Linen: The Cool Fabric

Linen is very strong and absorbent, and dries faster than cotton. Because of these properties, linen is comfortable to wear in hot weather and is valued for use in garments. It also has other distinctive characteristics, notably its tendency to wrinkle. Many other products, including home furnishing items, are also often made from linen.

Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world; their history goes back many thousands of years. Dyed flax fibres found in a cave in South-eastern Europe (present-day Georgia) suggest the use of woven linen fabrics from wild flax may date back over 30,000 years. Linen was used in ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, and linen is mentioned in the Bible. In the 18th century and beyond, the linen industry was important in the economies of several countries in Europe as well as the American colonies.

Textiles in a linen weave texture, even when made of cotton, hemp, or other non-flax fibres, are also loosely referred to as “linen”.

The word linen is of West Germanic origin and cognate to the Latin name for the flax plant, linum, and the earlier Greek word linum.

This word history has given rise to a number of other terms in English, most notably line, from the use of a linen (flax) thread to determine a straight line. It is also etymologically related to a number of other terms, including lining, because linen was often used to create an inner layer for clothing, and lingerie, from French, which originally denoted underwear made of linen.
People in various parts of the world began weaving linen at least several thousand years ago. By the Middle Ages, there was a thriving trade in German flax and linen. The trade spread throughout Germany by the 9th century and spread to Flanders and Brabant by the 11th century. The Lower Rhine was a centre of linen making in the Middle Ages. Flax was cultivated and linen used for clothing in Ireland by the 11th century. Evidence suggests that flax may have been grown and sold in Southern England in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Textiles, primarily linen and wool, were produced in decentralized home weaving mills.

Linen continued to be valued for garments in the 16th century and beyond. Specimens of linen garments worn by historical figures have survived. For example, a linen cap worn by Emperor Charles V was carefully preserved after his death in 1558.

There is a long history of the production of linen in Ireland. They brought improved methods for linen production with them, contributing to the growth of the linen industry in Ireland in particular. The linen industry was increasingly critical in the economies of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. In England and then in Germany, industrialization and machine production replaced manual work and production moved from the home to new factories.

Linen was also an important product in the American colonies, where it was brought over with the first settlers and became the most commonly used fabric and a valuable asset for colonial households. The homespun movement encouraged the use of flax to make home spun textiles. Through the 1830s, most farmers in the northern United States continued to grow flax for linen to be used for the family’s clothing.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, linen was very significant to Russia and its economy. At one time it was the country’s greatest export item and Russia produced about 80% of the world’s fibre flax crop. In December 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres in order to raise people’s awareness of linen and other natural fibres.

Linen fabric feels cool to touch, a phenomenon which indicates its higher conductivity (the same principle that makes metals feel “cold”). It is smooth, making the finished fabric lint-free, and gets softer the more it is washed. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads. This wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during laundering. Linen’s poor elasticity means that it easily wrinkles.

Mildew, perspiration, and bleach can damage the fabric, but because it is not made from animal fibres (keratin) it is impervious to clothes moths and carpet beetles. Linen is relatively easy to take care of, since it resists dirt and stains, has no lint or pilling tendency, and can be dry-cleaned, machine-washed, or steamed. It can withstand high temperatures, and has only moderate initial shrinkage.

Linen should not be dried too much by tumble drying, and it is much easier to iron when damp. Linen wrinkles very easily, and thus some more formal garments require ironing often, in order to maintain perfect smoothness. Nevertheless, the tendency to wrinkle is often considered part of linen’s particular “charm”, and many modern linen garments are designed to be air-dried on a good clothes hanger and worn without the necessity of ironing.
A characteristic often associated with linen yarn is the presence of slubs, or small, soft, irregular lumps, which occur randomly along its length. In the past, slubs were traditionally considered to be defects, and were associated with low quality linen. However, in the case of many present-day linen fabrics, particularly in the decorative furnishing industry, slubs are considered as part of the aesthetic appeal of an expensive natural product. In addition, slubs do not compromise the integrity of the fabric, and therefore they are not viewed as a defect. However, the very finest linen has very consistent diameter threads, with no slubs at all.
Linen can degrade in a few weeks when buried in soil. Linen is more biodegradable than cotton.

Flax is grown in many parts of the world, but top quality flax is primarily grown in Western European countries and Ukraine. In recent years bulk linen production has moved to Eastern Europe and China, but high quality fabrics are still confined to niche producers in Ireland, Italy and Belgium, and also in countries including Poland, Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Britain and Kochi in India. High quality linen fabrics are now produced in the United States for the upholstery market and in Belgium.

In 2018, according to the United Nations’ repository of official international trade statistics, China was the top exporter of woven linen fabrics by trade value, with a reported $732.3 million in exports; Italy ($173.0 million), Belgium ($68.9 million) and the United Kingdom ($51.7 million) were also major exporters.

Now a days in India, Linen is being used in pure or in combination of other fabrics such as Cotton, Resham, Silk etc. for producing Sarees. For example some of the combination are Silk-Linen, Resham-Linen, Linen-Cotton etc. We at Luggra have a nice collection of such Sarees. You can surely choose one for yourself and be assured of the quality.

Source: Wikipedia