Linen and its history
Linen and its history

Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world; their history goes back many thousands of years. It is an interesting history that has resulted in the gorgeous linen items of clothing we have today and are so popular when it comes to summer clothing. Here is a little about the rich history of linen fabric.

Linen is the most ancient of fabrics and has a rich heritage. When was linen first made you may ask. It’s widely accepted birth as a textile was in Egypt some 10,000 years ago but there is a lot of evidence found in pre-historic caves in Georgia that suggests it might have been used as a textile some 36,000 years ago. Here a little bit about the evidence which was found in Georgia; dyed flax fibers were found in a prehistoric cave which is evidence that woven linen fabrics from wild flax were used some 36,000 years ago. As well as some fragments of straw, seeds, fibers, yarns, and various types of fabrics have also been found in Swiss lake dwellings that date from 8000 BC.

Egypt- In ancient Egypt linen was used for mummification and for burial shrouds because it symbolized light and purity as well as wealth. Linen was by far the most common textile. It helped people to be comfortable in the subtropical heat. Linen is made from the flax plant by spinning the fibers from the stem of the plant. Spinning, weaving and sewing were very important techniques for all Egyptian societies. Linen was so valued in ancient Egypt that it was used as currency in some cases. Linen was also produced in ancient Mesopotamia and reserved for higher classes. It always had high cost because it was always difficult to work with the thread (flax thread is not elastic and it is very difficult to weave it into a cloth without breaking threads) and also because the flax plant requires a lot of attention during cultivation. So as you can understand, linen was a very important part of the ancient Egyptians lives; used for clothing, currency, furnishings and famously as garments for mummies.

Flax-

Along with wool finer, linen is one of the oldest fibres used by humans. Linen fibers are produced from the stems of the flax plan. Linen was an important textile before cotton and other fibers as it is very versatile and can serve many purposes. The best thing about the flax plant is that all its parts can be used for something, so no part of it is wasted. This was useful in earlier societies, and is now essential if we are to live more sustainably on the Earth. For the best quality linen fabric only the best flax stems are used, but the left over parts – like linseeds, oil, straw and lower-quality stems – are turned into many products: linoleum, soap, healthy nutritious oil, paper, even cattle feed and lots more.

To grow well, flax plants need well-drained soil and a cool, humid environment. The Eastern and Western European climate is perfect for this and flax grown there is regarded as top quality. Flax is a member of the Linaceae plant family. The last word of its Latin name means “most useful”, which tells us how important this plant was to ancient peoples.

 How it is made-

Quality is very important in linen production. The longest possible fibers are got when the flax is either hand-harvested by pulling up the entire plant or when stalks are cut very close to the root. Seeds are then removed from the plant and fibers are loosened from the stalk. Woody portion of the stalks are removed by crushing between two metal rollers which separates fibers. They are then separated between themselves - longer from shorter. Longer, softer ones are then spun into yarns and then woven or knit into linen textiles.

The fibre is obtained by subjecting plant stalks to a series of operations. Linen is stronger than cotton, dries more quickly, and is more slowly affected by exposure to sunlight. Low elasticity, imparting a hard, smooth texture, makes linen subject to wrinkling. Because linen absorbs and releases moisture quickly and is a good conductor of heat, linen garments feel cool to wearers. Fine grades of linen are made into woven fabrics and laces for apparel and household furnishings.

What is linen used for-

Linen is used for variety of uses: from bed and bath fabrics, home and commercial furnishing items, apparel items to industrial products. It was even used for books and for a type of body armour. Use for linen has changed in time and especially in the last 30 years. In today’s world we use linen for the following things-

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-Used in Gent's wear like  Shirts, Pants, Blazers

-Used in women's wear like dresses, skirts, undergarments.

-Table and Kitchen Clothes

-Bathroom items like bath sheet, bath towel, hand towel, face towel.

-Bedroom items like Sheets Sets, Bed Skirts, Pillows Covers, Duvet Covers, etc.

-Some painter uses its sheets for canvas painting.

-Uses in currency making.

What is linen well known for and some benefits?

  • You can wash and dry it in a washing machine.
  • We can hand wash it.
  • The biggest advantage of linen is strong flax fibres. Due to strong fibres, we can use it in various textures.
  • Its bedding and clothes can be used in any kind of weather.
  • It can even be used in a sticky climate since it is very permeable. 
  • It shrinks and the shrinkage percent of it is 4-5% that is natural but in the case of "hot tumble dry" it increases to 10-15%.

As you now know, linen has a rich history dating back decades. An important part of our ancestor’s lives and a huge benefit to our lives today. The perfect material for clothing for the summer to keep you safe from the scorching sun and to keep you cool and dry. With so many benefits for this unique fabric, linen is a must-have in everyone’s wardrobes for this summer and every summer to follow.