Did you know linen history was so ancient?
Linen, more and more relevant today, is however the oldest textile fiber in the world. You have to go back 36000 years, in the cave of Dzudzuana, in Georgia, to find traces of the first twisted and dyed flax fibers.
Then, from the 6th century BC.JC flax was developed in the Nile valley under the empire of the Pharaohs, reaching a high degree of finesse. The Egyptians called the linen cloth “woven moonlight” because it was a symbol of purity.
It was the whole of ancient Egypt that lived and dressed in white linen, pleated or not.
Very strong fabric thanks to the quality of the length of its fibre, divine statues, and mummies were wrapped in linen. Having then dressed the Greeks and Romans, linen clothed the Gallic druids of the plains of Flanders.
It is to Charlemagne (8th century) that we owe the first impetus given to the flax craftsmanship, in fact, he ordered its spinning at the court.
When William the Conqueror in 1065 attempted his expedition to England, his wife, Queen Mathilde, embroidered the saga on the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
The tapestry of Bayeux is considered one of the first comics of history - it is a band of linen 70 metres long and 50cm wide.
Musée Tapisserie de Bayeux, © S.Maurice - Bayeux Museum
It was at the beginning of the 13th century that a weaver from Cambrai developed an extremely fine weaving process. The success of linen canvas transcended borders, being exported to Flanders, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, England.
This weaving, the “batiste”, became the “canvas of Kings” through table linen, body linen, handkerchiefs…. In the 13 th century, linen took off in the North of France.
From the XVIIth century, the fabric of Brittany, Normandy knew European and International reputation.
The King XIV, keen on novelties and fashion, quickly adopted the linen body shirt which shows itself under clothing. This is where the words “linge” and “lingerie” come from. Under his reign, the Edict of Nantes, which granted the Protestants the right to worship, was revoked, leading to the escape of more than 600 lace makers and weavers of this religion.
Linen triumphed in the 18th century with sailcloths, fine canvases, from Cambrai, threads and handkerchiefs in Lille, without forgetting the boom of lace manufacture.
The invention of the jacquard loom in 1801 made it possible to weave complicated patterns thanks to the perforated cardboards guiding the threads. In 1810, Philippe de Girad patented a linen spinning machine.
In the 19th century, linen was dethroned by cotton from the American colonies, which is cheaper and more practical to weave for everyday fabrics.
Despite the efforts of Napoleon I to industrialize the spinning of flax, the surfaces of flax crops decreased dramatically.
Today this ancient fiber is carried by an innovative desire to nudge the fashion industry to go mindful and circular. A noble material, with rich qualities that crossed the ages.