What is linen?
I have an obsession with linen. I love it crushed and when it gets that worn-to-death look about it. It never fails me and gets better with age. But the best part about linen is it’s cool to wear in our hot climate.
So what is linen exactly? Technically it’s a vegetable and is made from cellulose fibres that grow inside stalks of the flax plant. What makes this plant interesting is it’s an annual plant and you can only grow it for a season. After seed planting it takes about one hundred days to harvest the flax. It can grow in dry climates but flourishes in cool damp areas. This is why it grows so well in the Nile Valley in Egypt.
Once harvested the flax stalks are dried and then threshed to remove the seeds and pods. To separate the flax fibre from the plant retting is used. Retting is when the flax is left in water, which causes the cells to break down leaving the quality fibres behind.
The retted stalks are dried and cured for weeks or months and then crushed to leave a smooth fibre to work with.
Finally the flax can be spun into fibres, which are woven into fabric called linen. Machines make most of our linen today but it is still made by hand in some parts of the world.
Now when you wear linen you can appreciate the complexities of how it was made and understand why it is a strong, versatile fibre. Enjoy!