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What Color Is Linen? The Natural Linen Color Explained

Posted on 20 June 2018

When it comes to dyeing fabric, natural materials such as cotton, silk, wool, and linen are known to take the dye much better than synthetics would. Thus, linen can be dyed in a variety of rich colors from black and deepest shades of purple to bright reds, blues, pinks and even perfectly white.

The color of natural, undyed linen fiber is often referred to as "linen gray." However, it is not the typical gray you would imagine  natural linen color is heavily influenced by the growing and processing conditions of the flax plant and can range between ivory, ecru, oatmeal, and taupe.

natural linen color

According to research, one of the main factors that decide what color the flax fiber will turn out to be is moisture. After harvesting, the flax goes through a process called retting where it is exposed to moisture in order to separate the fiber from the stem. 

The most common retting methods are dew rettingwater retting, and enzyme retting. Dew retting produces darker fibers with colder undertones so the final color will lean more towards gray. Water retting increases the whiteness of the fiber because the water washes out all the impurities, however, it also boosts the levels of yellow so the resulting color will be closer to amber, sand, and ecru. Enzyme retting produces the lightest fibers with highest levels of red and yellow undertones.

All in all, the typical natural linen color is grayish with warm, brown undertones like the one pictured above. To maintain the color consistency, manufacturers tend to blend the fibers among harvests. However, knowing how and why linen fluctuates in color helps people make more informed buying decisions and understand why sometimes two products from the same seller can differ in shade.

Discover our colors

Natural linen color is very neutral and works perfectly for lovers of understated elegance. It matches well with other colors and warms up any interior, from rustic farmhouses to modern lofts.

what color is linen

Natural linen can be easily dyed using fiber reactive dyes. At MagicLinen, we make our home textiles in a variety of gorgeous colors that you can discover in this article.

Optical white, off-white, and light gray will add a sense of freshness and minimalism to your interior. Shades like the beforementioned natural linen color or sand will create a sense of warmth. Blue shades effortlessly create a nautical vibe while pinks are a no-brainer for anyone looking to add a dash of romance to their home. Dark, rich colors like purple charcoal and gray blue suggest luxury, opulence, and can be easily mixed-and-matched.

P.S. Very soon we will launch some new colors and patterns so stay tuned!

what color is linen

what color is linen

what color is linen

what color is linen


If you would like to see these colors in real life, you can order free fabric samples here!

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4 comments

  • Justina: August 14, 2018

    Hey, Sandra! Thank you so much for your compliment and the question. Our linen undergoes water retting, which is the most natural of all. We do not use enzymes or silicone in our retting process. They might give the fabric a softer feel at first, but in the long run, enzyme/silicone retting weakens the fabric, so we stick with water :)

  • Sandra: August 14, 2018

    Many thanks for this great information on how the type of retting affects the color. So what type of retting does your natural linen undergo?

  • Justina: June 29, 2018

    Hey, Joan, it not true that fabric gets stiffer after dyeing it with dark dyes. If the linen is high-quality and the fabric dyes are used appropriately, the fabric should stay soft and smooth regardless of what color it’s in.

  • Joan Bartos: June 21, 2018
    Fascinating information and beautiful finished linens! I’ve heard that the darker the fabric dye, the less soft and “natural feeling” the resulting fabric will be. I seem to recall that this is because dark dyes are absorbed more fully into the fabric. Is this true, and if so, is it true for linen?
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