Tuscarora Mills

Bedford, Pennsylvania   EST. 2020

Cellulose Fiber

Image of woven fabrics from Tuscarora Mills, PA


Flax (Linum usitatissimum), also known as common flax or linseed, is a flowering plant, in the family Linaceae, with a long woody stem comprised of fibrous strands, or bast fibers, and stand as plants of 24-36 inches in height.

​​Flax is a soft, lustrous, flexible and versatile cellulose bast fiber 4x stronger than cotton. Naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to rot and microbes, flax fiber varies in length from about 25 to 150 mm (1 to 6 inches).

Cultivated and processed worldwide today, humans first gathered, spun, and plied wild flax into cordage some 30,000 years BCE. Archaelogical evidence shows domesticated flax 10,000 years BCE, in the Euphrates Valley of Syria.

Flax served as a primary fiber for all manner of uses in the pre-historic world. The ancient Egyptian and Classical Greeks depended on flax fiber for cordage and textiles. Flax helped Europe to rise from the Middle Ages as a versatile
material for sails, clothing, linens, cordage, and paper.

Traditionally hand processed by rippling, retting, breaking, scutching, hacking and spinning the fiber into yarn, contemporary flax processing still employs these ancient methods, only today with modern machinery on a much larger scale.

We source organic flax fiber from Belgium and France, where it is grown and processed. ​While flax for fiber is grown and hand processed on a small scale in the United States for artisanal purposes, there exists no commercial-scale flax for fiber growing and processing in the United States, at this time.


​​​​​Hemp (Cannabis sativa), also known as Industrial hemp, is an annual, dioecious, flowering plant in the family Cannabaceae. Hemp yields cellulose fiber derived from the plant’s a long bast (or stem), which grows up to 16 feet in height.
​Hemp is a strong and durable, yet lightweight and absorbant fiber 6x greater stength than cotton. Naturally hypoallergenic, resistant to mold and mildew, hemp fiber like flax softens with years of long durable wear. Raw hemp fiber ranges from 3- 12 feet in length.

Wild hemp is indigenous to Central and South Asia, and believed to be the first plant fiber spun some 50,000 years ago. Hemp is recognized as one of the most significant agricultural crops for mankind first domesticated in Mesopotamia (10,000BCE), China (8000BCE) and the Indus River Valley (3500BCE).

Archaeologists have discovered in Europe hemp spun and plied into rope (27,000BC), seeds for medicine in Taiwan (10,000BC), and a remnant of hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (8,000 BC). The growing and processing of hemp for fiber, food and medicine is believed to be the oldest example of human industry.

Hemp grows worldwide in a variety of soils, requires fewer pesticides or fertilizers and consumes relatively little water for cultivation. Industrial hemp varieties are bred to yield minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent, and are grown today for specific end-use products.

Hemp processed for cellulose bast fiber undergoes a series of operations including retting, decorticating, scrutching, hacking, carding, combing and spinning, either by hand or utilizing modern machinery. Ancient techniques endure and modern processing systems have emerged to produce a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, fabric, food, feed, paper, medicines, bioplastics, and building materials.

We source sustainably-grown hemp fiber from France and Italy. Hemp for industrial purposes is now being grown legally in the United States, and we eagerly await the availability of domestic fiber which can be spun into yarn for fabric.

Image of woven fabrics from Tuscarora Mills, PA
Image of woven fabrics from Tuscarora Mills, PA


Cotton or Upland Cotton(Gossypium hirsutum), and (Gossypium barbadense), also known as Sea Island, Pima or Extra Long Staple (ELS) Supima Cotton​ are of the mallow family Malvaceae, grow as a shrub 3-6 feet in height, and produce fiber which grows in a boll, or protective case surrounding the seeds of the plant. ​Cotton is a soft long- or short-staple cellulose fiber known for its resilience, breathability, soft hand, absorbency and resistance to static. Cotton fiber ranges from 3/4 to 1.5 inches in length.

Wild cotton is believed to have emerged some 5-10 million years ago in Africa or Southern Asia and evolved worldwide before the plant was domesticated contemporaneously in Asia, Africa, and South America 6000-8000 thousand ​​
years ago.

Evidence of early processing for cordage and fabric has been found in Sudan, Pakistan, Peru, Africa, Mexico and Arizona dating back to 5000BC. By 2500BC the emerging Indus, Inca and Chinese civilizations developed complex systems of agriculture and trade to serve the production of the fiber and fabric.

Difficult to grow, clean and spin, cotton processing struggled until the perfection of the modern cotton gin (1793) increased productivity. Enslaved people’s and immigrant labor’s intensive work was partially replaced by mechanized cotton agriculture and industrial processing techniques. Modern fiber processing revolutionized cotton cleaning, carding, combing, and yarn spinning. Productivity gains in growing and processing resulted in fewer jobs and lower consumer costs.

Cotton’s global acceptance, abundance, and low prices mask the complete economic and environmental costs of cotton agriculture and manufacturing. The hard truth is growing cotton is terribly hard on the soil. Growing traditional cotton demands copious quantities of oil-based fertilizers, pesticides and water, plus a global supply chain dependent upon oil for processing, manufacturing and shipping.

We use soft and strong organic American grown cotton fiber as a soil, water and insect friendly alternative to traditional cotton agriculture, and global supply chains. We source organic Upland Cotton from Texas, and our sustainably-grown Supima (ELS) Cotton from California and Arizona.