Linen (Flax Fabric) | Explanation, History, How to Wash and Care Guide

Linen (Flax Fabric) | Explanation, History, How to Wash and Care Guide

Discover and know about Linen

Linen, a textile material suitable for all uses, which we like as much in very fine and almost transparent canvas as in heavy fabric, is cultivated in Europe (80%, France in the lead), and appreciated in the world whole for its legendary virtues and beauty.

Adored during the time of Egyptian antiquity, it is still today at the heart of the most innovative research; weavers and spinners strive to renew its aspects, touches, finishes, coatings, treatments … while technical linen-based fabrics represent a growing interest for housing, cars, sports and leisure, and many others areas of application, with a view to using healthier and recyclable materials. Let’s discover all the facets of this amazing material.

Linen and climate: what conditions?

Before becoming textiles, flax is a herbaceous plant that needs a temperate and humid climate to grow well. It grows annually as blue, purple or white flowers. Europe is an ideal area for cultivating it, especially the coasts of Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

Flax in the world: what uses for flax?

Long used by the Egyptians to surround the mummies of the Pharaohs with thin bands, linen has many uses today. Renowned for its strong and light fiber, industry uses it today to absorb vibrations, insulate and reinforce its composite materials: flax is used in the automotive sector (manufacture of components and insulators), in the hi-tech (manufacture of headphones, chains) or and in the sports industry (manufacture of skis, bicycles, tennis rackets, surfboards, etc.). The flexible and resistant linen is also used for the manufacture of banknotes or cigarette papers.

How to wash linen

Immaculate white, colored or embroidered, linen is a natural fiber, light to wear and resistant to addicts. In addition, it is worn rather crumpled while remaining very elegant… A material that we love! And its maintenance, just as easy? Not far away ! Even if some stains seem to spread through the fibers and scare you… We reveal some very simple tips that will help you when washing your linen clothes.


Do not panic ! Because we do not forget that generally, a stain is never final if we do not give it time to set in and take care of it with a little specific stain removal before washing. This pretty rule is valid on a linen garment, even if it seems a priori catastrophic:

– Red wine: rub with sparkling water or white wine… It’s serious, it works!
– Fat: lather up with washing-up liquid and let stand overnight.
– Blood: a little patience, a copious rinse with cold water … and voila.
– Grass: if your laundry is white, rub with a cloth impregnated with lemon juice.


The ultimate linen tip! Before washing for the first time, and even before wearing it, soak your garment in a basin of cold water and 25 cl of white vinegar overnight!

• Cold water will soften your laundry and give it resistance to stains.
• As for the white vinegar, it will help the colors to be fixed in the fiber. Enough to facilitate the next washings!


To complete the special treatments for washing linen:

We never exceed 50 ° C when washing linen (40 ° C if it is a colored garment).
– Avoid chlorine-based detergents which will tend to yellow and damage the fiber.
– Used occasionally when washing linen, white vinegar will act as a softening cleanser, and will make white linen yellow!
– On the spinning side, we limit to 600 revolutions maximum to reduce the friction of the garment against the drum.
– Finally, linen is a material that dries quickly. We therefore prefer open air: his clothing will only be more beautiful and less wrinkled (even if it supports the effect, not too much)!


Admittedly, the “no ironing” rule does not apply to all rooms. A little embroidered top, napkins… In this case:

– Use a hot iron (200 °C or 392°F).
– Never dry iron: your garment should be slightly damp.
– Turn your laundry upside down to avoid wrinkles.
– Use starch to aid in smoothing.

History of linen

The first signs of the use of this fabric date back to the Neolithic period, around 10,000 years ago.
In its woven form, linen was used in Egypt 8,000 years ago for mummies’ bands (linen being rot-proof) and clothing (Egyptian priests in particular wore linen because, because of its whiteness, it symbolized purity ). It is said that the Egyptians called linen “woven moonlight”, which speaks volumes about their fascination with the material.
The Phoenician navigators (Phenicia corresponding approximately to present-day Lebanon) bought flax in Egypt and made it known in Greece, Italy, Ireland, England, France… Everywhere, flax was appreciated for its extremely high quality. practical, multi-use, the uses of the plant being very varied.

Read also: Palace of Versailles | Trianon, Queen’s Hamlet and Visits (Chateau de Versailles)

500 years before Jesus Christ, linen cloths were used as sails for the Roman fleet while others, woven very thick then soaked in linseed oil and hardened in the air, were used by the Etruscans (a people occupying a part of Italy) as combat “armor”. The technique of hardening flax also gave rise to the manufacture of containers.
Long before Julius Caesar, the cultivation of linen in Gaulle was very widespread.
We also know that Charlemagne reinforced the craftsmanship around flax because he was a fervent fan of it. He even imposed, in written form in his book of law, that flax be spun at court and that every household in France obtain the necessary tools to work it.

In the thirteenth century in Cambrai in the north of France, a man named Jean-Baptiste de Cambrai developed a weaving technique of great finesse which gave rise to linen fabrics called “the Batistes”, fabrics of a high quality. and of such beauty that they met with great success throughout the world, and distinguished themselves in table linen, body linen, handkerchiefs…
During the Renaissance, the daily dress or dress became more sophisticated, and we know that the word “toilet” comes from the old French “thieulette”, then designating a light linen used for shirts.
In 1917, Philippe de GIRARD filed his first patent on the subject of flax spinning and invented the first linen combing machine.
Linen is considered to be the oldest textile in the world, and we have seen how it has been appreciated and used at all times and on all continents. Even today, he arouses a particular enthusiasm, well deserved in view of his many qualities. It is mainly cultivated in the north of France (the world’s No. 1 country in terms of hectares devoted to flax), in Belgium and in the Netherlands.

Sources: PinterPandai, The Spruce, Sewport, Revolution Fabrics

Photo credit: Kelly / Flickr

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