Pure linen is manufactured all over the World, yet few manufacturers can compete with the quality of Irish linen weavers.
Ireland has a strong heritage of growing and weaving the best quality linen. Irish weavers are capable of achieving incredible fineness in the yarns and woven cloths. This is possible due to the skills and expertise handed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years.
Irish weavers are also well known for being pioneers in finishing, an important stage which contributes to the drape, feel and other fabric characteristics. The softness of the water in Irish streams is utilised for bleaching, dyeing and finishing, elevating the linen's softness, handle and appearance.
European linen has an exceptional reputation for linen for two main reasons: heritage expertise & the natural environment, which is perfectly suited to growing flax, the plant from which linen is produced. As well as Irish linen, Belgian, Italian and French linen also have an excellent reputation for exceptional quality linen.
Cotton vs linen
Like cotton, the quality of linen is measured by the length, strength and fineness of the fibres, plus the weaving and finishing techniques undertaken by the weaver. However, linen is not measured with thread counts. Grams per square metre (gsm) is used to define weight.
Linen gsm is comparatively much lower than a cotton thread count as linen fibres are thicker - a 350gsm linen would be considered very heavy, whereas a 350 thread count cotton isn't particularly. A higher gsm will mean the linen is more hardwearing, however fibre length should also be considered.
A notably hardwearing linen is more suited to upholstery - remember that linen is stronger than cotton anyway. My personal favourite of our linen collection is Kenmare, which is 182gsm. It's incredibly long lasting and supremely soft and supple, even straight out of the box.
Note that, as with cotton, two linens with the same gsm can't be assumed to be equal quality. Some of the highest quality linens in the World have a low gsm; beautifully light with fine, long fibres. However, you could also have a poor quality linen with a low gsm: short, weak fibres and finished poorly - fabric that is not going to last well.
Linen tends to be stiffer when bought, whereas cotton is softer. Cotton bed sheets, for example, will last for around 5-10 years, depending on quality, yet high quality linen sheets can last a lifetime and get softer with every wash.
Generally, we believe you should invest the most you can afford in to home textiles that are used daily - because they are just that, used daily. We recognise we are biased, yet doing so offers a much better cost per use and also provides better satisfaction (a nice product, used for longer - it's not rocket science)!
This is part of our ethos to buy Less, Better. This is even more true with linen.
- Flax needs 5 times less fertilisers and pesticides than cotton to grow
- Flax (the plant from which linen is produced), is a self-pollinating crop
- Linen is the most hard wearing fibre known to man
- Linen gets softer with each wash, so with care you should not need to replace it with regular household use. France have a lovely traditional of typically handing down their linens.
- Linen is biodegradable and renewable
- It is naturally moth resistant, further increasing its life span
- The entire flax crop is used. Left over linseeds, oil, straw and fibre are used in a variety of ways from linoleum and soap to cattle feed and paper.
Health benefits of linen
- Linen is naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
- Linen is naturally insect repellent and offers UV protection
- The weave of linen fibres allows for airflow, keeping clothing away from the skin - hence it is so nice to wear in the summer!
Our top tip for laundering table linen: while the linen is still damp, place it in a plastic bag and pop it in the fridge for at least two hours.
Iron on a high temperature with steam (monograms or decorations should be on the reverse side). The result? Super silky, smooth linen.
And remember, please don't tumble dry your linen. It is incredibly fast drying and tumble drying it will wear the fibres much faster.
Shop our Irish Linen here