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The History, manufacturing and care of Irish Linen

History of Irish Linen

Irish Linen has been in production in Ireland since early Christian times. Linen is made from the flax plant, which was grown in Ireland for many years due to its suitable climate. The industry in Ireland settled in the Northern region between the two great rivers of the north, the Bann and the Lagan. Throughout the years the Irish Linen industry has embraced new technology allowing it the flexibility to service the huge textile market throughout the world.

Irish Linen played an important role throughout both World Wars. It was used in the making of rope, net, twine, hosepipes, sailcloth, canvas, blackout sheets, tents and aeroplane wing sealants.

Linen was the focus for the Industrial Revolution in the north of Ireland, with the provinces engineering trade and infrastructure developed around the requirements of the industry.

To this day Ireland is an important producer of linen, manufacturing 10% of Europe’s linen yarn, and producing on average 30 million metres of fabric per annum. Irish linen, despite its long history, remains a contemporary modern textile with uses in the fashion industry along with the home interior designers.

Irish Linen manufacturing

Irish linen manufacturing is a complicated process and requires great skill at each stage of production. The processes involved in turning flax to fabric are listed here:

Cultivating Flax

Linen is produced from natural fibres of the flax plant. The plant is sown in April, and produces delicate blue flowers in June and is harvested in late summer. The flax is laid out in the fields to ret, and the seeds are removed and used for linseed oil and the bark is removed by a process called scutching. This is then used in the making of chipboard.

Spinning in to Linen yarn

The fibres are separated; the long line fibres are doubled and twisted before undergoing a wet spinning process. This produces strong, fine yarn. The short tow fibres are spun using a dry spinning method. The dry-spun yarns have a heavier count and are used for furnishings fabrics.

Weaving Irish Linen Yarn into Linen Fabric

Modern technology plays a big part in today’s weaving of Irish Linen. Computer aided Design systems are used to produce new and creative designs at high speed.

Linen Finishing

Fabric finishing refers to the treatments used on the fabric to give it its unique look. These include bleaching, dyeing, coating, bonding, printing, texturising and calandering. These are used to create the texture, and performance of the fabric. Different treatments are used to produce the crisp elegance of the fine damask tablecloth or the coolness of the linen sheets.
Irish Linen Yarn is defined as yarn which is spun in Ireland from 100% flax fibers.
Irish Linen Fabric is defined as fabric which is woven in Ireland from 100% yarns of linen.

Washing and care of Irish Linen

Washing linen naturally softens the fibres and brightens the colour. Linen washes well because it is stronger wet than dry. A 60d C wash is usually effective in the release of stains. As linen is highly absorbent, (it can absorb twice its weight in water before it drips), it soaks up more water during the wash than other textiles, therefore it washes better when the washing machine is not packed to full capacity.

Drying < Ironing

Linen dries quickly. Line drying it in direct sunlight and flat drying delicate items can help prevent creasing. Linen should always be ironed whilst still damp, on both sides.

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