The Natural Beauty of Linen

Luxuriously drapey, breathable and soft, linen has enduring appeal - and sustainable credentials too


Seasalt linen clothingA beautiful woven fabric that only becomes softer and smoother with age and wear, linen’s enduring style and durability make it ever popular. From ships’ sails and shield coverings to tablecloths and trousers, for years it has been loved by artisans, makers and creators. Extremely hardwearing and with a wonderful tactile quality, it’s the ideal fabric for Seasalt’s timeless designs, but it also has other characteristics that make it an obvious choice for our collections.

A naturally sustainable choice

Linen is a natural fabric made from the beautiful, blue-flowered flax plant Linum usitatissimum. These hardy plants thrive in poor soil and on rainwater alone and because they don’t need pesticides, the environmental impact of linen is much lower than that of many other fabrics. Every part of the plant can be used to make a useful end-product so nothing is wasted. Flaxseed can be sown for a new crop, added as a tasty cooking ingredient, or used to make linseed oil. Undyed linen fabric is also 100% biodegradable.

Flax flowers, fibre and yarn

The cultivation of flax is centuries old

Records show that linen was being created six to seven thousand years ago in North Africa, but early forms of linen date back even further. Traces of flax fibres thought to be 34,000 years old have been found preserved in a cave in Georgia while relics of Ancient Egytptian tomb paintings depict linen being worn by slaves and Pharaohs who would have found its coolness and natural anti-bacterial properties ideal for the harsh climate.

Wild growing flax

From tiny flax seeds, lengthy yarns are spun

Flax flourishes in cool, damp environments and it takes 100 days to grow from seed until it’s ready to be harvested.

Linen is made from bast fibres taken from the inner bark of the flax plant. Removing and preparing these is a lengthy and labour-intensive process. In ancient Mesopotamia, the challenges of production gave linen an exclusivity that was reserved solely for priests and royalty. Even today, although many processes have been mechanised, there are still parts of production that are best achieved by hand. For example hand harvesting and pulling from the root rather than cutting, produces the highest quality linens as it makes the most of the fibres that run the length of the stalks.

Traditional drying of flax

First, the stalks are dried in the open air for several weeks. Then threshing removes the seeds which rather than being waster are used to sow the next crop of flax. Finding fame as a superfood, they are now often added to cereals and granary loaves.

Linton Park, Flax Scutching Bee, 1885 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC)

‘Heckling’ removes the shorter tow fibres which make coarse, lower quality linen fabric. The remaining fibres can be up to three feet long and help give the final fabric its characteristic strength and durability. They are pale yellow in colour, very soft and fine – hence the term ‘flaxen’ to describe light blonde hair. These lengthy filaments are spun into yarn and then woven or knitted to create the different linen fabrics and beautiful clothes that we know and love.

Heckling the flax fibres

Our beautiful garment dyes

Bold hues, a gorgeously soft feel and a sun-faded, lived-in look…Seasalt linen is always garment dyed in a carefully chosen Cornish palette.

Whereas sometimes yarn is colour treated before it’s woven, with this less conventional method, the garment is made first and then soaked in dye as a finished piece to produce the perfect shade. The designs are also pre-shrunk as part of the dyeing process which means your favourite clothes will keep the same lovely fit wash, after wash, after wash.

Printed, plain, striped, or checked our linens are always spun from the finest quality raw flax and whichever linen styles you choose, they all share the same wonderful softness and drape that feels so good against your skin.

EXPLORE THE SEASALT LINEN COLLECTION