How Linens are Made Then and Now
Posted on 02 January 2018
People have been using linen for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians are known to have recognised its unique qualities of durability, using it to wrap their treasured items and even the bodies of pharaohs before they were entombed. Linen textiles were also produced throughout Europe, with remnants being found in countries such as Georgia, Germany and Switzerland, while Ireland still has a renowned linen industry.
Here at Magic Linen, one of the things that we find most fascinating about linen is how the actual production process has changed very little over time. That’s part of the reason why products such as linen bedding are often seen as a luxury item - they tend to be more expensive than other textiles because linen thread is difficult to weave.
How linen is made
Linen comes from the flax plant, which is also known as linseed, and grown all over the world but usually in cooler regions. Our own rough linen is sourced only from Europe, for instance. Flax is a hardy plant that requires relatively little water and not much in the way of pesticides or fertilizer either, making linen an eco-friendly product.
When extracted, flax fibres resemble bunches of long, blonde hair. The finest grades are used for production of linen clothes and bedding, while lower, coarser grades have been used in everything from banknotes to body armour!
Before linen can be weaved, the flax first has to undergo a process called retting. This separates the fibres from the stalk by leaving them to soak, or rot, in a body of water such as a pond, a stream or a tank. It’s a smelly business, and takes days or weeks, but it’s vital for good-quality linen products.
After the retted stalks, known as straw, have been dried and ‘dressed’ by pulling them through a series of metal combs, called heckles, they are ready for spinning and weaving.
Now of course, even simplified as we’ve done above, this sounds like a lot of hard work, and it’s true that much of it can be done by machine. But the experts agree that the old methods usually work best, so your best linen source is always likely to be hand-made.
Linen production today
Luxury linen goods are big business. You’ll find linen bedding in high-end hotels, and linen clothes in the finest boutiques. So, there are naturally also plenty of big factories around, producing linen items to order.
But here’s what makes Magic Linen stand out.
We appreciate the values of high-quality linen, slow living and organic materials. As such, we operate from just a small studio, with a perfectionist team of skillful tailors and a dedication to selling linen online that our customers will love, and be able to keep for generations.
Because of this, if you need a particular size, such as for your linen tablecloths or curtains, we can accommodate you. And most importantly, you can be sure that your products have been created with love and with longevity in mind.
Techniques for linen production have advanced over the generations, but there is still a lot to be said for the quality you get from historic methods. We’re proud to be continuing the tradition.
For more interesting stories and articles about our dedication to linen go here.