Supplycompass Blog

Linen : A Brief History

June 12, 2018 | Supplycompass

 

linen

 

What's so great about linen?

A favourite choice for clothing during the hot summer months, linen is a natural textile made from flax fibres. With a history going back over thousands of years, this ancient fabric is still popular today, especially with people who are looking for sustainable fabrics, due to its luxurious texture, versatility and eco friendly credentials.

 

 "The Flax plant is a hardy, resilient plant which

can be grown in poor soil conditions

and requires less water than cotton"

 

The History of Linen

The production of Linen dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, where flax plants were first domesticated. Linen was considered to be a luxury material and was worn by priests and the wealthiest members of society. In ancient Egypt, linen was the fabric of choice for everyday clothing and white linen was favoured due to the extreme heat. As well as using it for clothing, linen was also used to make burial shrouds and to wrap the dead during mummification.

 

In Europe, Linen became especially popular in medieval times and remained in fashion until the industrial revolution when spinning machines and North America’s cotton plantations made cotton a more affordable material.

 

Never entirely falling out of fashion, in the past few decades Linen has experienced a resurgence in popularity with many people looking for ethical fashion choices in sustainable fabrics. These days flax is grown and manufactured into linen all over the world, with the highest quality fabrics considered to be from Irish, Belgian and Italian mills.

 

flax 

 

How Linen is Made 

Linen is made from the flax plant. To harvest the longest possible fibres, and therefore create the highest quality textile, the flax is either hand harvested by pulling up the entire plant or machine cut as close to the root as possible. The plants are then dried, seeds are removed via a mechanical process known as “rippling” before the fibres are loosened from the stalk in a process using bacteria to loosen the pectin that binds the fibres together. Finally, the fibres and stalk are separated, and the fibres are ready to be processed and spun into yarns or woven into textiles.

 

How Sustainable Is Linen?

Linen is a great choice for those looking for a sustainable, eco friendly textile. The Flax plant is a hardy, resilient plant which can be grown in poor soil conditions and requires less water than cotton. There is very little waste in the production of linen as most of the by-products can be put to good use, for example, linseed oil, the most common by-product has uses in wood preservation and making varnishes. Linen itself if left untreated is fully biodegradable, strong, durable and naturally moth resistant.

 

linen cushion

 

The Best Uses for Linen

As demonstrated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago, linen is a great ethical fashion choice for clothing in the hot weather, keeping you cool and comfortable without sacrificing style. Its strength and durability also make it suitable for uses such as tablecloths and bed sheets which, in parts of Europe are known to become family heirlooms being passed down through generations.

 

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