Fabric Dictionary: Linen

Our latest fabric dictionary post is all about linen. Linen is a soft yet durable fabric that’s two to three times stronger than cotton. This versatile textile offers classic appeal. Knowing the pros and cons of this luxurious fabric could help you decide if linen could be a worthwhile investment for your fashion brand.

Fabric Dictionary: What is Linen?

True linen is a natural, medium to lightweight fabric made from flax fibers. Considered a premium textile, linen fabrics have a distinctive, natural look because of the mix of thick and thin fibers and small visible bumps throughout the weave. But don’t let the somewhat coarse appearance throw you off. Premium linen is well-known for its skin-soothing softness and a luxurious feel that gets even better over time.

A Brief Glimpse of Linen Fabric Through the Ages

The use of flax-sourced linen fabric dates back more than 36 thousand years. Some scholars believe flax cultivation, the production of hand-spun flax yarn, and linen weaving originated in Western Persia and eventually spread to other regions.

The wealthy citizens of ancient Mesopotamia wore hand-woven linen garments. Ancient Egyptians used linen as currency. They also wrapped their dead in linen shrouds. Historians believe this symbolized purity and light.

The Phoenicians, through their merchant fleet, introduced flax cultivation and the art of making linen to the people of Ireland. Evidence also suggests that the earliest flax growers in Western Europe, the Gauls and Celts, learned how to cultivate flax and weave linen fabric from the Romans.

How is Linen Fabric Made?

Compared to fabrics made from cotton, crafting linen fabric from flax is far more labor-intensive. While some aspects of production are now done by machine, much of the process is still done by hand. Preparing the plant fibers is time-consuming and expensive. Once crops have matured, plants are manually pulled from the ground. This helps to preserve fiber length.

Separated fibers are stored for several months to soften naturally. Next, they are combed to separate long and short fibers while removing dirt and debris. The longest fibers are twisted and spun while wet, and the yarn is used to make the soft linen most often used for bedding and clothing. Short linen fibers are twisted together while dry and used for making coarser, sturdier fabrics.

The Many Benefits of Working with Linen

There are numerous reasons to consider using linen fabric to bring your designs to reality. To help determine if linen fabric might be the perfect complement for your unique brand, consider the following examples of its many benefits:

Durability

The strength of naturally cultivated flax fibers contributes to the durability and longevity of your creations. Linen garments do not lose their shape after washing, and the slightly “wrinkled” appearance favored by so many linen enthusiasts means your designs have a comfortable elegance with or without ironing.

Sustainability

If your base favors environmentally-friendly, ethically-sourced fabrics, linen could be one of your best options. Flax cultivation is far more sustainable than cotton because the plants need relatively little water. Flax plants live for a single growing season, and there’s a market for every part of the plant. Flax-sourced linen is also biodegradable and easily recycled.

Versatility

There are many uses for linen fabrics. Sturdy linens are ideal for upholstery and can also be used as a canvas for oil painting. Medium to lightweight linen fabrics are most often used to make bed sheets, curtains, and skin-friendly fashions.

Year-Round Comfort

Linen is lightweight, breathable, and dries quickly. The fabric is also heat conductive. That means the linen fabric used to make your creations helps keep your devoted customers cool and dry in the heat and comfortable when temperatures fall. Plus, linen is hypo-allergenic, has antibacterial properties, and is great for sensitive skin.

But for all its positive attributes and considerable benefits, there are other factors to consider before committing to a fabric, including the cost. High-quality linen is quite a bit more expensive than other natural fabrics. Some designers also find the following characteristics less-than-appealing:

Potential Drawbacks

Creases Easily

Linen fabrics may not be ideal if the customers favoring your designs tend to travel frequently. Most linen garments fare better when hung rather than folded because the fabric tends to crease easily. However, you can steam or iron linen fabrics as needed.

 Shines When Pressed

If your designs require a fabric with a crisp, clean finish, linen may not be your best option. Not only does the fabric crease and wrinkle easily, but ironing can also create an unappealing shine if the fabric is not protected with a damp cloth as wrinkles are removed.

 No Stretch

While high-quality linen is a lovely choice for home decor, flowing summer skirts, and comfortable business wear, linen does not stretch. Depending on the nature of your creations, the amount of stretch in the fabrics you select could be one of the most important considerations.

Fabric Dictionary Closing Thoughts: When to Consider Linen?

You know your brand. You also understand how your designs best address the needs, pain-points, and lifestyles of your target audience.  Whether your brand appeals to the environmentally conscious and those who value sustainability, or customers who favor natural luxury, adding high-quality linen pieces to your collection could take your business venture to the next level. Linen is durable, absorbent, comfortable, breathable, and easy to care for.

Once considered a favored fabric for men’s suits, linen is also a popular fabric for shirts and blouses, pants, shorts, skirts, blazers, and jackets. The weave of the fabric gives linen a distinctive texture that pairs well with silk, wool, cotton, and other natural fibers.

While many designers consider natural flax-sourced linen the ideal fabric for their designs, you also have the option of using a linen blend. A linen/cotton blend is less expensive, blending linen with silk gives the fabric an unbeatable luster, and linen/rayon blends have a beautiful hand (feel) that drapes well over the body.

Contributor
Contributor

StartUp FASHION is an online community where independent designers and emerging brands are coming together, helping one another, forming friendships, collaborating, letting off steam, sharing victories, and belonging to a network of people who get it; who are doing it too.We’re a place to access and discover the tools and information you need to build your fashion business. We help you define your path and give you the guidance, encouragement, and resources to follow that path.

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