Linen – with its lightweight and natural feel reminds us of spring picnics and a light summer breeze. It’s cooling and leaves our skin feeling refreshed. There is so much more to linen than just that, though. Did you know how sustainable and eco-friendly linen actually is? You know those little brown seeds some of us like to put in our breakfast bowls or salads due to their health benefits? Flax seeds! Yep, you heard that right. They’re not only beneficial for our own health, but for the planet’s health as well! The fabric linen is made from the flax plant.
The production of linen relies on natural and ecological processes. Linen is mostly rainfed and it takes approximately three to four months to get harvested. Additionally, flax protects the soil and local water resources due to not needing irrigation. Linen also causes a lower greenhouse effect than the production of other fibres. This means that linen has a very low impact on the environment.
There’s more! It’s also produced locally. Right here!
Well, not right here in your living room or office, but in Europe! Around 10,000 producers can be found in 14 countries of the European Union with France being the largest producer followed by Belgium. Due to the perfect conditions, damp ocean climate and rich soil, flax plants grow best in the coastal band of Western Europe including Normandy, other places in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Up to 85% of flax fibres are being produced in Europe, which makes the way of the clothes into our closets so much shorter!
Due to linen being produced mainly in Europe the production of flax fibres creates jobs in these local areas. This means that linen also helps maintain a fabric that is economic, social and sustainable in many rural zones of Europe made by a local workforce. Further, the local linen industry ensures fair working conditions and wages. Other countries that are key to the linen production are Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and China.
Linen is said to be the textile of the future because of it needing less resources like water or fertilizer and it therefore being so eco-friendly. However, as of now, linen makes up only 1% of all textiles that are being produced worldwide because the production takes longer and is costlier than for example the production of cotton. Maybe you have wondered before why a linen shirt is usually more expensive than a cotton shirt? Well, it’s because of those previous mentioned higher production costs.
Linen is especially known for being lightweight and breathable, highly durable and of high quality. Flax fibres are great at absorbing water because of the large amount of pectins. Pectins are the components of the plant that hold all of the fibres together. Don’t worry we’re not going to get too scientific here. However, pectins are responsible for linen feeling so natural and make the fabric temperature-regulating. So, linen is actually not only the perfect fabric in summer, but also in winter, especially if woven into other natural textiles like wool. Linen can retain or repel water up to 20% of its own weight without it feeling damp or weird. Plus, linen is also hypo-allergenic and anti-bacterial making it perfect for anyone with allergies or sensitive skin.
Linen is also a very strong fabric as it’s made of xylem fibres from the stem. These fibres make the linen very resistant to breaking. Due to it being so strong it absorbs vibrations and can also be used as an alternative to glass fibres found in durable sports equipment.
Because of linen possessing many different benefits it can be used for a wide variety of different products. Next to sports equipment and your favorite shirt or blazer, home textiles, sports apparel, even furniture and many other products can be made from linen.
- Linen after being seperated from the stem and before being processed into yarn looks like blonde hair! That’s why in old folklore songs people were singing about girls with flaxen hair.
- Because linen usually needs zero irrigation or fertilizers in our European climate you can grow it yourself! If you are still thinking about your next DIY project growing flax might be a thing.
So, as you can see, linen is highly versatile and incredibly eco-friendly! We’re sure it will find its way into our closets in the future.