World linen history from ancient times to modern times

A linen product that is very popular in summer clothes and bed sheets because of its comfortable feel. Linen is famous as a natural fiber, but did you know the fact that it has been used by humankind for thousands and tens of thousands of years? In this article, we will introduce the history of linen that has been used for a long time and how to grow it.

About the history of linen in the world ~ Ancient ~

Linen is so old that it is called "the oldest fiber of mankind", and its origin is said to date back more than 10,000 years. In 2009, flax fiber was found in a cave in Georgia, and there is a record that it was 34,000 years old. The history of linen may be old, even before modern people can imagine it. Let's go a little further and look at the relationship between linen and people from Egypt about 5,000 years ago.

Linen was also used in ancient Egypt

Linen is an indispensable fabric in ancient Egypt, and it seems that many ordinary people's clothes were also made with linen. On the other hand, it was called "moonlight woven fabric" and was often used in Shinto rituals.

Linen was also a kind of religious object as a symbol of light and chastity. It is said that ancient Egyptian priests wore linen-made clothing as "God's forgiveness."

In addition, the linen, which is very durable and gentle on the human skin, is also used to store mummies. The cloth around which the mummy is wrapped is linen cloth. It's actually a linen product. Linen seems to have been a symbol of wealth as well as a symbol of light and chastity.

Linen history in ancient Europe

Linen is thought to have spread to Europe from the Caucasus region, where it originated, through Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

The ancient Europeans who knew linen not only imported textiles, but also began to grow flax on their own. Some species from that time have been excavated in Belgium and elsewhere.

Ancient Romans and Greeks often preferred pure white linen, and upper class people wore fine linen.

What is the etymology of linen?

The etymology of linen comes from the Latin word "Linum". Since "Linum" in Latin means "flax" as it is, it can be seen that the main use of flax at that time was to use fibers as cloth.

There are many words that originate from linen. One of them is Line, which means line. There is a theory that this is derived from "a thin and durable thread made of flax". Linen is also considered to be the etymology of underwear (Lingerie), which shows how familiar linen was to Western European countries.

About the history of linen in the world ~ Medieval ~

Here we will look at how linen from Egypt to Europe developed in the Middle Ages. European countries have spent many years devoting themselves to the linen industry, led by the Flanders region. The Flanders region refers to the region centered on the former Count of Flanders, which extends to the southern part of the Netherlands, western Belgium, and northern France. Linen made from flax grown in the rich soil of this land has a strong fabric. It is said to have a good texture and a glossy feel. Linen is a major industry in medieval Europe and is a fabric that cannot be ignored when talking about traditional European culture.

History of linen in the Middle Ages

It can be said that Europe was the most used linen in the Middle Ages. The Flanders region is particularly focused on the linen industry, with napkins and tablecloths being their specialty.

Other countries such as France, the Netherlands and Germany were active in linen production. However, due to the influence of the Hundred Years War in France, which began in 1337, Europe is in turmoil and linen cultivation is in danger of declining.

In the midst of this turmoil, linen was continuously cultivated near the river Leie in the Flemish city of Kortrijk. Thanks to the continued cultivation of linen by the people in this area, we were able to supply linen products in a stable and smooth manner. This event has made Flanders increasingly central to the linen industry. Linen products made in medieval Europe, centered on Kortrijk, which flourished in the linen industry, eventually laid the foundation for European linen culture, such as "home linen" and "table linen."

Regarding the cultivation of linen around the 18th century

The linen culture, which grew up over centuries from ancient times to the Middle Ages, flourished in Europe in the 18th century and reached its heyday. Linen production was extremely high in the long history, and it is said that "the most produced fiber in the world at that time was linen."

By this time, linen was cultivated not only in Flanders, which is the center of the linen industry, but throughout Europe, and linen was a very important fiber in Europe. With the spread of cotton fabrics due to the Industrial Revolution that began in the latter half of the 18th century, linen gradually disappeared from the lives of ordinary people. However, it is preferred by upper class people as a luxury item, and its value is still found today.

Reference: Antique linen and how to enjoy it

Linen in the present world

Linen developed in Egypt in ancient times and in Europe in the Middle Ages. After that, until the present age, it has been widely used until the present age after a period when it was actively used for munitions. Especially nowadays, while various textile products are on the market, they are on the market with their own added value and story such as antique linen and embroidery. Even in Japan, there was a time when it was produced in Hokkaido from the Meiji era, but now it is mostly dependent on imports from overseas.

Flax production and cultivation in the world

Flax is a plant that is vulnerable to high temperature and humidity. Therefore, flax production areas are required to be relatively cold areas. Currently, the main production areas of flax are cold regions such as northern France, Russia and Canada. And Eastern European countries and China.

Flax is cultivated from April to July and August of the year. When seeds are sown in April, pale bluish-purple flowers bloom around July, and the harvest season is from the end of July to August. By the way, flax is not a plant that can be cultivated every year. Growing linen on the same land every year will ruin the land and reduce yield and quality. This is called continuous cropping disorder. Therefore, when cultivating linen on the same land, it is common to use crop rotation that grows only once every 6 to 7 years. Therefore, cultivation is efficient in a country where mechanized agriculture is developed on a vast land, and it is suitable for producing a large amount of linen products.

Reference: Until linen is made: What is linen material, flax?


So far, we have introduced the history of linen.

Linen has long been a fiber that has supported human life, as it was used to wind mummies in Egypt 5000 years ago and was the cornerstone of Europe's development and culture in the Middle Ages. Until now, it has been continuously produced and supports people's lives all over the world. More recently, from the aspect of daily necessities, it seems that it has changed to something with high added value as an object to enjoy beauty and antiques. With so many fibers, linen may be the only fiber that is so close to life, yet beautiful and sometimes artistic. Beautiful bed sheets, restaurant tablecloths, and linen products that you usually wear are fibers that have gone through such a magnificent history with humankind. You may have an attachment.

Reference: How linen is used in Europe

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