It’s a new year which means a new series! This year I will be doing a series of posts about natural fabrics called Fabric Fix, highlighting a different fabric each month. I will discuss it’s history, process of making, properties and sustainability issues.
For the very first issue of Fabric Fix, we must start with linen. Being one of the oldest fabrics dating back as far as 34,000 years (flax fibres this old were discovered in a prehistoric cave by archaeologists in the country of Georgia), it is very fitting to investigate linen for our first post.
Linen was considered an extremely valuable material in ancient Egypt. As well as being prized for it’s rarity, it was also heralded for it’s lightweight nature, ability to repel insects, wick away moisture and its anti-microbial properties. It was a symbol of purity and wealth that was used for a variety of reasons including mummification, burial shrouds and even currency.
Production of linen is a labour intensive and expensive process which began to see a steady decline with the industrial revolution. With the beginnings of the machine age, cheaper cotton fabrics and later, synthetic materials were quickly replacing linen in the market.
More recently, linen has once again gained in popularity, largely due to its more eco-friendly production and bio-degradable properties.
Linen is made from the inner bark of the flax plant, also known as bast fibres. Flax thrives on poor soil quality therefore requiring little fertiliser, herbicides or pesticides and much less water than is required of cotton production. No chemical medium is required to loosen the fibres upon harvesting and fibres can be bleached with environmentally friendly solutions. No dangerous chemicals are required to achieve a luxurious end-product, with linen obtaining it’s beautiful feel from benign mechanical-thermal processing.
Linen is a strong fibre which means garments last longer and need replacing less often therefore reducing consumption.
Additionally, the flax plant is an extremely versatile commodity, with every part of the plant used to create a worthwhile product. It used to produce flaxseeds, paper, varnish, oil, medicine and animal fodder.
How it’s made
Why we love it
Feels good on the skin, keeps you cool and breathes well, gets better with time and washing, available in an array of vibrant colours and patterns, lower environmental impact to produce compared with other naturla fabrics, biodegradable therefore lessens environmental impact after use, strong fibre which has long life.
The epitomy of the perfect fabric!
Care of linen
Pre-wash (and tumble dry if you plan to use this on the final fabric garment) as linen can shrink from 5% to as much as 15% if used in a tumble drier.
Wash linen on low temperatures in lukewarm or cold water. Use the gentle machine cycle and a mild detergent to protect the fibres. The more it’s washed, the softer it will become!
Linen can be put into a tumble drier on low temperatures. Remove from the drier when still slightly damp to avoid it becoming stiff, and hang or lie flat to finish off the drying process.
Linen should be stored hanging and not folded to prevent weaking of fibres along crease lines.