Linen and linen blended fabrics are surging in popularity in home décor, but did you know that linen has been around for centuries? In fact, linen is one of the oldest fabrics in the world. In today’s Fabric Feature, we’re going to explore the history of linen as well as the great properties that have helped make linen a textile standard.
A Bit of Linen History
While having a less documented past than cotton or silk, linen is believed to be one of the oldest known fabrics. Traces of linen dating back to 8000 B.C. have been found in Switzerland and the first written account of a linen industry was found on 4,000 year old Grecian tablets. In Ancient Egypt, linen was used for garments as well as wrapping for mummification. The linen was so strong and durable, that even mummies discovered recently have had perfectly intact linen.
Linen is a natural fiber made from the stalk of the flax plant. Flax is a finicky plant to grow and a great amount of care goes into its production. When the flax is harvested, the seeds are removed through a process called winnowing. Then fibers are loosened from plant stalk. The main part of the stalk is removed through a process called “scutching” where the stalk is pressed between two rollers, leaving the fibers exposed. These fibers are then woven to create linen fabric. The long fibers of the plant have a natural vegetable wax coating, which is what gives linen a subtle sheen when woven.
Linen is naturally durable and breathable. It’s off-white color makes it easy to dye and it tends to hold color well, without fading. Linen can range from a durable work fabric to fine home décor and apparel fabrics depending on the weave and quality of the flax it was made from. The majority of flax and linen produced today comes from Western Europe. Ireland, in particular, is known for their linen production.
Why Linen is Great
- Good durability
- Resists fading
- Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties
- Resists pilling
- Holds dye well
- Does not create static electricity
Drawbacks to Linen
Linen comes with a few drawbacks, the major one being wrinkles. Linen wrinkles very easily and needs specific care. After washing, lay linen flat to dry. While the fabric is still damp, you can use an iron to smooth out the wrinkles. Some newer linens are now being treated to be wrinkle-free.
In general, linen’s durability depends a lot on its weave. While it can be very strong, when it comes to home décor fabrics, the majority of linens are not recommended for high traffic upholstery. If you’d like to use linen for upholstery, it will last longer on occasional furniture, such as in a formal living room.
Common Uses for Linen
Linen is a very versatile fabric and has a wide array of uses. Linen can be used for tablecloths, bed sheets and coverings, curtains, towels, clothing, and more. It was once so commonly used in housewares, that we now refer to all home textiles generically as “linens.”
Many people believe linen to have healing properties, claiming that it will help calm skin breakouts and rashes, prevent bedsores, and that sleeping on linen sheets has a calming effect that is good for cardiovascular health.
With a classic style that has stood the test of time, linen can play a role in any style of home décor. What will you do with linen?