Flax is a natural product that can be used for different purposes, namely for rope and clothing (flax fiber), or for linseed oil (flax oil). The flax seeds are used to make linseed oil, but with flax fiber, it is the fiber that is important. Flax originates from Western Europe and is also grown in Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France. However, it is now produced worldwide, with the best non-European crops found in Egypt.
A small seed develops into a fully-fledged florid plant. The flowers turn into seed pods, which turn brown, along with the stalks. Once the plant is brown, it can be harvested. Long fibers are important, so the plant is pulled out of the ground along with its roots. A retting process is required to loosen the fiber from the bark, this can be done in a river, or by dew retting.
The fibers are then crushed, during which the outer hull or bark is broken. The next step is to remove the bark from the fibers (scutching). Finally, the short fibers are separated from the long fibers (heckling).