on grassy fields and allowing dew to collect on it overnight. The moisture from the dew helps to break down the pectins and separate the fibers. This process can take up to two weeks depending on weather conditions.

Water Retting

Another method of retting is water retting, which involves submerging the flax in water for several days until fermentation occurs. This process can take anywhere from three to ten days depending on water temperature and quality.

Breaking and Scutching

Once retted, the flax needs to be broken and scutched to remove the woody parts of the plant from the fibers. Breaking involves using a wooden or metal tool to crush the stems, while scutching involves beating the stems with a wooden or metal knife to remove any remaining impurities.

Spinning and Weaving

After breaking and scutching, the flax fibers are ready for spinning. Spinning involves twisting the fibers together to create a long, continuous thread. This can be done by hand using a spindle or on a spinning wheel.

Once spun, the linen thread is ready for weaving into fabric. Weaving involves interlacing threads vertically (warp) and horizontally (weft) on a loom to create a fabric. The resulting linen fabric can be used for clothing, bedding, and other household textiles.

In Conclusion

In ancient times, making linen was a time-consuming process that required patience and skill. From harvesting flax to spinning and weaving, each step was crucial in creating high-quality linen fabric. Today, modern technology has made linen production faster and more efficient, but the traditional methods used in ancient times still hold a special place in our history and culture.