We talk and write about linen fabric and linen items made of it a lot. Let’s now take a look to the origins of this beloved fabric of mine! Ancestors of linen bed linen, linen tablecloths and linen clothes come from very early days of humanity.
Linen fiber together with wool fiber is one of the oldest used by humans. Linen fibers are produced from the stems of the flax plan. Linen was an important textile before cotton and other fibers as it is very versatile and can serve many purposes. The best thing about flax plant is that all its parts can be used for something – so no part of it is wasted. For quality linen fabric only best stems are used, but the left over parts –like linseeds, oil, straw, lower-quality stems – are turned into many products: lino, soap, healthy nutritious oil, paper, even cattle feed and lots more.
To grow flax plants, well-drained soil and a cool, humid environment is needed. Eastern and Western European climate is perfect for this –flax grown there is regarded top quality. Flax (by scientifical name Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the Linaceae plant family. The last word of its Latin name means “most useful” and tell us how important this plant was to ancient people. Recent discoveries in the Republic of Georgia show that the flax plant and its products were already used by humans from about 30,000 B.C.!
Middle East countries were origins of the flax plant and linen fabric – flax crops flourished there and skillful artisans turned them into ropes, fabric – and then – to other products. Nowadays flax is a popular plant to grow worldwide.
Lots of hard work involved in producing linen cloth from flax plant caused its high prices. Not everyone afforded it. In ancient Egypt there was a custom to wrap mummies with linen before laying them into tombs and sometimes linen even was used as currency. In European Mediaeval times linen fabric was well know and used – linen clothing, sacks, home sheets, sails, fishing nets, ropes, strings for bows, bags and purses were produced. It was also a popular belief of flax obtaining some guarding powers – it was said that flax flowers protect from witchcraft, black magic and sorcery. Linen fabric even has its place in the Bible – Christ wore linen as he lay on his tomb.
For me it is very appealing and satisfying to work with a fabric with such long-reaching roots. Knowing that people many centuries ago wore linen clothes, slept on linen bedding, and used linen tablecloths is somehow reassuring. It makes me feel like a successor of those who believed in flax and thought of so many ways of using it for comfort, beauty and health of other human beings! When designing and producing my linen bed linen, linen bathroom linen, linen napkins and linen clothes, I am proud of being of a continuity of such an meaningful mission.