Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Flax is one of the oldest agricultural plants in the world. In fact, the weaving of flax is older than any written records. Many Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of light and purity and used as a measurement of wealth. When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened they discovered he had curtains made of linen hanging inside that were found still intact all those years later. This definitely says a lot about the durability and the history of such a timeless fabric.
Today, flax is grown in many parts of the world, but top quality flax is primarily grown in Western Europe. Many believe that Belgium grows the finest quality flax which produces the finest linen in the world, with Scottish and Irish linen not far behind. In recent years, many bulk linen production plants have even moved to Eastern Europe and China.
Linen is a very versatile fabric. Its strength and breathability has been used as both a utility and a luxury fabric in the home. Because the flax plant has a natural vegetable coating, it creates a subtle sheen and luster when woven. The plant’s fiber is strong, soft and light. It is naturally off-white in color, but linen absorbs dyes well and retains any color. Linen typically has a crisp and textural feel but can range from still and rough to soft and smooth. The natural fibers of the flax make the woven textile slightly bumpy with a smooth finish. By using a better quality of linen, the result will be a smoother surface. In some cases you will find knots or slubs running across the fabric, which is a characteristic of a lesser quality linen. The finest linens have a very consistent diameter and will not have any slubs. Linen has that subtle elegance that helps to create a clean tailored look for many of today’s modern interiors.