From the Latin linium and the earlier Greek linum, woven from flax, linen is one of the world’s oldest textile fabrics. Linen is thought to have been made in the Mediterranean and Europe at least 5,000 years ago–indeed, historical fragments of linen have been found in Switzerland, Mesopotamia, Assyria and Egypt, and it is repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament as the cloth for wearing, swaddling, bathing, burying, for purity and ritual; ‘fine twined linen’ was prescribed for the temple veil.
* Stronger wet than dry, linen glass cloths are household objects.
* Linen fabric is so durable that sheets, cloths and covers become heirlooms and so fine that it is used for the finest under garments and night clothes; it readily absorbs humidity, is hygienic and can prevent skin irritations–interestingly, we’ve found in the workroom that a strip of linen tied around a pinprick or a cut promotes quicker healing than anything else. Slip covers, cushions, tablecloths and napkins can be safely washed again and again and at very high temperatures.
* Perhaps the only real draw back to using linen for everything is that it is prone to creasing and demands a great deal of time to keep it looking pristine. Having said this, linen can be pressed at the highest temperatures and curtains steamed once they are hanging.
* Crease resistant finishes and a general acceptance of the creased look have combined to catapult linen to the top of the furnishing fabric popularity stakes in the last few years, even to the extent that we can now buy very beautiful non – iron, or not- necessary – to- iron linen bedding.
* In spite of, and in some ways because of its penchant for creasing, linen is an ideal fabric to work with: it finger presses accurately, will stretch and pull well for slip covers, looks fantastic unlined with the light shining through and drapes well when heavily interlined.
* If I had to choose one fabric it would have to be linen: it’s stronger, cooler and more absorbent than cotton, it makes the best curtains, bedding, clothing, tea-towels, bath towels, loose covers and bandages; it also wears the best, can be printed, painted, stretched and it’s not bad for upholstery either!
*Hopsack, herringbone and damask, even velvet linens are all available, though there are limited interesting linen weaves, only because linen looks so good plain woven and can be elegantly fine or rough and rustic.
* Linen takes dyes well but colour never penetrates the inner core so any colour will wear away with time.
Other Linen Uses
Liniment – finely ground flax seeds were applied to the skin to ease muscle pain Latin Linere – to annoint
Lingerie-underwear made of the finest linen
Linseed oil is processed from the flax seed
Linoleum – a floor covering made from linseed oil a natural cellulose that picks up the room temperature and stays warm underfoot.