Fibre focus: Linen
As the weather warms, and the possibility of a summer getaway finally looms, one of the coolest things (and I mean figuratively and literally) we can do is reach for those linen garments.
Linen has certainly stood the test of time (being used in the Ancient Egyptian mummification process), and is considered one of the oldest textile fibres. In recent years linen has experienced quite a resurgence. This comes as no surprise when you consider the growing awareness and concern surrounding the issue of sustainability within the clothing and textiles industry.
For those of you who aren’t already linen lovers, or aware of the fibre's eco-credentials, here are just a few of the reasons why linen is so wonderful, and why you should consider incorporating it into your wardrobe.
Linen is a natural fibre made from the stalks of the flax plant, making it a better option than a lot of other fibres. The flax plant is resilient, meaning it is able to grow in lower quality soils, requiring fewer fertilisers and/or pesticides. N.B.: This is not to say that no harmful fertilisers and/or pesticides have been used. To achieve a pure white linen, for example, a heavy bleaching process is required. So remember to look out for organic certifications (e.g. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)).
Almost none of the flax plant goes to waste, being utilised for such things as linseed oil, paper and feed for cattle.
Being a natural fibre, linen is biodegradable if not treated or dyed, and doesn’t shed any of those pesky micro-fibres. Tip: If you are sewing a linen project yourself, why not opt for a cotton thread instead of a polyester and maintain those biodegradable properties.
Linen is considered one of the strongest of all natural fibres, being stronger than cotton. Therefore, linen is worth the investment, as it will hang around in your wardrobe for a long time (only getting better with time).
The hollow fibre structure of linen contributes to its breathable and highly absorbent nature making it super comfortable to wear, especially on those warmer days. While often being considered a fabric more researved for summer due to it's cool hand, I would definitely argue that linen can be worn all year round, especially in climates like Australia or some parts of southern Europe.
For the fellow sewers out there, linen is so easy to sew with, being a particularly great choice if you are just starting out.
Linen is versatile, available in a variety of weights, being suitable for everything from a more structured jacket and pants, to flowy dresses and button down shirts. Tip: If sewing with linen, it can be a good idea to wash your linen fabric first, as it can be prone to shrinking, and the texture can change.
Linen has little elasticity, therefore creases really easily. While you can use a high heat to iron creases and wrinkles, they will only come straight back. I see this as a positve as
it is all part of the fabrics charm;
linen is one of the few, if only, fabric where you can get away with the crumpled, "lived in", casual look. I say embrace it, and don't be pedantic when it comes to ironing your linen garments.
As consumers, it is important to educate ourselves as to where our clothing and textiles come from, in order to make more informed decisions that better align with our values. I therefore recommend checking out this short YouTube clip from European linen weaving mill Libeco, which provides a really nice overview of the growing and production process of linen.
Check out episode 152 of the Love to Sew podcast which covers everything from the history of linen, common characteristics, and some sewing tips and pattern suggestions.
For the fellow sewer out there, if you are on the hunt for some linen fabric (and/or accompanying suitable sewing patterns) check out Merchant and Mills. They have a great range of 100% linen and linen blend fabrics, including Oeko-Tex and GOTS certified, and have stocklists around the world.
Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment, and let me know if you are a fellow linen lover. Do you have a favourite piece, home-made or store bought?