The Amazing Reasons Why Linen Is A Sustainable Fabric

Did you know that linen is one of the most requested fabrics here at Digifair? The textile is famous for its long-lasting strength - in fact, it is 30% stronger and thicker than cotton, and is even being used in paper money production! It is also water-absorbent and breathable, which adds cooling properties in the summer and warming during winter. Since it dries so much faster than cotton, it is antiallergenic and antibacterial.

Better yet, linen is a naturally sustainable fabric.

Its fibers come from the flax plant, representing less than 1% of the textile fiber consumption worldwide, mostly because it’s hard to compete with the price of synthetic options in the market. Even though recycled polyester and nylon fibers have already become more popular, natural fibers like linen could help to protect the local economy in some communities and be a greener alternative for some fashion designers. Know more about the fabric’s sustainable credentials below!

A Brief History of Linen

This fiber is one of the oldest known to man - it has been used in clothing since 8,000 BC and the earliest dyed flax fibers date back to 36,000 BC. This fabric has accompanied human history quite closely: it was popular in ancient Egypt, used as clothing and also as a burial fabric in which mummies were wrapped. The Phoenicians exported it to Europe between the 12th and 8th century BC, where the flax production tradition on the continent began. Linen was a popular choice for lingerie, shirting, handkerchiefs, and house textile line tablecloths.

Its popularity has decreased drastically in the last 50 years, according to the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment: in 1961, 2 million hectares were dedicated to flax production against 450,000 in 2000. In the same time period, global cotton production has doubled, and global silk production has tripled.

How Is It Sustainable?

France is the world’s largest producer of flax followed by Belgium (both countries concentrate 80% of the world’s flax production), Belarus, and China, according to the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp (CELC). Though it has Northern African origins, the flax plant has adapted very well to the European climate. Its sustainable credentials come mostly from growing the fibers since the flax plant requires little additional irrigation (rainwater is sufficient). Far fewer pesticides and fertilizers are used as well, especially when compared to cotton. To guarantee a more sustainable impact, look for certified organic products.

Linen textiles are usually biodegradable and will degrade within 7 months. There’s very little waste in the making of the yarn: the linseed is used for the next crop, but it can also feed people and animals. The oil extracted from the linseed can be used in cosmetics and paint.

Why Is Linen Still A High-End Fabric?

Linen’s popularity and its fame as a luxury fabric might be connected with the care taken in preparing the fibers - usually dew retting, which depends on nature to soften and free the fibers from the inner core, though water and chemical retting are also possible. What gives the fabric its strength - hard and sturdy fibers - is also what causes an increase in price: being inelastic, it becomes difficult to weave, breaking easily during the production process. Machines have to run at a slower speed to avoid breakage, and the quantity produced is, consequently, lower.

As mentioned earlier, 80% of flax fiber production is based in France and Belgium, so its production location can also increase the price. Fibers are usually spun in Europe as well, but they can also be shipped to India or China for yarn production. When maintaining the high life span and quality of linen products and their sustainability credentials, the textile is undoubtedly a good investment.

Innovations in Linen

Despite being a fabric used throughout millennia, the textile industry is still finding innovative uses for it. Denim made with linen instead of cotton, for example, creates the typical indigo look with a focus on sustainability and even more resistance. Linen blends hold many possibilities too: aloe vera, for example, keeps the fabric even softer and wrinkle-free, and silk and wool make it even more versatile throughout the seasons. Flannel finished linen, anyone?

Are you thinking about sourcing linen for your future fashion creations? Sign up now and browse our in-stock linen offers.