A Brief History of Linen
A Brief History of Linen

Linen is one of the oldest textiles developed, dating back nearly 10,000 years. Most people associate’ linen fabric with more expensive clothing, fancy tablecloths and napkins. Historically, it was a staple of everyday clothing, especially undergarments, until the invention of cotton gin in the late 1700s made cotton production more cost efficient. Let’s take a moment and explore the rich history of linen.

Linen is made from the cellulose fibers of the inner bark the flax plant. These fibers are called bast fibers and flax is one of several types of plants including hemp, jute, and raime, which produce them. Materials made from bast fibers all have similar properties such as drying faster than either cotton or wool and being stronger when wet. This is probably a key reason why items such as rope and ship’s sails were made from bast fibers before modern synthetic materials were used.

Turning bast fibers into cloth is a long process. Unlike wool where raw fleece can simply be washed and then either carded or combed into a preparation for spinning, bast fibers need to be separated from their woody stems and prepared for spinning in a multi-step process.