Comfortable, strong, and lightweight, linen is a fabric that possesses many qualities that make it ideal for producing high-quality textiles.
A brief history
The Ancient Egyptians wore almost exclusively linen. Of course, they used a huge amount of it during mummification and made burial shrouds from it. As well as it being a symbol of wealth, linen was said to embody light and purity, and therefore it was considered the perfect protection for the journey into the afterlife. Linen was so valuable in Ancient Egypt that it was sometimes used as currency. It is also mentioned in the Bible (Proverbs 31) and of course, it is said that angels’ robes were made of linen. You can’t get a much closer association with light and purity than that!
In ancient Mesopotamia, linen was again very valuable because of its lack of elasticity. You can’t stretch it, so unless you have exactly the right amount for what you’re making, it’s difficult to weave without breaking a few threads. The flax plant also requires very careful cultivation and a lot of attention, so only the most patient and dedicated growers were willing to produce it.
It was the Phoenicians, an ancient civilisation’s merchant fleets from what is now modern-day Lebanon, who first brought the flax plant and linen to Britain and Ireland. By the 19th century, Belfast had become the most famous linen production hub in history and most of the world’s linen came out of the Northern Irish capital. Now, a lot of linen is produced in China and Eastern Europe but high-quality fabrics are still being rolled out from countries all over Europe as well as an exclusive linen production hub in Kochi, a coastal city in south-west India. In recent decades, linen clothing has gone through a popularity surge. In the 1970s, only around 5% of the world’s linen was used for fashion. This figure leapt up to 70% in the 1990s.
Nature and uses of linen
choose. It’s also a good idea to wash linen as soon as you get it, in order to set the threads and get it in its best shape before sitting it in its new home. Here is our guide to washing your linen.
- Linen does tend to shrink, so hot water is best avoided. Opt for warm or cold water and sway towards cold, if your linen contains vibrant colours to avoid fading.
- Products that make linen happiest include mild detergents, scent-and-dye-free detergents, and special linen detergents. Add these to the water, not directly to the linen.
- Get rid of any stains before washing -see how later on!
- Use a gentle cycle and wash it with other lightweight or delicate items.
- Try not to put it on a cycle with things like jeans or towels, as these may be too heavy on the linen fibres.
- If you’re handwashing your linen, don’t wring it out as the fabric will twist and again, cause possible fibre damage.
NB: Never use bleach (even on white linen) and avoid fabric softeners, as these can weaken the fibres and cause tearing
There are several acts of wizardry that you can perform in order to remove stains from your linen. Here are just some of the methods we know of:
- For stains such as coffee or tea, simply soak it in hot water with a stain remover. Repeat as needed but beware of shrinkage in very hot water!
- For white wine stains, rinse it with carbonated water and pat it dry with a clean towel.
- For red wine stains, cover it with salt (yes, really!) and rinse it in cool water. Repeat as needed.
- For oil stains, blot it while it’s wet and use a stain remover before washing.
- For grease stains, cover the stain with baking soda and allow it to soak up the grease. Scrape the powder away when it thickens. Repeat as needed. Pure magic.
Linen is derived from the stem of a flax plant, which is grown all over the world but nowadays primarily in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine. Flax prefers to grow in cooler climes (around 45 degrees Fahrenheit) and thrives in loamy soil. When ingested through food or as a simple snack, flaxseeds can aid digestion and relieve constipation while the fibres of the flax plant are what gives us linen. Flax’s Latin name is Linum ustatissimum, so it’s not too much of a mystery where linen gets its name from!
Linen is twice as strong as cotton, so your linen textiles are likely to withstand a lot more wear or handling than things made from cotton. It’s also very absorbent to dyes, making it ideal for making beautiful clothes and home furnishings from. You can very much make a piece of linen your own and go wild with your creativity, giving it a certain appeal to artists, fashion designers and interior decorators. Unlike cotton, polyester, nylon and wool, linen isn’t known to pill so your linen garments are likely to look and feel fantastic, when they’re actually well into their twilight years.
Linen is a pretty chilled out fabric -it doesn’t stress easily, meaning that it’s unlikely to tear and break, resulting in a long-lasting fibre weave that you can rely on. It has a slight sheen and silkiness to it, which gives it a slightly more luxurious feeling than cotton. It has a lower elasticity than cotton, which makes sense given that it is twice as strong.
There is a reason that so many of your comfortable, floaty summer clothes are made from linen. It has an excellent resistance to heat and doesn’t suffer the same level of sunlight damage that other fabrics do. Of course, it is also wonderfully lightweight, so it’s guaranteed to keep you cool in intense heat.
Of course, linen isn’t quite invincible. While it can hold its own against all alkalis and low density acids (provided it’s washed straightaway), it doesn’t do well against acids with a high density. Like many plant fibres, flax -and therefore linen- is often attacked and damaged by mildew and bacteria. Under hot, humid conditions, mildew will begin to eat away at your linen but you can protect it with chemicals such as copper napthenate, which is also used to preserve wood.
Linen’s strength and versatility means that it has been used in many textile industries for centuries. It’s strength and unique resistances mean that it is perfect for making clothes with but it’s also a popular choice of canvas for tablecloths, curtains, cushions and bed sheets. It’s very easy to wash and get stains out of too, which is another reason that it is a great material for things that are likely to get dirty.
Taking care of linen
Now that you know all of the fascinating history that linen holds in its fibres, you want to know how to look after it properly, right? Your Amechi linen cushion should always be dry cleaned but this isn’t always the case for pure linen products. Read on to find out how to keep your linen looking its very best for as long as possible.
It’s best to leave your linen alone as much as possible, as overhandling can result in damage to the linen fibre structure. Linen is a very strong material and therefore it can definitely withstand machine washing, although of course it can also be hand washed if you
Linen is very fast drying but due to its love of shrinking when hot, air drying it is best for maintaining your linen’s size. Use an airer (or clotheshorse) rather than coat hangers, as they can leave dents in your linen fabric. If you must throw it in a tumble dryer, use a very low or even better, no-heat setting.
Should you wish to iron your linen, it’s best to do so as soon as it comes out of the wash while it’s still damp. If you’re ironing it while it’s dry, you should spray it with a little water or a special linen spray. You only need to lightly press your iron into the creases until they’re removed. There is no need to iron the whole thing dry, as it will do this by itself. If your cushion has bright or dark colours, it needs to be ironed inside out on the backside to prevent fading and shiny patches occurring.
And there you have it. If you follow these instructions, you should be able to enjoy your cushion for a very long time. We hope you enjoy your beautiful, soft, comfortable, lightweight Amechi linen cushion!
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