Cool, breezy and bright, linen fabric is probably one of the most popular fabrics of our day, and our history. Flax linen was the first manmade fabric discovered by humanity, and we continue to enjoy this beautiful cloth after all these years. By this point, you know what linen fabric looks and feels like, but have you ever stopped and wondered what linen fabric is? If you do, read along this quick guide on linen fabric
Linen is a type of fibrous fabric made from the stem of the flax plant. One of the most versatile fabrics, it is being used in many applications in all areas of life. Linen was one of the first fabrics made by humans and it still is being used in everything from homeware to suits made out of linen fabric. While it lost some of its popularity to the cheaper and easy-to-manufacture fabrics, linen is still a great choice for those who want a highly-breathable, moisture wicking natural fabric.
What is Linen Fabric Made of?
Linen fabric is made from fibers obtained from the stems or stalks of the flax plant. These fibers are separated by a series of processes. While the stem of the flax can grow over one meter, they decrease after these processes. While the stem of the flax can grow over one meter, they decrease after these processes. These fibers are then spun into a yarn and then woven to create different kinds of linen fabrics.
Different fiber lengths are used to create different kinds and qualities of linen fabric. Such woven linen material can then be sold as linen fabric by the yard, linen cloth, oil cloth tablecloth and more.
Properties and Uses
Linen’s popularity is on a steady decline due to technical advancements in fabric manufacturing and linen’s labor-intensive and time consuming production processes. However, linen fabric still has a wide following because of its highly desirable properties, some of which are very hard to replicate by fabric blends or other kinds of fabrics.
First off, linen is the most ideal fabric for summer dresses and suits. As it is a white and bright fabric by nature, it reflects sunlight to prevent you from getting overheated during summer months. Linen’s color also does not fade in the sun. Being a very durable material, linen clothing, especially white linen is a fabric still highly-sought after in hotter parts of the world.
Another reason why linen is so ideal for summer clothing is the fabric’s moisture wicking nature. It wicks moisture from your skin, but it doesn’t retain it for a long time. Linen just transfers it to the outer layer of the cloth. This way, linen will keep you cool and dry for a long time. Linen fabric is made in different thread counts, but often it is not a tightly weaved fabric. This increases the breathability. The breezy, airy nature of the fabric and its moisture-wicking yet non-absorbent nature make it an incredible choice for summertime clothes like blazers, shirts, pants, dresses, underwear and more. If you can use cotton or wool for it, you can also use linen for it, it really is that diverse.
While linen’s popularity as a clothing fabric is on decline, it is still very popular as a homeware fabric. The same advantages of being comfortable and durable apply to the linen homeware. Another feature of linen that makes it such a good fabric for homeware is that it provides sound and heat insulation when hung on the wall. It is ideal in the bathroom and kitchen with its soft, absorbent and non-pilling texture. Since it is airy and comfortable, when used as a bedspread, it gives the skin a feeling of freshness and comfort. It is three times stronger and brighter than cotton. Curtains, napkins, upholstery, carpets, seat covers, bedspreads, linen can be used anywhere around the house.
How is Linen Fabric Manufactured?
Linen’s journey from flax to your home or workshop is a long, tedious one. This is the reason why it lost most of its popularity to the more readily available and easy to manufacture natural fabrics like cotton.
First off, planting. Flax plants don't grow everywhere and it has to be colder months of the year for them to thrive. These plants do not tolerate heat and could die easily. This is why it has to be planted in certain months and places, especially if these linen fibers are to be used to manufacture clothing.
Flax can be planted for its oil or its fibers. However, if the plants have been planted for its fibers, they have to be harvested before they are too ripe, until about 100 days. If the flax plants become too ripe, they form bark-like structures on the outside, which is unwanted. After the plants turn a greenish-yellow color, they are ready for harvesting.
Nowadays, the farmers use harvesting machines but it can be done by hand, too. After the harvesting is done, the cut flax plants are left in the field to dry for a couple of days before the separation process.
Separation of flax fibers is a very delicate process. A machine removes the plant’s seeds and leaves. These seeds then can be sold to oil manufacturers if they are of a certain quality. After the separation of seeds, linen manufacturers cut out the outermost layer of the flax’s stalk. Also known as retting, it has to be done with extreme caution as not to damage the fibers to be used for fabric production.
After the retting and separation, the processed stalks are broken up to separate the unusable fibers from the usable ones. Rollers and rotating paddles are used to make this process easier.
After all these processes, the fibers that can be used for the manufacturing of fabrics and yarns are fully separated and they are ready to be combed and spun. Combing is a process of combing the fibers into thin strands. After they are combed, manufacturers spun these thin fibers into strings, also called rovings. This process is realized with the aid of devices called reeds.
After they are spun, these strings are winded onto a bobbin, through process is also called reeling. It is important to perform this process in humid conditions, because if not, the resulting yarn could fall apart. After this, the yarn is washed in warm water . After washing, these bobbins of yarn are then dried and made ready to be sold to manufacturers.
The manufacturers could then treat or dye the yarns, then weave them into fabrics to be used in all kinds of textile products.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is cotton linen fabric?
Cotton linen fabric is just cotton fabric that’s used in homeware applications. Linen and cotton are similar, but they are made from entirely different plants and their manufacturing processes are totally different. Linen, also called flax linen, is made out of flax plants. However, the term linens is now used to refer to all kinds of homeware products.
Is linen an expensive fabric?
It can be expensive. Nowadays, linen falls into the niche products category because the process to manufacture linen is very time consuming and labor intensive. However, it is worth the money, especially if you live in a hotter part of the world.
Is linen a good fabric?
Linen is an exceptional fabric. It is environmentally-friendly, natural, good for your health and can be used to make almost anything.
What is washed linen fabric?
After manufacturing, linen fabric can be washed by a series of different processes to make it softer. The result of this process is washed linen fabric.