When I redecorated my bedroom, I was somewhat challenged by deciding what fabric to use. I had heard that linen was a good option for numerous reasons, but I really didn’t know what linen I should choose. I certainly didn’t know that linen is available in many different types and qualities.
Luckily, I had a great conversation with a lovely lady from the Kovi Fabrics team. She explained everything I could possibly want to learn about linen, and why, when it comes to linen, only French linen will do.
What Is Linen?
Linen is a natural fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant. The long-stemmed fibers of the flax plant are processed using methods that were first invented 5,000 years ago.
These fibers are flexible but incredibly durable and resist shrinking. When the fibers are spun together, they make yarn, which is woven to obtain a great textile that’s been around for centuries, which you know as linen.
The Popularity of Linen Explained
Linen is an incredibly popular textile. For many reasons, it has become a firm favorite in the home industry. Linen is a go-to choice for curtains, drapery, upholstery, sheeting, and more.
Linen Is Eco-Friendly
One of the first reasons why linen is so popular is that it is eco-friendly. The method of planting linen is environmentally friendly, and it leads to zero wastage of the flax plant once harvested. Another great aspect of linen is that it is grown using all-natural methods that require no fertilizer or pesticides. The result is a textile that is entirely free of chemicals and toxins.
Linen Is Hypoallergenic
Linen fibers are highly absorbent, but they dry incredibly quickly too. As a result, linen is a textile that won’t remain damp for long. This means bacteria and allergen-causing spores can’t incubate and reproduce in the textile. Linen is a textile that won’t cause respiratory infections or harbor mold spores or other allergens.
Linen Is Hardwearing
Because the flax plant fibers that are used to make linen are so durable and resistant to stretching and fraying, the textile is hardwearing. A linen sheet will last much longer than a cotton or polyester sheet since linen fibers are much more durable.
Linen Offers Great Climate Control
If you want sheets that are all-year and all-weather, then linen is the best choice. Linen textiles are absorbent, but they also allow airflow. So curtains made of linen will provide some thermal control by letting cold air in during summer, but they are also dense enough to keep larger particles of cold air out during winter.
Clothes made of linen are cool in summer and warm in winter. This breathability and thermoregulation make linen a great choice for upholstery, too. Sofas upholstered in linen will provide a cool seat during summer while being warmer than synthetic upholstery in winter.
Linen Is Low Maintenance
Want a fabric that doesn’t need ironing, thrives on cold water wash, and doesn’t need scrubbing or regular brushing to restore the surface pile? Then linen is your best option.
Linen is a textile that is easy to maintain. Simply wash linen textiles in cold water to prevent shrinkage, as linen fabric is usually pre-shrunk, and you don’t want the fibers to shrink further with the introduction of heat.
There is no need to scrub linen. Simply toss into the washing machine, air dry, use a cool iron if there are creases in the fabric, and hang or fold. Linen curtains can go straight from the washer to your windows, letting the natural airflow dry the fibers, and the hanging will take care of any wrinkles or creases. If you need to use the dryer, always opt for the lowest setting.
Linen Improves With Age
While most fabrics wear away with age, French linen improves. The fibers of French linen will soften with age and after a few washes. Since this miracle fabric offers heat-resistant qualities, it is not likely to fade or burn when used on a window with loads of sun.
French Linen’s Popularity
Okay, so no two linens are the same. There are many different types of linen, but designers and those in the know always return to French linen. Why?
French linen is made with long-stemmed fibers. This means that during the manufacturing process, the flax plant is harvested, soaked in hot water to separate the fibers, dried, then rolled through metal rollers to separate the fibers further, and finally, the fibers are combed to remove the short fibers.
Only long fibers remain, which creates a much stronger yarn when spun than the short fibers would. The yarn is much cleaner and less fuzzy than those made from short-stemmed fibers.
As a result of this time-perfected process, French linen is much crisper, cooler, and cleaner than other types of linen. Finer textured linen is also produced with the French method.
The cooler climate in France produces a taller flax plant, which in turn, results in longer stemmed fibers (which produce a better quality textile) than the same flax plants in India or other warmer climates offer.
Ultimately, the specialized knowledge of how and when to plant the best flax seeds for harvest will yield the best entirely organic flax plants that can be processed into linen textiles.
Caring for French Linen
Whenever you invest in a quality fabric, you should ensure you are able to safely care for it if there are spills and spots from entertaining and living on or around the textile. Some textiles like polyester and cotton are great for strength, and they may resist stains, yet nothing compares to French linen’s toughness and resistance to liquid.
A French linen textile will resist as much as 20% of its own weight in liquid. This means that while the liquid may eventually absorb (such as when you launder your French linen pillow casings), the initial reaction of French linen is to flick away moisture.
This is great news if you have kids who tend to spill fizzy drinks all over your linen sofa. Simply blot the stain, wipe with a clean damp cloth, dry, and smile.
Why French Linen Beats Cotton Time and Again
Okay, so you’ve probably heard about Egyptian cotton, right? It’s also a magical fabric in the home decor world, but French cotton still dusts out cotton, and here’s why.
While the manufacturing process of cotton is somewhat similar to cotton, there are significant differences too. For starters, cotton is often grown in a much less environmentally friendly way than the flax plants used for linen.
Cotton fibers are also somewhat shorter in length than flax fibers. French linen is made from the length of the flax plant body, while cotton is made from fibers of the cotton flower, which are much shorter and finer than flax fibers. The result is that cotton is not as water-repellent as linen is. Cotton also doesn’t keep a dry core to the fibers as linen does.
While cotton is breathable and light, it is not known for offering real climate control, and you would mostly wear cotton during the summer months. In winter, cotton would become cold to the touch. French linen offers the opposite.
French linen is always trending since it is soft and warm to the touch in winter, yet crisp and cool upon contact in summer, making this textile a real all-rounder all year long.
Where to Use French Linen
French linen can be used for just about any home textile project you can think of. Consider French linen curtains, drapes, upholstery, slipcovers, and kitchen accessories such as towels, tablecloths, and placemats.
You can also use French linen in the bedroom space, choosing crisp French linen bed sheets, or indulging in the great airflow of French linen curtains.
French Linen Colors
Dyeing your French linen textile couldn’t be easier. The fibers of the linen textile absorb colors easily. Simply soak the linen in cold water, then add the dye you have chosen. Set the washing machine to low or medium. Let the machine spread the dye evenly, ensuring consistent coloring.
Traditionally, French linen has been stained in pastel shades or neutral shades. Without dye, French linen has a neutral color that is so characteristic that it’s known as linen color. This color is a staple for traditional decor styles like provincial, country, farm style, and beach house styles.
Linen and French linen color is also a base color for many modern and contemporary decor schemes.
While French linen is often sold in a crisp white tone, this is not the natural coloring and is the result of bleaching, which introduces harmful chemicals to the manufacturing process.
The Last French Linen
I have fallen in love with French linen. There is something simplistic, clean, and uncompromising about the natural fibers, quality, and feel of French linen drapes, curtains, upholstery, and sheets. Needless to say, my bedroom project has been a huge success, and the space now feels airy and light, like it can breathe better (and me too).
Which French linen will you choose, or can Kovi Fabrics’ consultants help you out?
3 thoughts on “What Is French Linen?”
Such inspiration! I would love to see the process in France, how did you arrange it?