Types of fabrics: linen

Types of fabrics: linen

Linen, sometimes also referred to as flax, is a textile made from the fibres of the flax plant. For the hot months, garments made of that fabric are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness.


History of linen use goes back many thousands of years. Dyed flax fibres were found in a prehistoric cave in Georgia, which is evidence that woven linen fabrics from wild flax were used some 36,000 years ago. Fragments of straw, seeds, fibres, yarns, and various types of fabrics have also been found in Swiss lake dwellings that date from 8000 BC. In ancient Egypt linen was used for mummification and for burial shrouds, because it symbolized light and purity, as well as wealth. It was so valued in ancient Egypt that it was used as currency in some cases. In 1923, the German city Bielefeld issued banknotes printed on linen.

During the 1970s only about 5% of world linen production was used for fashion fabrics, and in the 1990s, 70% of the production was used for apparel. The fabric is especially appreciated during the summer months for its cooling sensation, but linen-blend clothes are widely used in winter, too, because of their warming features, most often mixed with wool.


Linen fabric has a high natural lustre; its natural colour ranges between shades of ivory, ecru, grey. Pure white linen is created by heavy bleaching. Linen fabric typically varies somewhat in thickness and is crisp and textured, but it can in some cases feel stiff and rough, and in other cases feel soft and smooth. When properly prepared, linen fabric has the ability to absorb and evaporate water rapidly. It can absorb a fair amount of moisture without feeling unpleasantly damp and heavy to the skin, unlike cotton.


Linen uses range from bed sheets, towels and tablecloths to dresses, skirts, shirts and even shoes (you definitely did the right thing, if you decided to go for flax moccasin shoes or espadrilles for the summer season).