Why was Linen so popular back in the day?
Put simply, it's because it lasts, can make a variety of products, and the process to get to the Linen is beneficial to the people.
Linen can be produced on a small scale, and can take less than 100 days from planting to harvesting[2.], yielding more fibres than cotton cropping. Processing doesn't require extensive technology and much of the processing can be done by hand.
Flax was (and is) used for a wide variety of items. Not only do the fibres create cloth, they are also used to make cosmetics, paints, food packaging and wound care.
During the growing process, farmers do not need to irrigate or fertilise the flax so it can be grown on land that is unsuitable for food crop production, though it does require cooler climates and rainfall. Less pesticides, less water, less chemicals, all ensure less soil pollution and damage to the eco-system.
Flax can be harvested after only 100 days of it being planted. As the fibres are processed, other parts of the plant not suitable for textiles are set aside for other purposes such as paper making, oils, soaps or cattle feed, adding to the plant's sustainable nature.
Part of the fibre extraction includes a process called 'retting'. This is where the plant is soaked into water then dried to extract the fibres which are found inside of the dried stem. Sustainable companies should ensure that the water used for this retting process are filtered and recycled, so that excess plant matter and any chemicals used do not enter the waterways or must be neutralised.
Fibres are further combed and spun making the linen fabric we know it as today.
Linen for clothing
Known for its strength and durability, the traditional uses of Linen are in bedding and kitchen cloths. The fibre is highly absorbent and can absorb up to 20% of its own weight[3.]. It is anti-bacterial, and can withstand high temperatures to wash it. (Though shrinkage will occur during the first few washes.)
A thermoregulating fibre, it absorbs water away from skin but dries out quickly keeping you cool. In cold climates, Linen will trap the air and heat keeping you warm. There's also little lint and fluff making it a good hypoallergenic fabric.
The fabric softens with age, is highly durable, has a small environmental imprint and is biodegradable.
Depending on the weave, different weights and drapes can be created in the final fabric. With all its properties above, Linen makes for a great versatile cloth for clothing.
Check out our selection of Linen fabrics here.