Linen (Linum usitatissimum) is a fabric that has been used in a plethora of ways throughout the ages. Today, having become fashionable and widely publicised, it is also used for clothing and home furnishings. More and more we seem willing to pay a premium to wear and adorn our homes in this fabric. The appeal lies in its versatile and varied textures.
But are we just reacting to marketing hype? Or does this historic fabric still hold its workhorse status for more practical applications?
The Versatility of Linen
From the simple scrim cloth used for many domestic cleaning applications, traditional grain sacks, decorator’s dustsheets and the simple sandbag. The potential and durability of linen has made it a timeless textile. This woven flax fabric has been in existence for a very long time—roughly 36,000 years!
With the commercial manufacturing process hardly changed since inception, the spinning process is what separates the humble more basic cloth from the pricier, clothing and home furnishing applications.
Dry spinning will produce a heavier yarn, which is coarser and thicker. Wet spinning softens the gum between the fibres, giving a finer yarn suitable for clothing. The closeness of the weave will also play a key part in its suitability for the end use. Therefore, plain weave gives more flexibility compared to firmer close weaves. Furthermore, applying pattern and adding colour will also escalate the cost of production before the finished product is made.
Linen and Design
Whilst attending a local Christmas craft event, I spotted some of Kate Wescott’s hand printed textiles. Her variety of simple, yet beautifully styled designs, enhance linen and would make statements big and small around the home. Other favourite designs I am frequently drawn to, which use a mix of linen and cotton textiles are: Honey Bee and Deer Damask by Barnaby Gates.
Touches of natural linen add a rustic and warm tone to most spaces. In a nutshell, linen offers practicality, style, and luxury, all from a humble plant stem.