Usually packed in Hessian-covered bales of 200 to 450 lb. per bale. Subject to a natural loss in weight due to drying out.
See also FIBERS. See also IMDG Code & US CFR.
Flax fibers are the retted bast fibers of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum), which belongs to the Linaceae family and has been cultivated for several millennia. The ancient Egyptians made mummy wrappings from flax, while woven linen fabrics originating from Europe which date from the same period are also known.
The flax plant consists of root, stalk and branches bearing the seed capsules. Only the processable central portion of the stalk is usable for spinning purposes. This central portion is delimited by the cotyledonary node and the bottom of the branches.
Before the seeds are even ripe, the flax plants are uprooted whole and placed in water (water retting), so separating the fibers from the remainder of the stalk.
A distinction is drawn between cold water retting (10 - 14 days) and hot water retting (a few days at temperatures of up to 35 degrees C). After washing, the flax straw is usually kiln dried. The stalks are bent by intermeshing wooden boards and the fibers removed from the lignified stalks. The crude fibers are combed with hatchels to yield the long spinnable fibers, the short fibers (pluckings or tow) remaining between in the steel teeth of the comb.
Flax fibers are gray to light blond in color, very strong but at the same time also flexible. The fibers may be up to 140 cm in length, but approx. 60 cm is usual.
When a flax stalk is snapped, the flax fibers protrude from the broken ends, each fiber consisting of cells up to 5 cm in length. The sharp ends of the cells interlock and are thus suitable for producing woven linen fabrics.
The chemical composition of flax fibers, relative to dry weight, is as follows:
- Cellulose 71%
- Polyoses 18.5%
- Pectins, pigments 6.5%
- Lignin 2%
- Waxes 2%
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