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Journal

For the love of Linen

Our love of linen has evolved for over a century.

Across fashion, homewares and interior soft furnishings, linen is revered for its relaxed beauty, casual sophistication, organic texture and unique inherent characteristics. 

The connection between linen and skin is energetic. It’s impossible to replicate the feeling of handling a high quality linen textile; its unique texture, the way it moves, even the sound it makes when you tousle it, is alluring.

Here we delve into the wonderful world of linen, exploring its origins and unravelling its many inherent characteristics.

Check out our linen Instagram Live Series on YouTube.

THE FIBRE

Linen is derived from the cellulose fibres that grow inside the stalks of the flax plant, one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history. The fibres are spun into yarn then woven into fabric. 

Flax plants

Until the late 1800s, linen was the world’s most important textile fibre, but with the advent of the industrial revolution and efficiencies in textile production, it was replaced by cotton which was easier to grow and process.

Linen is an expensive fibre to produce as the fibre production is slower than other natural fibres and often requires artisanal dyeing and finishing processes which adds further cost to the production. Another major factor in the higher cost of linen has come from the fashion industries current love affair with linen, which has increased pressure on supply and demand. 

Linen is often considered a more environmentally friendly fibre over cotton as it uses a lot less water during the manufacturing process.

Textile mills from all over the world continue to innovate and engineer, continuously finding ways to modernise this ancient fibre, providing us with an abundance of inspiring linen qualities, and constructions. We work in partnership with the finest linen weaving mills from around the world including Belgium, Italy and Turkey to ensure we develop the highest quality linen textiles. 

Linen is a smooth, lint- free fibre with beautiful natural lustre. It is highly absorbent giving it a wonderful affinity for taking dye.

DYEING TECHNIQUES

Colour can be applied to a fabric via numerous dyeing techniques and at different stages of the textile manufacturing process. Which dyeing technique is used, will dramatically impact the way in which the finished fabric will appear.

Textiles can be dyed as fibre, as yarn or as finished fabric.

Yarn dyeing is the dyeing of individual yarns before the fabric is manufactured. Fabrics will showcase several different colours in the woven design or texture as a result of this dyeing process. Yarn dyeing is used to create multi coloured checks and stripes with different coloured yarns in the warp and weft.

Piece dyeing is the dyeing of the fabric in piece form after it has been woven or knitted, also referred to as griege. It provides a single colour to the material and is the most commonly used method of dyeing. Artisanal processes can be utilised during piece dyeing, mixing special chemicals with the dye bath to result in unique surface effects. 

Linen base cloths provide a wonderful canvas for printing. We tend to favour digital printing due to its flexibility, precision and consistency. Via this printing technique it is now possible to print any design, with photographic detail, onto fabric. And there are no restrictions with the number of colours or subtle layers of nuance that can be used.

FINISHING TECHNIQUES

Before a fabric is finished at the mill, it would be unrecognisable in comparison to the handle and, in some cases, the look of the finished fabric sample. There are many finishing processes used after weaving to improve the appearance, handle or performance of a fabric.

A fabric may only go through one or two finishing processes however some will undergo multiple processes. 

Below are three of our most favoured finishing processes:

Calendering - This machine uses large high temperature pressure rollers to flatten the yarn, giving the cloth increased smoothness and beautiful lustre by polishing the surface. It is a vital component in creating chintz and moire textiles. 

Airo finishing - commonly referred to as Biancalani, is a machine where the fabric is transported through by an intense airflow and then ejected against an impact grid positioned at the rear of the machine. Brutal as it may sound, this remarkable process discharges all the accumulated kinetic energy and provides a permanent softening effect through the compaction of starchy linen fibre. 

Stonewashing - is a textile finishing process that creates a beautiful worn in, or aged patina. The fabric is placed in an industrial washing machine that is also filled with pebbles, pumice stones or other abradants during washing. As the washing machine rotates, the fabric is repeatedly thrashed to roughen up the fibre, deliberately distressing the surface. This artisan process creates a unique appearance that may vary from roll to roll. 

