The Search for Olive Green Linen

Plenty of you have chosen one of our wonderfully floaty linen tank tops this summer and after a customer so fell in love with her first one, I was asked if I could knit another in olive green. Until now I'd been buying 'end of line' linen from luxury fashion houses that had over ordered. Whilst this meant really beautiful quality yarn, the colour choice was a little restrictive... nobody had olive green.

I always try my very best to deliver on bespoke enquiries - it's nice to have something made just for you! So began my quest to find the olive green linen, little did I know I'd end up finding a dreamy new supplier and opening my eyes to a whole history of linen that I'd never even heard of!

A Sea of Cotton

A Sea of Cotton

Finding a pure linen yarn is difficult, so much is blended with cotton. In terms of creating a nice fibre, it makes sense, cotton is cheap and soft. However as far as possible I don't use cotton at all, it's pesticide intensive, when grown organically crop yield is poor and huge quantities of water are required. I could go on for hours about the pros and cons of organic vs non organic in cotton production - in fact if that's the kind of thing that appeals to you then check out this blog. I decided that pure linen was what had given the lovely drape to these tops, so pure linen was what I should stick to.

Field of Flax Ready to Harvest

I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the total lack of UK suppliers, so frustrated that it took me a while to notice that all of the European suppliers I had found were based in one country - Lithuania. I knew very little about the textiles heritage of Lithuania, in fact other than some 'tetxtural' wool that I'd picked up there for hand knitting and a vague memory of folk traditional costume, I knew absolutely nothing. 

Field of Flax in Flower

Field of Flax in Flower

It turns out that Lithuania is a huge producer of linen! Flax (the plants which linen is spun from) grows well in a cooler climate, with relatively long daylight hours so it is perfectly suited to the conditions. Whilst the industry was enormous in the early 1900s, little blue flax flowers still colour the landscape of much of Lithuania today. It's ancient history has given flax a central role in many ancient folklore stories, it even has its own gods! Vaižgantas, the patron of flax cultivation, and Gabjauja, the guardian of the flax harvest.

Tiny Blue Flax Flower

Tiny Blue Flax Flower

Emboldened with this newly acquired knowledge, I felt that using a Lithuanian linen was a wise choice. In keeping with Laine's ideals, of only using the highest quality, totally natural and sustainable fibres, all of Laine's linen will come from the oldest flax mill in Lithuania. Whilst not everyone is honestly that bothered how sustainable their garment is - one thing that people definitely do care about is choice! Instead of the earthy tones I knitted with before, we can now offer a huge range of beautiful colours, including the gorgeous undyed shade that you've all come to love! So as well as being able to find the illusive olive green, I can be reminded of this little blue flower's rich history, every time I knit with it.