The Pros and Cons of Linen Upholstery Fabric
Linen is a natural fabric that humans have used for thousands of years—its use dates as far back as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia! Beautiful, durable, and soft, it’s no wonder linen remains such a popular choice for clothing and upholstery to this day. If you have a new project on the horizon and are considering using linen for it, we go over what linen is and the pros and cons of linen upholstery fabric here to help you decide.
Linen is a natural textile made from fibers collected from the flax plant. Interestingly, it’s one of the oldest textiles around, and evidence shows that humans have used it for over 36,000 years. Originally a ritzy fabric reserved for kings and queens, linen is now far easier to procure and less costly, though it still retains many of the qualities that made it so desirable in the first place.
How’s It Made?
Making linen is time- and labor-intensive, even in this modern age! Most of the harvesting and fiber-collecting processes are still done by hand since there aren’t any machines that can perform the steps properly.
So how do you make linen? You start by harvesting the flax; ideally, this is done slowly by hand to keep the roots intact. Most linen is harvested in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the Nile River Valley, where favorable climates allow the flax to grow healthily.
Once you harvest the linen, you ret (rot) the stem so you can cut it off from the flax fibers. Then, the retted stalks are dried and passed through rollers, while the fibers are scraped to remove any remaining stalk. Finally, you comb the fibers through a bed of nails to remove the short fibers, and the long fibers are taken and woven into linen yarn.
Fortunately, you can weave linen using machines, but the operators of these machines need to work slowly and meticulously to ensure the yarn is finely made.
As you can see, a lot of work goes into making linen! Because so much care is put into the creation of this fabric, most linen is extremely high quality.
The Pros of Linen
Thinking about using linen for your next upholstery project? Here are a few pros of this fabric that may sell you on it:
Linen is an all-natural textile, which makes it a fantastic option for the eco-conscious. Untreated linen is 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable, making it one of the most sustainable textiles in the world. The growing and harvesting processes are sustainable, too. Flax requires minimal water to grow and fewer pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides than most plants. And once you harvest them, there’s very little waste generated. Most of the plant is used, with the stalk and fibers used for textiles and the seeds to make oil.
Did you know that, out of all plant fibers, linen is the most durable? It’s an incredible 30 percent stronger than cotton! As long as you care for it properly, linen can last many years and still look good.
This may not seem like a perk, but it actually is. Linen can absorb up to 20 percent of its weight in liquid without feeling wet, and, oddly, it gets stronger when wet, unlike most textiles.
Antibacterial & Hypoallergenic
Linen is also naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic. If you or another member of your household have allergies, asthma, or a sensitive immune system, using linen can help keep the environment safe and healthy.
Cool & Breathable
Linen is a cool, breathable fabric that’s ideal for bedding and blankets. It will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter for maximum comfort.
Easy To Wash
If you want a low-maintenance fabric, linen is an excellent choice. You can easily wash, dry clean, and vacuum it, and you can also treat stains with baking soda or white vinegar.
The Cons of Linen
While linen is a great, durable fabric, it isn’t without its cons. Here are a few drawbacks of linen to keep in mind if you plan to use it:
Linen wrinkles easily. If you like that rustic, lived-in look, this may not be a con for you, but for others, it can be frustrating. A handheld steamer can help remove wrinkles, but you’ll have to use it often to keep your linen pristine. You can also toss removable linen upholstery in the dryer on low heat to remove wrinkles, but you’ll want to remove the linen while it’s still damp and allow it to air dry.
Linen isn’t stain resistant, so be careful with your drinks around it! Fortunately, though, linen is easy to wash, so you can get stains out with a bit of work.
Sensitive to Heat
Linen is sensitive to heat. To keep it from fading, it’s recommended you clean it in lukewarm (40 to 60°F) water and keep linen furniture away from sunny windows and doors.
Can’t Bleach It
While you can bleach most textiles to remove stains, using bleach on linen isn’t recommended because it can discolor the fabric and weaken the flax fibers.
Linen is more costly than similar textiles like cotton. This is due to how time-consuming producing it is. That said, linen is also higher quality, so you get more bang for your buck.
To Use or Not To Use?
Now that you know the pros and cons of linen upholstery fabric, you can determine whether this durable, eco-friendly option is right for you. While linen does have a few cons, ultimately, this fabric has more good qualities than bad. You can avoid wrinkles, stains, and heat damage with proper care. The perks of linen also make it ideal for eco-friendly folks, people with respiratory issues or sensitivities, and busy homeowners who want something they can clean quickly in the wash.
If you’re all in on linen, come shop at the Fabric Outlet to find the top-quality woven upholstery fabric you need. We sell our linen by the yard, making it easy to get the exact amount you require. And with various blends and colors to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your project.