Linen is an amazing fabric: it’s not only wonderful to wear, but is also the oldest known fibre, as well as one of the most sustainable!
Here’s what you should know about linen:
How Linen Fabric is Made
Linen comes from the flax plant. Flax is a “bast fibre”, which means that the structure is basically a bunch of long fibres inside of a thicker tube, like a straw full of strings! The plants go through a process called “retting” which involves soaking the flax in water of laying it out in the rain or dew. The retting process breaks down the outside tube and the “glue” holding the fibres together, which then allows the fibre strands to be separated. Check out this video if you’d like to see the whole process.
What Makes it Great To Wear
Linen is absorbent, breathable, and stronger than cotton. The fibres are porous, and it’s great at keeping you cool in the summer but it can also be insulating in colder temperatures.
Linen gets better with use, becoming softer and silkier over time. It can be crisp and stiff or have a beautiful drape, and typically is woven with that signature linen texture. It also has a natural subtle luster, which makes it more dimensional.
Linen is not very elastic, though, and is known for holding wrinkles, but this also lends it a naturally casual, comfortable and carefree appearance. While the wrinkles are sometimes seen as a downside, many also seek out the look of worn or washed linen.
The feeling of linen is lovely, the texture is unique, and the fact that it just gets softer and better with age means people often want to hang on to their linen pieces for decades.
Why Linen is so Sustainable
- Growing flax requires less water than cotton.
- There is very little waste with flax; other part of the plant, like the seeds, can be used to produce linseed oil or flax seeds for consumption.
- Linen typically requires fewer pesticides, herbicides and fungicides than cotton. They are still used, but you can avoid this by looking for organic linen!
- The durability of linen means it lasts longer than other materials.
Hemp is also very similar to linen with a lot of the same benefits.
However it does have a few cons…
- The process to make linen takes more time and work, which generally makes it more expensive.
- Due to the lack of elasticity of the fibres, they can break along permanent creases over time. In particular, this is something to be mindful of with respect to areas that are constantly bent or creased, such as where the collar of a shirt folds down.
- The wrinkling can be a con, but I think you just need to be mindful of the kind of garments you choose.
Where to Find Linen Clothing
Do you own any linen pieces? What do you love about them?