Classic. Sustainable. Mysterious. Historical. Durable. Luxurious. The list is endless......
So what is the deal with linen? Not to long ago, someone asked me why I was choosing to use linen for my new fabric by the yard collection. Honestly, it was a very good question. Though the mill offers cottons, cotton/linen blends in various colours and weights, a natural coloured linen ground instinctively felt like a good choice to get this party started. Little did I know just how much of a rock star linen has been through the centuries! Here is a list of 7 reasons why linen is pretty wonderful. Read on...I promise it will be worth it.
1. It's History. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about linen is it's history. Linen is a textile made from the fine fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum (Latin) and its name derived from the the Greek word linon. Documentation of an established linen industry dates back to Egypt some 4,000 years ago. Bits of the textile have been found in dwellings dating to about 8000BC, while dyed flax fibers found in prehistoric caves suggest that woven linen may date back even further.
2). How It's Made. Weavers from ancient cultures devised a method that stripped flax's rugged stems and fibers transforming them into sturdy threads. This process of refining the fibers however was quite time consuming and costly to execute. Today, despite the streamlining of modern technology, harvesting these precious fibers undamaged can still be a challenge. As a result, the production of linen remains higher in cost and due to its lack of elasticity, flax thread can be difficult to to weave.
The flax plant can grow in most parts of the world however, the trick is having enough of a crop to yield the enough fiber needed for substantial production. This particular crop tends to be temperamental in certain climates making Western European countries and the Ukraine the best for growing a prolific crop. The linen manufacturers located in Ireland, Italy and Belgium still remain the best in the industry.
3). It Comes With Perks. Thanks to its many fine qualities, linen still remains in high demand and is perfect for today's fashion and home textile use.
*Linen feels cool to the touch.
*It has a smooth texture making finished products lint-free.
*It is know to be one of the worlds strongest natural fiber.
*Has a natural ability to prevent microbes and bacterial growth.
*Natural insulator: Keeps cool in warm climates, traps warmth in colder temperatures.
*Linen is thought to have healing properties from anti-stress, to sleeping better. Even reducing conditions such as arthritis and dermatitis.
*It is naturally an anti-static fabric.
*Resistant to abrasion and pilling.
*Resistant to moths and carpet beetles.
*Naturally dirt and stain resistant.
*Has only moderate initial shrinkage.
*It is considered a casual fabric.
*Can be used for both fashion and interior design industries.
4) How It Behaves. Fabrics have their own personalities and behavioral traits and linen is no exception. Here are a few things to consider when planing to use linen for a project.
*In 1881, upon the discovery of the tomb of Ramses II (he died in 1231BC) linen wrappings used for mummification were perfectly preserved. Even after 3000 years!
*The more it is handled, the softer it gets.
*Elegant in its own right.
*It has more texture than cotton yet, it remains silky with a high luster.
*Wrinkles. Linen has a natural resin called lignin. At first the fibers are stiff and crease with little effort, yet they smooth out through handling and use.
*However, continuous creasing in the same place with sharp folds and hard ironed lines will break linen threads over time.
*It has poor elasticity and does not spring back thus: the wrinkles.
*The wrinkles are considered part of linens 'charm'.
*Great wicking ability making it perfect for clothing in hot climates.
*Slubs: A characteristic of the linen yarn where small random knots occur along its length creating a variation in the fabrics texture and a beauty of its own.
*More tear resistant than cotton and actually gets stronger when it is wet.
5) It's Reputation. Due to its labour intensive production, linen was usually made for royalty, the aristocracy or clergy. Archaeologist have found evidence of linen clothing believed to have been worn by kings and aristocratic classes in hot climates such as Egypt, through out the Middle East and many ancient kingdoms in India. In the Old Testament of the Bible, linen is frequently referenced to its connection to royalty or high priesthood. And in some instances, specifically in Egypt during the Pharaonic Dynasties, linen was associated with burial rituals, mummification and burial shrouds.
6). Its Many Uses. With such a track record through out history, linen must be doing something right! 'Linens' is still a generic term to describe a class of textiles usually made of linen for bed, bath, table and kitchen uses. Meanwhile, the term could also be referring to undergarments such as chemises, lingerie, shirts, waist shirts and the like. Here are a few additional and uncommonly known uses for linen:
*Artists use linen for canvases due to its durability and archival qualities.
*Artisan bakers use floured flax cloth as a non-stick form to shape the dough before baking.
*Linen was used for books.
*In the middle ages it was used for shields, bow strings and a type of body armor called Linothroax.
*Money. Yes! Many countries including the USA print their currency on a paper blend of 25% linen and 75% cotton. It is the blend with linen that makes it durable.
7). Natural Fiber + Eco-Friendly. In addition to the qualities mentioned above, linen has a natural rage of beautiful colours in varying shades of ivory, ecru, tan and grey which allows for colour choices without dyes or bleaching.
*It is non-allergenic.
*Has a natural pH balance making it appropriate for those with sensitive skin.
*It can be dry cleaned, machine washed or steamed depending the end product.
*Relatively easy to take care of.
*Perhaps the biggest eco-friendly quality is it's sustainability and capacity to be used over and over again.
That is a heck of a list! So, whats there not to love? I am very much looking forward to learning more and working with this amazing textile in the future. But tell me, how do you like linen? Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences in the comment box below. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you!