As old as civilization, or almost, linen has a timeless charm and a simple elegance that makes it an ideal material for our sheets. From the farthest reaches of Europe to our factory in Portugal, let's take a look at the history of this natural material and at what goes behind the scenes of La Chambre washed linen.
ONCE UPON A TIME... A short history of linen
When we think of linen, we imagine a mild summer evening or an elegant (and perhaps a little wrinkled) suit, but we don't necessarily think of Georgia 36,000 years ago. Yet it is there that fragments of the world's oldest natural fibre have been found. After a detour with the Egyptians in ancient times, seduced by the purity and lightness of a textile perfect for a desert climate, linen arrived in Europe in the holds of the Phoenicians before seducing the irresistible Gauls. A few centuries later, Charlemagne encouraged the cultivation of the fibre and France soon acquired a reputation for excellence in the field. Did you know that Louis XIV himself loved to dress in linen, as did the rest of his court, and that "lingerie" got its name from this period? The industrialization of cotton in the 19th century and the success of synthetic fibers in the 20th century could have meant the death of linen, but this was without counting on the renewed interest in the fiber after the Second World War.
FLAX IN THE OTHER: Flax fibre
Without bombarding you with too many technical details, we wanted to find out a little more about this hard-living little seed. Flax is a long stem (up to a metre long) with many leaves and an equally long root. In July, the producers pull up the flax for the first stage of the transformation process: retting. They leave the flax to dry on the ground for a few weeks (or months, depending on the climatic conditions) so that the different fibres of the plant separate naturally. Then comes the scutching stage: the plants are beaten to get rid of the flax stem and extract the flax fibres. Approximately 15 to 25% of these fibres are long fibres, sought after for their resistance to any test (or almost). These are then combed and woven before being spun.
Production of flax fibre: Cocorico
Although flax only grows on the coast from Calvados to the Netherlands, nearly 75% of the world's flax production today comes from France, and in particular from Normandy where a particularly rich soil, a temperate climate and a fair amount of rain enable the plant to flourish. Add to this a thousand-year-old know-how and a passion passed on from generation to generation, and you will understand better why French linen has become a must. However, almost 90% of this Made In France flax is exported abroad (China represents 80% of these exports) to be spun before being imported again - France is indeed the 4th largest consumer of flax in the world.
Use of flax fibre
Although almost 83% of European flax is still destined for the textile market, there is a growing demand for the industrial use of flax. For a long time, most of the demand was for linoleum, but today the outlets are elsewhere: buildings, the car industry and paper (which accounts for about 9% of the flax used today). The French army uses flax in the construction of helicopter parts and more and more R&D programmes are interested in the properties of flax to offer an alternative to fossil fuels. Finally, the specific properties of flax, such as its ability to resist iron and absorb vibrations, make it a material of choice in the manufacture of certain consumer products such as tennis rackets or motorcycle helmets. Even the famous American greenback is partly made of flax!
Flax: a rich seed
So far we have concentrated on the plant, but let's not forget its seeds, of which Canada is the world's largest producer (nearly one million tonnes per year). Excellent sources of omega-3 and offering nutritional (and medicinal) qualities that have been recognized for centuries, flax seeds are now finding their place in the Western diet. Full of minerals, essential fatty acids and vitamins, such as vitamin E, flax seeds are also gluten-free. Since the beginning of the 21st century, cold-pressed flaxseed oil has been gradually invading the shelves of organic shops and seducing consumers with its richness in Omega-3.
FLAX IN THE ROOM: Good for your beds, good for the planet
As you can see, the relationship between linen and us is an enduring one. Our linen fibers come from French cultures before being washed for always more softness. Our linen creases little and offers your room the simple elegance it deserves. In addition, linen is a very soft fibre... for the planet. During its growth, linen does not need to be irrigated, and its production requires very little fertilizer and far fewer pesticides than cotton. Why is this? Because flax is an ultra-resistant plant and the thickness of its stem protects it from the insects that attack cotton (which explains why the latter uses nearly 50% of the world's agricultural pesticides).
The cultivation of a single kilo of non-organic cotton requires between 5,000 and 10,000 litres of water, or nearly 2,500 litres to produce... a T-shirt. Flax, on the other hand, grows naturally using the heat of the sun and rainwater - 1 kilo of flax requires only half a bottle of water. And since everything is good about flax, it is a zero waste plant that also acts as a "carbon sink": one hectare of flax can absorb up to 3.7 tons of CO2 per year. And even the activity due to the transformation (retting, scutching, spinning) remains very little polluting since it is mainly mechanical. The whole plant is used: from the fibres to the flax dust which will be used in agriculture and horticulture to lighten the soil. Last but not least, all flax products are 100% biodegradable.
A few grams of softness in our washed linen...
In order to offer you bed linen that is as pleasant to the touch as it is elegant, we have adopted the washed linen technique for all our linen bed linen sets. The linen simply undergoes several stages of washing with various ecological softeners for an even softer and more supple fabric, with an incomparable patina effect and an even more beautiful texture if you skip the ironing ( you're welcome ). Another important advantage is that washed linen can be machine washed to remove stains... and get rid of dust mites. Because your nights are worth it.
Choosing the right partner - From Normandy... to Portugal
As we explained to you recently, we too have chosen Portuguese expertise after having travelled the world in search of the rare pearl. Our partner factory offers exceptional know-how and a mastery of washed linen weaving that meets our expectations while preserving the environment. Nearly 80% of its waste is recycled, all the thermal energy produced by the factory is reused and nearly 40% of the water needed for production is recovered (before being treated and returned to nature). Finally, to guarantee the human and ecological safety of our linen (and all our textiles), we have opted for the OEKO-TEX® standard 100 certification which guarantees the absence of toxic substances in our eco-responsible linen.
Whatever the set, as long as you're lazy
We are often asked how to choose between linen, percale, cotton or satin. In our opinion, it's all a matter of taste and your nights will be beautiful no matter which La Chambre set you choose. The main difference? Linen is made from... linen, not cotton. CQFD, perhaps, but it is worth remembering.
Star of the beddings, cotton offers softness, great choice of colours and maintenance could not be easier. Our cotton percale and sateen are made from 100% long staple cotton - only the weave explains the difference between the two. The washed linen, on the other hand, has thermoregulatory properties which make it the ideal companion for your summer nights (since it is very breathable), but also for the coldest nights because it keeps the heat in wonderfully. The long fibres of linen have a strong absorbent power thanks to the pectins present in its walls. The result? A textile that can absorb up to 20% of its weight in moisture. It is also much more resistant than cotton or percale. Washed linen becomes softer with each wash, is hypoallergenic and extremely absorbent. It offers the elegance of solid colours and a timeless look to your bedroom.
Lightweight yet durable, simple yet delightfully elegant, linen promises a soft night's sleep while protecting the planet. Maybe for once, Charlemagne didn't have such a crazy idea.