Saturday, May 26, 2012

Linen - The Fabric...not the Dictator....

When I started the research for this post, I was quiet honestly amazed at the history of linen.  I guess in today's world we tend to take things at face value--many times never knowing the beauty and substance of the history.  I could write several posts about linen, but my goal today is to keep it brief, and yet informative.

The use of linen has been documented as far back as 4,000 years ago.  
It was used to wrap The Pharaoh's of Egypt when they died.  Most times the linen is still intact and shows no wear (not that they're out dancing around in it when no one's around...); 

It's mentioned in the Bible, Proverbs 31(often used as pages in books through history); 

Even some caves in the country of Georgia, a part of the Soviet Union, as far back as the 4th Century. 

The point is, linen has been around a long long time, which speaks to how well this fiber can perform.  Linen is actually a by-product of the plant, Flax.  It's a complicated process to not only grow the plants, but render the plant in a usable form to make the linen fibers.  Great care must be taken when weaving because the fibers are not elastic and have a tendency to break.  Suffice it to say, that's one of the reasons high quality linen is often very expensive.  You can find Flax growing in many parts of the world, but top quality flax is primarily grown in Western Europe. Bulk linen production has moved to Eastern Europe and China, but  if you want high quality fabrics you'll need to visit the niche producers in Ireland.  Their linen fabrics are legendary.

So what makes linen a preferred fabric in many instances?  
        Attributes of linen are:
  • It's a very durable fabric in many respects, and in fact is stronger wet than dry.
  • It has a very soft "hand" (the way it feels when you run your hand against the fabric), and gets softer with more washings.
  • It's resistant to moths and beetles. 
  • It resists dirt and stains.
  • It has no lint or piling tendency.
  • It can be dry-cleaned, machine-washed or steamed.
  • It can withstand high temperatures, and has only moderate initial shrinkage.
  • When properly prepared, linen fabric has the ability to absorb and lose water rapidly.
        Disadvantages of linen are:
  • It wrinkles very easily - that being said, the tendency to wrinkle is often considered part of the fabric's particular "charm".  It's poor elasticity prevents it from springing back readily, which explains why it wrinkles so easily.
  • 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. 
  • Mildew, perspiration, and bleach can also damage the fabric.
  • Linen can be very expensive.
All this being said, linen can be combined with other fibers to maximize the beauty and attributes of the natural fiber, but enhance the performance with the introduction of man-made fibers.  You'll find several items on Adorable Baby Clothing that are either all linen or a combination, or even man-made fibers woven to look just like linen.  Some are casual, some dressy....but the most important factor, is their style and comfort, and "wearability"!