Linen is a natural, cellulose (plant based) staple fibre that comes from the flax plant.
The fibres are extracted from the stem of the plant (bast fibre) making the fibres long, which in turn produces strong, relatively smooth textiles, although its not uncommon for slubs (small lumps) to be visible in fabrics made from linen.
The fibres are removed from the plant in a process called retting, the plant stems are cut (or sometimes completely pulled from the ground) and left in the field where they are covered in dew, letting the stems soften and making it easier to extract the fibre.
Linen is a very breathable fibre making it comfortable to wear in warmer climates. Traditionally flax has been grown in Europe, especially around France and Belgium as well as in Russia, Canada and the UK. During World War Two flax was grown in the southern parts of Australia.
- Linen (balanced plain weave in a variety of weights)
Context of Use
- Linen is frequently used for summer and warm climate apparel such as shirts, dresses and suits. Being very breathable it is a comfortable fabric to wear in warmer weather.
- Although sometimes criticised for wrinkling too easily it has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years as an alternative to cotton and as "crinkle linen", linen which is deliberately wrinkled for aesthetic reasons, has become available.
- Linen is also used in homewares, often in tableware in the form of table cloths and napkins. Although bedding, such as sheets, is often referred to as "linens" these are more often made of cotton rather than linen because of the higher cost associated with using linen.
The following is a general guide to caring for this textile, however you should always refer to and follow the instructions on the care label of each garment.
How to Wash
Linen can be machine washed on a delicate cycle or hand washed.
Wash in warm (40C) or cold water. Using cold water will reduce your energy consumption.
Detergents and Bleach
Use gentle detergents for linen avoiding any that have optical whiteners.
Do not bleach linen as it can damage or discolour the fibres.
Remove excess water by pressing with a cotton towel. Do not wring linen out. Hanging your garment on a hanger to line dry will reduce the amount of wrinkles and the need for ironing. Linen can be tumble dried on a warm to cool setting.
Use a warm to hot iron to press linen. However linen naturally creases with wear so pressing won't keep it crisp for long.
Store in a well ventilated area away from direct light.
- Being a natural fibre linen in biodegradable and can be added to home compost or worm farms at the end of it's usable life.
- Some apparel and homewares stores have take back schemes for linen where the fibre may be reclaimed and respun.
- Larger pieces of linen such as sheets, table cloths and napkins that are no longer usable may be accepted by local vets and animal rescue organisations for caring for animals.