What is Linen?

What is Linen?

Posted by Wilet Home on

Ah, linen - it all starts with you. More than just the oldest textile in the world, linen represents balance, comfort and rest - three things that we could all use a little more of in our everyday lives. But what makes linen so special and how should you take care of it once you welcome it into your home? Read on for an introductory crash course in coziness and find out how linen can help you get a better night’s sleep.


What is Linen?


Aside from being the literal stuff that dreams are made of, linen is a versatile natural fiber made from the flax plant. And we aren’t kidding when we say that it’s the oldest textile in the world - evidence of weaving linen has been found dating back to 8000 BC in lake dwellings. With the evolution of modern linen weaving and manufacturing, it began to make its way into people’s everyday lives and became more widely available. 


Where Did Linen Come From?


To tell linen’s story, we have to go back - we’re talking way back. Evidence of dyed flax fibers have been found in caves in present-day Georgia that indicate an early form of linen was being made and used over 30,000 years ago. Fast forward a little, and we saw linen play a significant role in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt - used mainly by the wealthier classes in society, as burial shrouds and in the mummification process. 


Due to its strength, ability to dry quickly and cooling nature, linen was the clothing fabric of choice in ancient Egypt and, at a time, became its own form of currency. Because early forms of linen did not take dye well, most early examples of this timeless fabric were left as a ‘natural linen’ shade or bleached white. Luckily, the modern production process has made a wide range of brightly coloured shades possible and widely available. 



By the Middle Ages, linen had made its way over to Europe. A significant flax trade in Germany had blossomed by the 9th century and in Ireland by the 11th century. In fact, by the 18th century, linen accounted for over half of all goods exported out of Ireland. Recognized as an epicenter of European linen, Ireland is still a major player when it comes to European flax cultivation and linen production. 


Modern linen production and flax farming is only currently done in a handful of countries around the world including China and parts of Europe, which is home to where a large amount of the linen bedding currently available on the market is made. There has recently been a resurgence in the popularity of linen bedding and home goods, as synthetic fabrics have been falling out of favour. With that kind of longevity, it’s no wonder that we’re still seeking out touches of linen to add comfort and everyday luxury to our lives after all these years. 


How is Linen Made?


From seed to sleep, linen goes on a long journey before it ends up in your home. Modern linen manufacturing is a lengthy process and requires timeless craftsmanship and expertise to go along with it. Here’s how it all goes down.


Planting & Growing: Every linen item in your home starts as a seed. Flax plants are harvested around 100 days after planting and are generally planted during the cooler times of year. In the case of Flax Home linen, all of our flax is 100% European-grown. 


Harvesting: After around 100 days of growing, flax plants are harvested once their stems are yellow and seeds are brown - this means they’re ready to go. Although some smaller operations may pick their flax by hand, this process is mostly done by machines on a larger scale. 


Fibre Separating & Breaking: The stalks are the real stars of the show as the fibres in them are what linen is actually composed of. After the stalks are harvested, they go through a process which removes the stalk itself from the seeds and the leaves. Next, they're broken up and the unusable outside is separated from the usable inside. 


Combing & Spinning: Once these valuable inner fibres are separated, they are combed into thin strands. These short strands are connected to a device called a spreader and are ready to be spun on a spinning wheel. From there, the spun fibres are reeled onto a large bobbin.


Drying: Now it’s time for the linen yarn to dry and then it’s ready to be made into bedding, apparel and other home goods.


Why is Linen Better?


It’s no secret that we have a lot of love for linen in all its forms. Whether we’re snuggling up in a bedding set, cooling off after a workout with linen towels or using our sturdy Market Bag to carry home the night’s dinner, linen has a clever way of making everyday activities more special. But what exactly makes it so adaptable and versatile? 


It’s Cooling: When we’re talking bedding, you can’t get any better than linen. With the ability to keep hot sleepers cool and cool sleepers warm, it’s the best choice for couples with varying temperature preferences. This natural fabric’s unique moisture wicking properties also mean that it has the ability to absorb up to 20% its weight in moisture before feeling damp, making hot nights a whole lot more comfy and dry for warm sleepers. 


It’s Quick-To-Dry: Linen and towels aren’t often seen as going hand-in-hand, but we can’t think of a better fabric for self care. It’s antimicrobial and quick-to-dry, meaning that linen towels won’t get the icky musty smell that standard terry towels do. 

Traditionally, linen towels can be slightly polarizing - folks either love the rough texture or aren’t a fan of it at all. That’s why we opted for a softer, waffle linen in our Bathe line. Just like all linen, towels take a few washes and time to break in and reach their full potential. So take your time and show these towels some love and they’ll love you right back. 


It’s More Environmentally Friendly: Through every stage of the production process, linen takes less energy and resources to produce than other fabrics. The flax plant itself takes very little water to grow and the entire plant is used during the production process - leaving no waste footprint. And because linen is a natural fibre, it can be recycled and repurposed in numerous different ways.


It’s a Look: Let’s not kid ourselves - looks matter when it comes to your bedding. Comfort is always going to be paramount, but the aesthetics of a perfectly unmade bed draped in linen warms our hearts and calms our nerves. The best part? Linen bedding looks great on a made or unmade bed.


How to Care for Your Linen & What to Expect


So you’ve taken the plunge with linen. Now what? While not all linen has the exact same needs, they do follow the same general guidelines when it comes to getting the most out of your items and having them live a long and happy life. 


Washing & Stain Removal: Proper laundering is going to make all the difference when it comes to your linen bedding, towels and other pieces. Washing on cold or warm and using a natural detergent is advised. Be sure to avoid fabric softener and ‘deep cleaning’ detergents as the enzymes in these will really go after your linen and begin to break it down prematurely. Best practices are to dry your linen on the lowest temperature that your dryer has or air dry when it comes to smaller pieces. 

Being aware of what your linen comes into contact with is crucial, especially if you’re a fan of bolds and brights. Colour loss is a potential threat to any fabric and it can be caused by a number of items in your home. Allowing your linen to come into contact with bleach, household cleaners, skin care products and other acidic substances can cause irreversible damage.

If you’re treating a pesky stain, be sure to spot test any stain treatment in a discreet area beforehand. Overuse of bleach and stain removers on any type of fabric can lead to yellowing and increased deterioration of the fibres. We have a few other stain removal tips and tricks here that we recommend trying out first. Be sure to steer clear of laundry stripping and other stain removal techniques that use harsh or abrasive chemicals. 



Drying: One of the characteristics of linen that surprises most first-timers is the lint that is produced during the washing and drying cycle. As your items are washed and dried, the linen needs to shed its excess fibres. This process is perfectly normal and is actually what makes your linen softer after each wash. Although the amount of lint during washing and drying will be more substantial in the beginning of your linen’s life, it will never fully stop as increased softness due to shedding is a characteristic of 100% linen. Be sure to keep your lint trap clean!

Still unsure if linen is right for you? Drop us a line at hello@shopwilet.com with any questions and let’s have a chat.

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