Linen is perhaps the worlds oldest textile and is derived from varieties of the Flax plant.
Here we take you on a sensory journey, describing the growing cycle, relaying the traditional stages of production and illustrating how this textile is manufactured today using sight, sound, smell and touch. With image, song, scent bottle and touch tray, we pick up the threads of cultural union that tie Scotland into Europe from plant to product.
The smell of retting (or rotting) flax is a common smell in any area which has a linen industry. Retting is a process which uses the action of micro-organisms and moisture on plants to dissolve or rot away much of the cellular tissues and pectins surrounding bast-fibre bundles. This allows separation of the fibre from the stem of the flax plant.
We’ve included a bottle of rotting flax in the exhibition so you can experience the smell for yourself!