With Summer pretty much here it is a good time to talk about one of the stars of textiles - Linen.
The look of linen is always distinct and classic. It speaks of warm weather, raw, basic goodness, integrity, and the natural world. It can be very chic and aristocratic, or rough and wild when fashioned by hippies or SCA members making peasant costumes. Either way, the slouchy wrinkled texture is part of the charm of linen.
Linen is one of the oldest fabrics known to humans. Pieces of it have been found in caves around Europe that are tens of thousands of years old and mummies in Egyptian tombs were wrapped in it. It is also one of the strongest of the vegetable fibers - two to three times stronger than cotton. Because it is highly absorbent it is great for warm temperatures. This is also why it is famous in the kitchen as a towel, napkin, or table cloth. In fact the word "linen" is synonymous with all cloths used in the home as in "the linen closet".
Linen is actually a fabric derived from the Flax plant, a delicate looking wildflower with a small blue blossom. It is a hearty perennial that grows just about anywhere but is primarily grown for fiber production in Europe and China. The most famous linen comes from Ireland, Italy, and Belgium. The flax plant (like hemp) is very useful to humans giving not only fiber for fabric but also highly nutritious seeds and linseed oil. (Did you know that the original Linoleum was made of flax bi-products?)
Read up if you want to be a textile nerd like me!
Here are some linen items from ETSY: Pamela Tang's top, Arva's tote, Marysgranddaughter's embroidery on vintage linen.