How to choose linen fabric
Whether you're putting the finishing touches to a interior makeover or want an easy way to freshen up your home, linen is always a beautiful choice. From linen curtains to cushion covers, bedlinen to kitchen textiles, hard-wearing linen fabric is a must for any stylish home. It lends a natural elegance and simple charm to bedrooms and living rooms, and creates the perfect Insta-ready table setting in your kitchen.
But how do you know which is the right linen fabric to choose? Will you be buying linen fabric by the yard to make your own upholstery or soft furnishings, or do you want finished products? In this post we'll tell you everything you need to know about different types of linen, and how to find the best quality linen for your needs.
Linen fabric is made from natural flax fibers harvested from flax plants, particularly in Western Europe, where the cooler, damp summer weather is perfect for flax cultivation. For thousands of years it has been used to create durable, long-wearing bedding, linen clothing as well as many other items around the home and in industry. Its versatility and longevity make linen a much-loved fabric esteemed for generations.
And linen fabric is still hugely popular as a top quality natural material. Once you've discovered the benefits of linen you won't go back to cotton or other fabrics: linen is cool yet cosy, moisture-wicking yet highly absorbent, lightweight yet super strong.
So, what kind of linen do you need, and how do you choose between different types of linen fabric?
Linen fabric types
When choosing a linen fabric it's useful to first have an understanding of the types of linen used to make home textiles and clothing. Whilst these are all made from flax fibers, different processes create a range of weaves in the finished linen fabrics . This achieves a different feel and function, a little like the thread count of cotton fabric affects the quality and strength of that material.
Although flax fibers are always used to make natural linen, the final weaving process results in subtly different textures and looks. The properties of pure linen remain the same regardless of the weave, but some will be enhanced depending on the production process. These are the main kinds of linen fabrics you're likely to come across in linen clothing, bedding and homewares:
Loose woven linen fabric
This type of linen is super absorbent and lightweight, so it's often used to make bath towels.
Damask linen fabric
The combination of plain and satin weave creates a luxurious reversible finish and a smooth-quality linen. You'll find many linen napkins and tablecloths made from damask weave.
Huckaback linen fabric
Often used in bathroom linens, the huckaback is an ancient weave that results in a slightly raised, uneven surface. This makes the linen even more absorbent yet still remaining non-bulky, and so huckaback linen is often used to make towels.
Plain woven linen fabric
Plain woven linen is ultra smooth and soft, making it ideal for cloths that clean glass or delicate tableware, and for tea towels. You'll often find plain weave in red and blue check or stripe colorways.
Linen cotton blends
Usually a 50/50 mix of linen and cotton, a blended fabric offers the benefits of both fibers in one material. This works well in clothing as it holds its shape well. But you do lose something of the texture and charm of pure linen when the flax fibers are mixed with other fibers like cotton, silk or polyester.
Think about the purpose of your linen fabric
To help you choose the right type of linen fabric it's important to consider what you're planning to use it for. If you want to sew your own linen clothing and you need a fairly structured fabric you might want to think about a cotton linen blend.
If you're making bedding then look for a soft, pre-washed pure linen that will help regulate your body temperature and keep you comfortable while you sleep. There's something about the naturally creased, textured look linen provides that's pretty hard to beat.
For towelling you need a durable but soft fabric, like huckaback linen. This will effectively absorb moisture and then release it back into the air, letting the towel dry more quickly than traditional terry cotton towelling.
Upholstery fabric has to withstand a lot of wear and tear, so opt for a heavy weight woven linen.
Buying linen fabric online
Whichever types of linen fabric you go for, make sure you buy from a reputable retailer. Check that the linen is pure – if it's marketed as 'linen' it shouldn't have cotton or polyester mixed in. Some garments are sold as 'linen clothing' but are in fact made from mixed fibers.
Flax from Western Europe creates some of the finest quality linen fabrics in the world, as the climate provides optimum cultivation conditions for the flax plant. Some manufacturers carry European flax certification, so you know you're getting top quality linen fabric.
You can also check how sustainable the manufacturing process is, if you're concerned with reducing your carbon footprint. Linen fabrics are naturally sustainable, thanks to their inherent durability, the fact that they require fewer resources to produce than materials like cotton, and their biodegradable properties.
Make a mood board or pin your favourite looks
A really fun way to choose the right fabric for your home or clothing is to do some research. Otherwise known as trawling social media and glossy magazines for inspiration! You can save or pin the looks that you love, whether that's a set of linen bedding with welcoming wrinkles, or a summer picnic table spread with a linen table cloth and simple linen napkins.
Linen fabrics are always on trend, and yet also have a timeless style that means there's no need to follow fashion fads. They will always add a rustic, laid-back elegance to a home, and linen clothing brings an air of relaxed sophistication to any wardrobe.
Why choose linen fabric?
If you're not 100% convinced about investing in linen fabrics, homewares or clothing, just remember that linen fabric has some powerful natural properties. It is naturally anti-microbial, anti-allergenic and supersoft to the touch. Making it the ultimate in comfort for everyone in the family.
Linen fabric naturally keeps your skin dry as it wicks moisture away. This means it's a great choice for summer clothing and bedding, but it will also keep you pleasantly warm in winter. It's an all-year round winner!
What's even better about linen is its durability. This means it will last you for years, so once you've chosen the perfect linen fabric you can enjoy it for a lifetime. Not only does this save you money in the long run, it's more sustainable for the planet too.
Top quality linen is simple to wash and dry. Check the manufacturer's care instructions, but most linen bedding, clothing and home textiles can withstand a machine wash and tumble dry. Just use lukewarm water rather than hot or cold temperatures. Hang to dry in the fresh air if you can, to save energy and resources. We love the natural creases in linen fabric, but you can of course iron yours if wrinkles aren't your thing.
When choosing linen fabric, the main thing to think about is what you'll be using it for. Linen is used for so many things it's crucial to identify the principal function you need, and then make sure you get the right type of linen fabric for the job. Always check you're buying quality linen fabric from a well-established manufacturer. This is harder to check online because you can't feel the fabric yourself and look at the weave, but read reviews and get recommendations.
Buying linen fabric for a DIY project, making clothing or ready made as stunning home textiles is an investment. But it's well worth it for the beauty, durability, easy-care and natural beneficial properties of this magical material made from humble flax plants.