6 Amazing Facts and Benefits of Linen
Linen is a natural fibre (similar to cotton or bamboo) which is extracted from the stalk of a flax plant. Linen has been used and produced for centuries because of its amazing properties. The more it is used and washed the softer it gets. It's extremely durable and can last decades when cared for correctly. Vintage linen is very desirable, it’s soft and the feeling is very hard to replicate by any mechanical process.
The flax plant can be used to make everything from linen textiles to linoleum flooring, and flax seed oil is known for its Omega - 3 fatty acids, an important part of nutritional health. And linen fabric is also fully biodegradable which makes it a fantastic option for those who shop with an environmentally conscious mind.
At a glance the benefits of linen are:
- Durability, linen is 30% stronger than cotton
- Extremely absorbent
- Structurally sound fibre so products keep their shape
- Environmentally friendly - the flax plant requires less water and chemicals to be cultivated.
How is it produced?
The flax plants are harvested by being pulled from the ground, rather than being cut, in order to retain the full length of the fibre. After being pulled the plants are left in the field to soften to the point where bacteria and fungi become present. This allows the woody section to start breaking down and makes it easier to separate the fibre from the plant. The fibre is collected from the plants and then rolled and stored in shelter for 2-3 months, where it continues to soften. The fibres are then combed to remove excess impurities and shorter or broken fibres. The long fibres (usually used for bed linen) are slightly twisted and then processed using a ‘wet spinning’ technique in order to achieve a smoother and softer yarn, which it’s much nicer to sleep on or wear. Alternatively, the short fibres are collected and spun together using a ‘dry spinning’ technique. This creates a stronger and heavier yarn which is ideal for heavy duty uses such as upholstery or heavy apparel fabrics like tarps or tents.
The linen yarns used for sheeting are carefully graded and sorted into different qualities ranging from the extremely fine (Como Linen) to a high standard of regular linen (Dublino and Citi Linen).
Linen fibre is naturally thicker than cotton fibre. An average linen fabric used for sheeting has a thread count of between 80 and 150. If you were looking at a cotton sheet this would be considered very low, however linen quality is not based on thread count, because the fibre is thicker there is always going to be less in a sheet compared with cotton. Higher quality cotton fabric starts at around 200 thread count, a result of the finer yarns being used and therefore more of them can be woven into the fabric. Linen quality depends on the flax plant; if the source is low quality the fabric produced will be of similar quality.
One of the primary benefits of linen fabric is its durability, because of the thickness and strength of the fibre it is able to withstand a lot more than just cotton or polyester. A mark of its durability is how it becomes softer with every use and wash - instead of sacrificing stability, the fibre slowly changes texture.
The weave of linen fibre and specifically linen fabric allows more airflow, and its structure means it wicks away moisture from your skin allowing better airflow over your body. Linen is a "stiff" fabric and is less likely to cling to the skin; when the fabric billows away, it quickly dries out and becomes cool again. Clothes made of linen possess high air permeability, which allows air to flow through the fabric easily and allows the body to breathe. Used in sheets it affords an extremely comfortable sleep especially in extreme climates; as we said it’s been used for centuries and for good reason. The ancient Egyptians used, wore and grew linen themselves and we see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t too!
Another point that can’t be missed when looking at linen is its texture and the effortless style it produces. Clean cut and with deep coloured fabrics linen is an incredibly understated fibre and completely on trend. Whilst it doesn’t afford chic lines and smooth effects, it achieves simple lines with textured edges that really call to a minimalist aesthetic.
Because dye takes so well to linen as a fabric, often you can get really deep rich colours and because the texture is very tactile you can add a lot of depth to a space with a strong colour and this beautiful natural fibre.