BELGIAN LINEN: A LOVE STORY
Linen is the oldest textile in the world, and we mean old. Remnants found in a cave in Georgia, Russia date the first use of this durable material to 30,000 years ago.
Linen has always been an important fabric. In history, it played a great role in the economies of both Ireland and France – and it dressed royals. In Egypt, linen was also used for mummy-wrapping in the upper classes, layer upon layer. The linen acted as a glue, because of the high pectin content in flax. And as they believed, when the deceased returned to claim his gold, the linen would still be protecting the body and all would be good (keep in mind, this was 5,000 years ago).
THE FINEST LINEN IN THE LAND
Linen is a durable and sustainable fabric. And some of the finest of this woven flax fabric comes from Flanders, the primarily Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Flanders is a rich agricultural region and boasts the ideal climate and topography for Belgian linen production. Once an ancillary crop, flax evolved into the mainstay crop and industry of Flanders in the 13th century.
Linen was always a valuable commodity during wars – the material is used for ship sails, tents, and uniforms. Worldwide linen production declined after World War II due to several factors, including the agricultural switch to the cultivation of food and the popularity of new man-made fibres, like wrinkle-resistant polyester (Yuk!).
JUST SIX MASTER WEAVERS
But Flanders remained the very centre of linen production and only six master weavers around the world carry the Masters of Linen™ designation – guaranteeing not only the finest flax but the skilled work of master weavers whose families have defined the trademark for centuries.
Quality linen is always a family story – generations of turning flax into linen. From fibre to fabric, the history of Belgian linen is the history of ancestral craftsmanship.
Linen is woven from the ‘bast’ fibre of the flax plant – the inner bark that surrounds the stem. Hemp and Ramie are two other examples of bast fibres used in clothing and table linens. And speaking of table linens – linen has always been the best napkin, the best placemat, the best tablecloth (and the best rugs, blankets, towels … but you know that).
HOW IS LINEN BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT THAN COTTON?
- The flax plant grows in 100 days (cotton takes 160 days).
- Flax requires far less water than cotton. Far less. According to the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp, “Across its lifecycle, a linen shirt uses 6.4 litres of water” compared to 2,700 litres for a cotton shirt.
- Flax is naturally resistant to pests and requires far fewer herbicides.
WHY ELSE SHOULD I LOVE LINEN?
- Linen has great thermo-regulating qualities. That makes linen cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Linen doesn’t attract moths as wool does. And it doesn’t pill.
- Linen is washable and … wait for it … linen gets softer with each use and each wash.
- Okay, it wrinkles like stink but that’s a style. Run with it. Especially with your bedding.
- Linen is so tightly woven that it is UV resistant, particularly the lighter colours.
- Linen can absorb up to 20% of its weight in moisture and it dries out quickly (it makes a great towel).
- Linen is antiallergenic and has no static electricity effect.
- Linen is durable. It’s the second strongest fabric in existence (after silk).
Consumers today are more aware than ever before of the consequences their choices have on the environment. Belgian linen is the sustainable choice that feels great and looks great.
It does cost more than many other fabrics because the production of linen is a labour-intensive process. And flax has very specific geographic growing requirements. But it is also a long-lasting, washable fabric that will serve you well for years and over time linen will cost you, and the planet, much less. And when you’re done, if you went for organic, natural linen – then it’s 100% biodegradable to boot.
Looks good, lasts forever. Absorbent, soft, gets better with use. Small ecological footprint. And worth its weight in gold. Just ask the Egyptians.
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