The flax plant in bloom
Linen fabric dates back to 8000 BC, making it 4000 years older than both cotton and silk: one of the world’s oldest fabrics.
HOW IS LINEN MADE
Linen is made from the flax plant. Growing flax that will result in good quality fibers requires care and attention during the growing and harvesting periods. Flax plants are either pulled out of the ground or cut close to the roots when harvested. Hand-pulling has the reputation of producing better-quality linen.
The fibres are then separated into short and more desirable long fibres. From here, the fibers are spun into yarns and woven into different grades of linen.
Since the flax plant actually enriches the soil and nothing is wasted during the manufacturing process, linen is a perfect 'green' fabric.
WHERE DO THEY GROW FLAX
Just about every country has cultivated the flax plant from which linen is developed. Flax is grown in many European countries but is best if the climate is cool and humid. Three countries claim their linen is the best; Belgium, Scotland and Ireland all vie for the title.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Due to the high attention needed to grow flax and the difficulty of working the thread, linen was traditionally worn only by the wealthy and as such became a symbol of class. Now, of course, it is a more widespread fabric, used in clothing, bedclothes, tablecloths and more. Often as a a blend with cotton which makes it more affordable.
In times past many people would wear linen next to their body and wool on top. Linen nearly came to mean underwear and in fact, the English term lingerie comes from this time period.
WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT LINEN
Linen is very comfortable to wear and breathes well. It is cool to the touch and gets softer the more it is worn and washed. The fibres in linen do not stretch, which is why folding and ironing in the same place repeatedly can cause damage. However, this property also means that linen is a strong fabric, relatively resistant to abrasion and staining.
The breathable and wicking properties of linen make it very desirable for hot climates. The antibacterial effects of linen means that it doesn't provide germs with an ideal breeding environment.
flax, dried and gathered