Linen Fibre: A Timeless fabricOne of the oldest fabric known, the history of linen has walked along the royal trail! Made from the flax plant, linen fabrics can be traced to the traditional Mesopotamian period, when the plant was first used for domestic purposes. Linen fragments or fibers unearthed in the pre historic caves of Georgia, and some ancient Swiss lake dwellings, date it to around 8000 BC or thousands of years before radio carbon dating began.
The Fabric of Royalty!
In ancient Egypt, linen was used to wrap the body during the process of mummification. A mummy wrapped in linen, would signify a wealthy class of society and was used as a currency form in those times. In Mesopotamia too, it was used by the higher classes and priests.
Wonder Linen through the ages!
One of the earliest records of an established Linen industry dates back to around 4000 years in Egypt. The merchants from the east Mediterranean region (Israel, Gaza, Syria, etc), were the first to introduce flaxseed growing and linen weaving, to the people of the Mediterranean and Ireland.
A bast fiber, linen fabric can be priced higher because the fiber is not elastic and becomes difficult to weave without thread breakage. Though being labor intensive, it is a preferred fabric because of its absorbent properties and its coolness under hot weather. Its high durability has been understood for ages, as when the tomb of Tutankhamen was opened, the curtains in it, which were made of linen, were still in good condition! Even the body of Pharaoh Ramses II discovered in 1881, was covered in linen wrappings that were preserved perfectly. This was after more than 3000 years!
Benefits of Linen include:
- Linen is a cool fabric, as it has high conductivity. It is lint free and smooth, and gets softer the more it is washed. It crinkles easily because of its low elasticity, but that is considered the characteristic ‘personality’ of linen!
- An eco fabric, linen is durable, strong and stain resistant. It is easier to maintain and can be dry cleaned, machine and hand washed. It has very minimal initial shrinkage.
- It has a high natural luster, and is available in natural shades of tan, grey and ivory.
- It is resistant to moths and carpet beetles.
A true eco fabric
Linen is truely an environmentally friendly fabric! Every part of the flax plant from which linen is produced, is utilized! The seed provides oil that is known to have great health benefits. Additionally, it is used in the production of dyes, paints, floor coverings and cosmetics. The fiber is used in the making of sutures. Flaxseed powder is also great for health. The by products from producing linen, is processed to a pulp used in fiberboards. The growing cycle is extremely short of a total of 100 days, from sowing to harvesting.
How is linen made?
Flax fiber can be broadly divided into two varieties. Short tow fibers and long line fibers. The former is used in coarser fabrics and the latter in a finer fabric variety.
The process involves first harvesting, usually by hand, where the entire plant is pulled up. Post harvesting, the plant is dried. The seeds are removed through a mechanized process of threshing and winnowing.
A process called retting is then applied, which uses bacteria to decompose the pectin that holds the fiber together. This then ensures the loosening of the fiber from the stalk.
Once the stalks are ready, a process called scutching, crushes the woody portion of the stalks by metal rollers, so that the parts of the stalk are separated. Post that, the fiber is removed and heckled, which combs away or separates the short fibers, leaving the long flax fibers.
The processed fiber is now ready to be spun into yarns to weave the linen textile.
Things made of linen
Apart from textiles, linen is used in home furnishings and utility too. Linen tablecloths, cushion covers, curtains, etc are now quite popular the world over.
In India, linen saris are quite the rage too!
IN Europe and the U.S, linen is used to support oil paintings and is a favorite among professional artists, over cotton, because of its hardiness and the fact that it can aide in archiving the painting. However, this can be more expensive than cotton.
Artisan bakers use linen in the form of a ‘couche’, to hold the dough in shape, just before baking.
Traditionally, linen was used for books, and also in armory, such as shields and bowstrings.
Many countries such as the U.S for example uses paper made of 25% linen to print their currency!
Linen truly is a versatile fabric, and can easily become one of THE fabrics of existence!
To shop for linen in different colors, motifs or blends