As well as being the oldest textile fiber in use, linen is also one of the most ecological fabrics. Made in Europe, although it has been on the sidelines for some time now, linen is certainly a textile to be rediscovered, not only for clothing but also for many other uses.
History and linen
Linen is probably the oldest plant fiber used in textile manufacture. In fact, this fiber has been known since antiquity. Research has shown that 3,000 years BC, linen was the mainstay of the Pharaonic economy and was used to wrap Egyptian mummies.
With users that have evolved over time, linen remains a prestigious, silky fiber, produced in small quantities. The 20th century saw a revival of linen.
Today, the use of this fiber has declined with the arrival of cotton. Belgium, the Netherlands and France alone account for some 80% of world production. Today, 90% of European flax is still used in textiles, and an estimated 10% is currently used in innovations such as the automotive industry, eco-construction and as a replacement for fiberglass
The ecological aspects of linen
Linen is at the top of the list of ecological sound textiles, and leaves a small footprint on the environment. Growing this plant requires no fertilizers or pesticides. What's more, it doesn't need watering, as rainwater alone is sufficient. When the raw material is transformed into yarn, the retting (maceration to separate the fiber) and scutching (mechanical separation) processes are entirely mechanical and require no chemicals. What's more, flax processing requires very little energy, and because of its plant-based nature, it's a biodegradable fiber. However, although less polluting than other plants, its intensive cultivation impoverishes the soil.
The properties of linen
This textile is appreciated for its flexibility and lightness. Thanks to the insulating and thermoregulating properties of its fiber, the fabric keeps us cool in summer and warm in winter. As a natural fiber, linen is hypoallergenic and non-irritating to the skin. What's more, it can absorb up to 20% of moisture, leaving us dry and fast-drying by rapidly transferring moisture to the outside. As one of the most resistant fibers, this makes it a quality, durable textile that won't lint or warp. Although wrinkle-resistant, linen becomes softer with each wash.
If we compare some of its characteristics with cotton, in addition to being produced in a much more ecological way, linen fibers have the same fineness and are 2 or 3 times superior in terms of tensile strength. So it's a much more durable fabric.
And in Canada?
For the moment, although the potential exists, there is no flax crop dedicated to textiles in Canada. As with hemp, it would be really interesting if facilities could be set up to grow and process it. At present, given our climate, these would be the only 2 possible Canadian textiles, but none yet exist.
Linen is therefore a highly ecological textile that deserves to be more widely integrated into our clothing. From its chemical-free, irrigation-free production process to its purely mechanical processing and durability, it clearly deserves to be available in our markets!