All About Linen: From Flax Plants to the Fabric of Royalty
Source: Nicole LaMotte/Parachute

Behind the Seams

All About Linen: From Flax Plants to the Fabric of Royalty

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 cotton (but surely you’ve heard that before). Long the fabric of choice in hot and humid climates, Linen is the latest 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

Flax plants sway in the wind.

The flax plant grows wild in cool climates and has glossy leaves with pale blue flowers; Source: Shutterstock

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. Our Linen comes from the Guimarães region in northern Portugal, where flax plant production has thrived for centuries due to a landscape criss-crossed by small rivers. The sturdy stocks are soaked, causing them to be broken down by a biological process called retting. This resulting lustrous fiber bears a resemblance to blonde hair (hence the term “flaxen”). Although the manual spinning and loom weaving have been replaced by modern techniques, our Linen still reflects the traditional Portuguese product.

Coveted For Centuries

Linen being woven in a factory.

Linen has been prized for its durability and breathability for thousands of years; Source: Eke

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

Parachute's Linen Sheets in white.

Our Linen becomes more supple with each wash, developing a rich texture all its own; Source: Nicole LaMotte/Parachute

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.