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Linen Fabric Guide: Characteristics, Uses, Types & More

Zilingo Editorial Team
Linen is one of the most popular fabric choices in the fashion industry. This plant-based fabric looks beautiful, feels luxurious, and is a preferred material for making clothing items and home furnishings. But what makes linen fabric so popular? This article takes a closer look at what is linen fabric, how is it made, its uses, types, environmental impact, and more.

What is Linen Fabric?

Linen is a versatile fabric obtained from the flax plant. Flax is one of the oldest fibers used for making clothing. In ancient times, the flax plant provided the fiber for linen fabric that was used by Egyptians to wrap mummies.

Due to its durability, linen fabric has a variety of uses. It is used for making clothing items, wallpapers, beddings, upholstery, and canvases. Besides durability, there are several other properties of linen that make it an ideal fabric to make clothing items, especially for summers.

Linen fabric can retain water or repel it up to 20 percent of its
weight without feeling damp to the touch. Linen clothing has a textured or patterned surface that provides an elegant look and feel.

Linen fabric is highly absorbent, thick, and doesn’t lose its shape. Linen fibers are thicker than their cotton counterparts. The natural color of linen is often called 'linen grey,’ which is a combination of light grey and brown. However, linen can be dyed with other colors.

Characteristics of Linen Fabric

The following are some of the top properties that make linen a great choice in the fashion industry.

1. Durable: Linen is a strong natural fiber that is known for its
longevity. Linen products are twelve times stronger than their
cotton counterparts and dry quickly.

2. Retains shape: Linen items will not lose their shape after washing. They may feel softer and smoother to the skin with time.

3. Easy to care for: Linen garments do not require any special care. Washing linen clothing with cold water and mild detergent can extend their life. It is a smooth fabric that feels softer with every wash.

4. Hypoallergenic: Linen fabric is breathable and does not cause skin allergies. Its antibacterial and skin-friendly properties make it an ideal fabric for normal to sensitive skin.

5. Ideal for all seasons: Linen fabric is not only great for summer or spring seasons but is suitable for every season all year round. It is a temperature-regulating fabric that keeps consumers stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Linen fabric’s weave and the natural properties of flax enable air to flow between the fibers. This makes the fabric breathable, ensuring that it doesn’t cling to the body and makes the end-user feel cooler in hot weather.

6. Moisture-wicking: Linen is highly absorbent and keeps the end-user free from sweat and moisture by absorbing it and releasing it back into the air. This makes it an excellent fabric for warm and humid weather.

7. Versatile: Linen blends well with other fibers. Linen clothes come in a range of designs and styles for a variety of occasions, such as corporate events, formal events, and even casual ones.

8. Natural fiber: Flax is a natural and biodegradable fiber that doesn’t require pesticides or toxic chemicals to grow.

9. Dye: Linen fibers hold dye well and are available in amazing colors.

What is Linen Fabric Used for?

Linen fabric is used for making different types of apparel, beddings, tablecloths, upholstery, and curtains. It is also widely used to make hand towels, kitchen towels, and bath towels. Linen is used for making sewing threads and is also embroidered on clothes and home furnishings.

Where is Linen Fabric Produced?

Nearly 80 percent of the world’s production of scutched
flax fibers comes from Europe with France being the leader. As for linen fabrics, Ireland, Italy, and Belgium are the ones producing the highest quality linen. Many other countries
produce linen but Eastern Europe and China are the largest producers of linen fabric.

What is Linen Fabric Made From?

Linen is produced following the below series of steps:

Step 1: Planting

Linen fabric is produced from the flax plant which has a short growing cycle. Flax is planted in a cool climate. The seeds take around 100 days to grow and bloom. Linen flower only blooms for a few hours to a day and all flowers do not bloom on the same day.

Step 2: Harvesting

Linen flowers are not reaped. Instead, they are pulled up when their leaves drop off the bottom third of the stem. Then the leaves and seeds of the flax plant are removed.

Step 3: Retting

This stage marks the beginning of turning the flax plant into fibers. The fibrous skin is detached from the central wood in the presence of sun, dew, and rain.

Step 4: Scutching

This stage involves mechanically turning the plant into fibers through shelling, stretching, grinding, and threshing.

Step 5: Combing

Now the fibers are transformed into soft, lustrous ribbons like hair. This is the preparation stage for the spinning process.

Step 6: Spinning

Now the fibers are untangled, stretched, and turned into yarns. Long linen fibers of the same length are put through machines called spreaders, creating a sliver. They are again passed through a set of rollers to make rovings that are ready to spin on a spinning frame.

Step 7: Weaving and Knitting

Now the flax threads are interlaced to form the linen fabric. In this stage, a variety of knitting operations are performed to produce ultra-fine, regular, and smooth yarns. After this stage, supple and elastic linen knits are obtained.

Step 8: Finishing

The finishing stage involves changing the appearance of the linen yarn or fabrics to give the desired look in terms of comfort, aesthetics, and functionality. It is done through bleaching, dyeing, printing, and finishing processes.

Types of Linen Fabric

Linen fabric is made up of flax fibers but the weaves in the final fabric depend on the type of process used. The following are the different types of linen fabrics available in the market:

Damask linen fabric

It is a delicate, luxurious, and smooth quality linen that is produced by combining plain and satin weaves. It is usually seen in decorative items, such as tablecloths and napkins.

Loose woven linen fabric

The loose woven linen has high absorbency but it is not very durable. This type of linen fabric is used to make sanitary towels, reusable diapers, etc.

Plain woven linen fabric

Plain woven linen fabric has a loose weave which makes it highly absorbent and an ideal fabric for cleaning. This smooth and soft fabric is mostly used in household kitchens and for wiping glassware.

Huckaback linen fabric

Huckaback is a special coarse weave of linen fabric that is often used to make cloth towels. This type of linen has a rough and pebbled texture. It is highly absorbent and yet feels lightweight.

Linen Fabric Care

Linen can wrinkle easily because it is made from natural fibers, which are not as wrinkle-resistant as synthetic fibers like polyester. Since it is a natural fiber, it will wrinkle, crumple, and crease. It is difficult to avoid wrinkles 100% in linen fabrics. Linen clothing can be hand-washed or machine-washed with mild detergent and cold water. None of the methods will stretch or shrink linen clothing.

Is Linen Fabric Sustainable?

Linen is considered a sustainable fabric for a variety of reasons including:
  • Flax plant grows fast and requires less water compared to cotton
  • Flax plants can survive even in harsh conditions
  • Linen requires fewer resources in its production
  • Untreated and naturally dyed linen fabric is biodegradable

Linen has a lower environmental impact and water footprint compared to cotton because it is biodegradable, made completely of natural materials, and requires less water.

According to European Flax, 650 million cubic meters of water
would be consumed if flax cultivation was replaced by cotton cultivation.

Linen fabric is more expensive than cotton because of various reasons, such as the flax plant requires a lot of attention, and flax thread is difficult to work.

As mentioned before, growing flax plants do not require the use of pesticides or toxic chemicals. However, fashion brands must ensure that the suppliers they are sourcing linen fabric from are transparent and ethical. They should ensure that the production of linen fabric does not involve the use of pesticides, toxic dyes, or unfair treatment of workers.


Linen is an excellent natural plant-based material used to make high-quality and luxurious clothing. It is a biodegradable, breathable, and durable fiber that gives natural elegance to garments, home furnishings, and a lot more.

Are you looking to source linen fabric for your fashion brand? Zilingo can help you buy the best quality linen fabric!
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Zilingo Editorial Team
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