Linen, one of the oldest fabrics in the World, a few years ago, has began making appearances on the runway with Paul Smithâ€™s linen tops, Victoria Beckhamâ€™s linen wrap dresses, and Theoryâ€™s linen trenches. This year, many more labels incorporated the durable and cooling fabric into their look books. An ultimate summer fabric that can also be worn all year round but cost more than a synthetic or even cotton. Linen is associated with fine and luxurious materials such as silk and wool.
The reason behind linen making a comeback is summers get hotter. Linen clothes not only does it feel good against the skin, but it dries quickly. Itâ€™s also considered to be very healthy because like silk, it breathes. There are more benefits to wearing linen than just keeping cool. Itâ€™s extremely durable and long lasting. Once you wash it and then press it, it looks like new again, whereas that doesnâ€™t happen with a lot of cotton garments.
Linen is made out of flax and is one of the oldest textiles in the world. There are records of the ancient Egyptians using flax to create linen more than 4,000 years ago. All Egyptians wore linen clothing, from peasants to pharaohs. The Egyptians were able to spin linen as fine as a spiderâ€™s web, according to â€œThe Yarn Book,â€ by Penny Walsh.
In Europe, linen was a widely available fabric worn by peasants in medieval times. Any clothing designed to touch the skin, such as undergarments, were made out of linen or hemp, because animal fibers such as wool were too scratchy. Only the very wealthy had clothing made out of silk. Linen was appreciated for its practicality and was not associated with the ideas of rarity or nobility.
Linen was incredibly important in the ancient and medieval world, said Sherman, who specializes in the Vikings, medieval Europe, and Russia. She also studies how medieval people grew and processed flax into linen. They used it for everything. Itâ€™s great not only for underclothing, but also for table linens, sheets, and anything used for ships, like netting and sail cloth. The reason that it could be used for sailing materials is because linen is one of the rare textiles that is stronger when itâ€™s wet. Linen is really the work horse of the textile family.
Despite its widespread availability, linen is very difficult to make as it involves very difficult process, even industrially, because thereâ€™s lots and lots of stages to the production process, as per Sherman, who has experience growing flax and processing it into linen by hand.
A healthy flax plant grows up to 3â€“4 feet and there are hundreds of fiber bundles inside one stalk of flax. After the flax stalks are harvested, there are left to dry. Then, the stalks must be rotted in still water over a couple of weeks. Today, this can be done industrially. The rotted flax must then be dried again.
Now, the outer bark can be removed from the fiber bundle. This is done through a violent process in which one takes a handful of flax bundles and beats them with a wooden knife.
There are two stages of beating. The fibers, which are still tangled and have pieces of bark left in them, are then hackled. This is a process in which the fibers are drawn through a bed of nails to make them straight and clean. Once this is all done, the flax can finally be spun into thread. When done manually, the process takes months. This same process is still used today for hand-crafted linen.
The Best Linen is Belgian and Handmade. Historically, Belgium has had some of the highest quality linens in the world. Not only is it a terrific area to grow, but it is done by hand quite a lot. Other areas that produce high quality linen include Ireland and Egypt.
Today, most of the flax in the world comes from Northeastern Europe, from countries such as Russia, Belarus, and Poland. The countries grow and process flax into thread and then export it to other countries. Most linen on the market today is sourced from these countries. Other areas that produce flax include China, the Baltic states, the Netherlands, and Canada.
Another aspect that makes a difference in linen quality is whether or not it is handmade. The best linen is made by hand as the quality of the linen depends on how finely it is spun. Linen made by machines can be cheaper, but the quality will suffer.
Today, Linen is naturally more expensive because finer, handmade linen involves more labour, which has become ever more expensive. In addition, the best linen must be imported from select areas in the world, which increases the price for consumers.
At the same time, there are more and more affordable linen options hitting the market these days because linen can be produced industrially. Many of these affordable options are blends, not pure linen. This can help keep the garment from wrinkling, as pure linen has poor elasticity and is easily wrinkled.
But people have started recognize the value of sustainable clothing. Theyâ€™re willing to pay for sustainability. Itâ€™s marketable to say that something is good to the environment.
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