Flax is the oldest plant fiber used by man. Its moisture-absorbent qualities and ability to conduct heat make linen a cool cloth for wear in hot climates. Fine linen fabrics became soft, beautiful and lustrous with use. Tow, the short fibers, was used to produce rougher cloth. Through the centuries workers have processed the plant in much the same manner. It was a labor-intensive and highly-skilled process not suited to mechanization. By the time of European settlement, it’s manufacture and trade were well established in Europe; settlers to the New World brought the knowledge and skills with them.