It didn’t occur to me until I had a booth set up at a local Artisan’s Craft Fair, and was selling linen napkins that there is quite a lot of confusion about linen fabric. And after thinking this through a bit I could totally understand why.

First the term, “Linens” can refer to any household goods made of fabric such as sheets, towels, tablecloths, etc. Hence the name of the closet that houses all of these known as the “Linen Closet.” However, this should not be confused with “Linen” fabric.

Second, people are confused that “Linen” although used sometimes to describe a color is actually a fabric that is dyed and therefore comes in all colors of the rainbow and then some.

Third, I have discovered since both linen and cotton are natural materials there is some confusion between the two. The difference between linen fabric and cotton fabric is that linen is a textile made from the fibers of a flax plant. Cotton fabric on the other hand, is derived from the cotton plant. Linen is the strongest natural fiber. It is so durable it has even been used in paper money for strength! Because linen fiber has very long, variable lengths it is thicker than cotton. The length contributes to its very strength and longevity. Because of it strength it has won the test of time, this is why families are able to pass down beautiful tablecloths and napkins made of linen, from generation to generation.

Linen comes in many different weights and textures. There is 100% linen and then there are also linen blends. When comparing prices make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges because there is nothing like 100% linen and it costs the supplier more to purchase. Therefore, this is passed on to the consumer. Also, don’t be turned away when you see what you may think are imperfections, this is just part of the beauty of this amazing textile being made of a natural material.

Both cotton and linen will wrinkle. Although linen wrinkles will become smoother through handling, cleaning and use. And although some people press their linen, others enjoy the natural beauty of a few wrinkles in their linen.

Linen is a natural fiber that loves water This is why it is referred to as “Natures wicking fiber” making it the perfect fabric for table linens especially napkins that require extra absorbency.

Some Cleaning/Washing Instructions:

-If you prefer to have your linen fabric items with a very crisp non-wrinkled look and you aren’t one who enjoys pressing, by all means send it off to the dry cleaners.

-If washing at home wash separately in cold water on a gentle cycle. Allow as much water as possible for ease of movement.

-Avoid harsh detergents. Use detergents free of bleach or brighteners.

-Tumble dry on a delicate setting with low or no heat. Linen will become brittle if dried on high heat for extended periods of time.

-Remove while slightly damp and press if you prefer no wrinkles. If pressing any linen that has been embroidered always lay the embroidery face down on a towel and if possible avoid pressing directly on the embroidery. This will lessen any flattening of the intricate embroidery.

-Tumbling keeps a soft drape in the linen. You may line dry but the fabric will be stiffer from lack of tumbling. Remember that use, including the tumbling of the dryer makes the fabric softer.