Is the Flax used for Irish Linen still Grown In Ireland?
Flax has not really been grown in Ireland on a true commercial basis for 50-60 years.
Whilst Ireland did grow flax we could not carry out the retting process in an environmentally friendly manner. This was better done in France, Belgium and the Netherlands where it is warmer and the flax could be dew retted; rather than water retted in dams and rivers. The retting process was giving the industry a bad name as it deoxygenated the rivers and killed fish. The raw material for the Irish linen industry had never exclusively been sourced in Ireland, but after this time all the retted flax had to be sourced outside Ireland.
Today flax is really only grown as a novelty for tourists or by very small companies trying to gain some sort of marketing advantage. These small scale operations hopefully limit any damage to the environment which might adversely reflect on the industry.
Dew retting is the way forward and this is what the Irish Linen Guild supports. Much work has gone into alternative methods, but nothing suitable has been discovered. This is why we don’t grow flax commercially in Ireland any longer. The Irish Linen Guild would not support a return to water retting.