All About Linen: From Flax Plants to the Fabric of Royalty
Nicole LaMotte for Parachute
It puts the “lin” in “lingerie” and “lining.” It’s the oldest cultivated plant in human history. And it’s a cool-to-the-touch alternative to cotton (but surely you’ve heard that before). Long the fabric of choice in hot and humid climates, linen is the most recent addition to the Parachute family. Prized for its durability and versatility, there’s much more to this textile than its easy, breezy reputation.
The Facts on Flax
Standing three feet tall with glossy leaves and pale blue flowers, the flax plant — Linum usitatissimum — grows wild in cool climates all over the world, from India to Western Europe. The sturdy flax stocks are soaked, causing them to be broken down by a biological process called retting. This results in a lustrous fiber bearing a resemblance to blonde hair (hence the term “flaxen”). Our flax is sourced across Europe and then woven into linen bedding in Portugal. Although the manual spinning and loom weaving have been replaced by modern techniques, our linen continues to uphold the high standards and heritage of this traditional Portuguese product.
Coveted for Centuries
Linen’s lineage (pun intended) as a textile can be traced to the present day Republic of Georgia, where fabric made with wild flax fibers has been dated to the Upper Paleolithic Period (about 40,000 years ago). The linen industry was established by ancient Egyptians, who prized the fabric for its purity and breathability in their desert climate. They liked it so much that when King Tut’s tomb was opened, his linen curtains were discovered inside and still intact. Later, in the 17th century, Ireland became a hub of luxury linen production, known particularly for intricate jacquard and lace patterns favored by the upper class.
Better Than Ever
Modern linen production has improved on the traditional manual process, but the fabric is still tricky to produce — though well worth the effort. Beyond its cool reputation, linen is stain and dirt-resistant and lint-free. Additionally, its production has a smaller eco-footprint than other natural fibers. Our linen is garment dyed and washed in small batches to relax the fibers, giving the fabric an ultra-soft finish. Though it’s stronger and more durable than cotton, linen becomes more supple with each wash, developing a rich texture all its own. Airy and light in the summer, classic and cozy in the fall — it’s a timeless textile woven with a luxurious past.