What is Linen?

Linen is a beautiful natural fibre made from the fibres found in the stems of the flax plant.  This is a plant grown in northern Europe in countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. It’s actually the same plant that flaxseed and flax oil are made from.  Once the stems have been collected, the tougher outer fibres are removed leaving behind the softer inner fibres or “ bast”.  These are then spun into long threads which can later be weaved.  The term “linen” is used to describe those fabrics that are made of 100% of these flax fibres. Our beautiful Scarf Room linen scarves shown here are made from 100% Italian linen.

Just A Little History

Flax is one of the oldest domesticated plants in the world.  In turn, the linen from which it is made is one of the oldest textiles.  Fabrics made from flax have been dated up to 30,000 years old in Eastern Europe, 9,000 years in Syria and 5,000 years in India and China.  Fascinating fact one – when the tomb of Pharaoh Ramses was discovered in Egypt in the 19th century, the linen clothes around his body were, more than 3,000 years later, perfectly preserved.

From Flax Plant to Linen

So, how does the flax plant become a linen scarf?   As previously mentioned, it is the inner flax fibres or bast that are used.  Although they are very strong, they can be damaged during collection and extraction so specialist techniques will need to be used to harvest the plant.  Fascinating fact two – the inner fibres will often be accessed by applying bacteria to the plant, which eats away the stalk. The fibres are then collected, spun into threads (they are perfect for spinning) and woven into a yarn that can be processed into a linen fabric. Natural linen fabric ranges in colours from yellowish to grey to off-white.

What Makes Linen So Special?

Linen has four main characteristics that makes it so special:

Longevity

We have already seen that linen is prized for its longevity. And, unlike many other fabrics, it tends to improve with age.  In fact, washing linen makes it stronger and softer. In addition, linen fibres do not stretch which makes them a little more rigid that other fabrics.  This means that the fabric drapes over, rather than clings, to the body. This also contributes to its breathability. Which leads us nicely to the next point.

Breathability 

Another fascinating feature about linen is that its fibres cannot hold air or heat and when it gets wet, it dries almost immediately.  This is why it is an excellent choice of fabric in the form, say of a linen scarf or trousers, to wear in the hot weather.  It allows air to penetrate and retains its lovely cool feel.  

Absorbency

Flax fibres are hygroscopic which means they absorb moisture extremely well. In fact, linen can absorb an incredible 20% of its weight in moisture!  Wearing a linen scarf in the summer makes sense –  it will help to very quickly absorb any perspiration on the body.

Beauty

Linen is a beautiful natural fabric. It is also softer than cotton due to its lower thread count and this makes it extremely comfortable to wear. Its low elasticity gives it a slightly wrinkled appearance which lends it a nonchalant, relaxed European feel. Yet it is still smart enough to wear during the day or evening. In its natural state it is an off-white colour but the fibres do dye well and so linen is found in a variety of beautiful colours.  

Caring for Your Linen

Linen is easy to care for.  In most cases, it can be washed gently at a low temperature or linen wash setting and should be ironed while still damp.  It also improves with age becoming softer with each wash, as opposed to cotton which does the opposite. 

Scarf Room Linen Scarves

For those of us who love scarves but find heavier weights are impractical in the summer, think linen.  We have a capsule collection of lightweight 100% Italian linen scarves.  These gorgeous pure linen scarves are just perfect for in the hot weather.  They are beautifully comfortable to wear and come in a variety of candy stripes.  Just take your pick!!!