INHERENT CHARACTERISTICS 

It is important to understand the inherent characteristics of linen to ensure appropriate specification and to create realistic expectations for your client. Being a natural fibre, linen textiles have a personality, they will look, feel and perform in a way that is consistent with this fibres inherent characteristics, and as such these natural ‘behaviours’ should not be considered a flaw of the fabric. 

THE PROS

  •  Unrivalled organic texture and natural lustre
  •  If finished appropriately, linen can have an extremely soft handle.
  • Linen textiles are often washable, however it is important to adhere to the products individual care instructions.
  • Linen is regarded for its anti-bacterial properties because it wicks moisture and dries out much faster than other textiles.
  • Linen “breathes”, ensuring free circulation.
  • Linen fibres do not cause skin irritation.
  • Linen moves and naturally relaxes overtime. 
  • Through twists, bruises, wrinkles and creases, a linens natural patina improves with age.
  • As a home furnishing textile, linen is extremely versatile and can be used for drapery, upholstery, cushions, bedding and tableware.  
  • If constructed for upholstery it is very durable, particularly when blended with synthetic fibres such as nylon.
  • When used in drapery application, linen provides a beautiful soft handle that drapes elegantly.

Lino drapery and Magnolia cushions

THE CONS

  • Linen can become stiff after washing, but will soften again once thoroughly dried and aired.
  • It wrinkles, creases and relaxes overtime which can create ‘sagging’ in upholstery application. Perfect for those who appreciate a relaxed wabi sabi aesthetic, but not for those who want smooth, tailored perfection. 
  • Susceptible to fading in direct sunlight, as with all natural fibres linen drapery should always be paired with a quality lining.
  • An absorbent fibre, which means it can move with changing humidity levels, in drapery application we recommend puddling the drape to minimise the appearance of any movement. 
  • Linen fibre is smooth and lustrous, so seam slippage can occur with a heavy load. We recommend discussing the need for reinforcing upholstery seams with your upholstery manufacturer.

TIPS AND TRICKS

As with all natural fibre, there can be slight variations in shade and tone across dye batches. If you require a perfect match across rolls we offer a Cutting for Approval service (CFA) which provides your interior professional with a small memo cutting from the stock we hold so you can ensure the tone is right for your project.

When specifying 100% linen drapery, we recommended “puddling the drape” which is where you manufacture your curtains longer than required to “puddle” the end of the fabric on the floor. A good rule of thumb is 100mm on the floor over a 2000mm drop. This creates a more relaxed look, particularly suiting heavier linens and means any slight movement up and do should go unnoticed.

Another great solution when manufacturing linen curtains is providing a generous hem to allow alteration in the rare situations that severe movement occurs.

We always recommend the use of a quality lining to ensure your drapery is protected against direct UV sunlight which is particularly harmful in Australasia.  

If you are concerned about a linen fading opt for a lighter shade of colour as fading will be less visible to the eye than darker shades.

Linen looks absolutely stunning as a loose cover in upholstery application, with this fibre being perfectly suited to the relaxed styling required.  We recommend reinforcing upholstery seams to avoid seam slippage under load, and it is always beneficial to regularly lightly vacuum your upholstery to increase the lifespan of your textiles.

BROWSE OUR COMPREHENSIVE RANGE OF GORGEOUS LINENS

From MOKUM:

Pumice

China Blue

Cloud

Aluminium

Linen

Birch

Gilver

Blush

From JAMES DUNLOP:

Harvest

Dove

Botanical

Riverstone

Mono

Shadow

Indigo

Stephanie Moffitt, Design Director of Mokum Textiles, a brand within the James Dunlop Textile Group, began her career in 1993 when she was just 22 years old, fresh out of Wellington Design School. Since then, Stephanie has risen through the company and moved to Sydney, Australia to lead Mokum’s design studio.

Annie Moir began her career in 2012 after graduating from Victoria University in Wellington. A fifth-generation James Dunlop family member, Annie now works alongside Stephanie as Mokum’s Product Developer from the Sydney-based design studio. Together they create accessible luxury textiles and wallpapers developed with the finest international mills from around the globe.