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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All Things Irish~Linen

Irish linen is considered by many to be the finest linen in the world. Linen is the oldest fabric known to man. Once again we have the Egyptians to thank for its creation. Today linen is a well known export from Ireland. Most of the flax fiber from which linen is created from comes from France, the Netherlands and Belgium. In order for linen fabric to be considered true Irish linen and carry the Guild trademark, the yarn must be woven into cloth in Ireland only.

While Ireland at one time did grow flax and also spun the fiber into yarn, both the agricultural and spinning aspects of the creation of linen have virtually ceased production in Ireland. The yarn is now generally imported.

Once the linen is spun and woven into cloth it can be made into a number of products such as bed linens, towels, clothing and upholstery. Natural linen fabric is a light creme to tan color as show in the photo below.
The most familiar Irish linen however is bleached into pristine white fabric such as this stunning tablecloth below.

The care of linen is quite easy. Linen is actually stronger wet than when dry. It becomes softer and brighter with each washing. This is why antique linen sheets are still readily available and often sell for a dear price. Linen washes well in a machine that is not overly full. It should be line dried as heat from a dryer increases the breakdown of the fiber. White linen benefits from full sun exposure when drying. If you plan on pressing the linen it is best to do this while the linen is damp or gently mist the linen while ironing. Ironing on the wrong side will eliminate creases and ironing on the right side will enhance the sheen of the linen.

Linen fabric is wonderful in both the summer and winter. It is absorbent and can help to keep one cool. In the winter the fabric retains body heat. When wearing linen you must expect the fabric to crease. Because linen can absord up to 20% of its weight in moisture yet still remain lightweight, this makes sleeping on linen sheets a dream. You truly do sleep like a baby.

At the finer end of linen cloth you will find damask linen. Damask cloth is a weave which is quite labor intensive as it is a tightly woven cloth that features an intricate design often depicting flora and fauna.
Damask is created by a long "float"(yarn length) in which the warp (lengthwise yarn) is woven with a weft (crosswise yarn). Because of the angle of the damask weave, damask cloth reflects light differently. The appearance of the cloth will change based on where the observer views the cloth.

Here is a close up of a damask print.

Linen is also quite lovely with the addition of lace. You can often find lovely handkerchiefs of Irish linen for a reasonable price.

One of my current loves is linen upholstery. I am toying with the idea of covering my formal dining chairs in linen. Linen upholstery is actually a wise choice as linen resists stains and if a stain arises it is fairly easy to remove.
While fine pieces of Irish linen are a bit costly, it does last and have the capability to become a treasured family heirloom. Linen is a perfect choice for christening gowns and hope chest worthy housewares. A monogrammed piece of Irish linen makes a wonderful wedding present.
You can find some good deals on vintage and antique Irish linen on Ebay. I am currently watching a sheet with this dazzling monogram. It will be for the fashionista's bed.

I hope you enjoyed this post from the DTA March 2009 archives. 


Mildred said...

What beautiful linen to feast our eyes upon this morning. The table linens are just lovely.

Lisa said...



LiLi M. said...

Yes I have! I cherish the linen tablecloth that was embroidered by my mother. It was on the table with every childrens birthday, there are bows and bright flowers embroidered. When I was a teenager my mother used to buy damask for me as I liked it and it used to cheaper at flea markets and especially estate sales than new cotton table cloths.
I'm going to give you a link again:
This is my favorite linen shop in the Netherlands. When you order a table cloth up here they have it woven in your desired seize in....well no prices are given for that; Ireland of course! I love Irish linen!

jewelstreet said...

My family doesn't believe in heirlooms I guess. We have nothing that is passed down.

That monogram is beautiful. As is the hankerchief. I love linen.

Your new look is sensational!

Suzi said...

Stopping in from SITS, thanks for the lesson on linen. I learned a lot.

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Ahhh. What a lovely post. And I learned some things from it, like the fact that linen is more stain resistant and easier to clean than I realized. Thanks! :-)

kari and kijsa said...

I am in LOVE with that monogram! Kijsa did a neat take on monogrammed linens to show on our Pillow Parade tomorrow...these are stunning!
kari & kijsa

Velvet and Linen said...

As you have probably guessed from the name of my blog, linen is one of my favorite fabrics to use in my own home and in my designs. I love the texture of both the more refined Irish linen as well as the more nubby home spun version.
Lovely images, Laura.


Terri and Bob said...

That is fabulous! I love linen and I love the way it smells drying in the sun, and I love to iron it because it gets so crisp!

Anonymous said...

My parents just recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and for the tablecloth we used a damask linen (flower print) that was a present from their wedding that they had not used. Mom was always saving it for "special" occasion-- Well it was special after 50 years and looked as it did brand new!!

Muthering Heights said...

I hope you win the linen's breathtaking!

Kathy's Red Door Welcome said...

I think that monogrammed cake and linen runner are fantastic and the baby linens and crib are a dream. You have provide us with information about Irish linens that I did not know. Thank you so much for this post.

KDLOST said...


love that cradle also.

i do have some! they are napkins, quite beautiful given to me at my linen and lingerie shower before my wedding. :)

Kathy said...

What an informative post. I think I love linen. I unfortunately don't have any so I may have to start looking around for some to start a collection. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and information.

Lorrie said...

This is another great post. I do love linen and have some damask cloths passed down from my mother-in-law who received them as wedding gifts 56 years ago. She hardly used them, but I'm certainly making up for lost time.


Joy said...

Sadly I do not have any heirloom linens but I truly enjoyed this post and all the illustrations. Especially that gorgeous crib. :o)

domestic bliss said...

Hi Laura!
It was wonderful seeing you this weekend! I hope your new bedskirt worked out~
Have a great day!

Karen at Nittany Inspirations said...

Thanks for posting about Irish linens. How does one tell if it is Irish linen and not just a mass produced China made damask. I have a damask tablecloth from my mother. There are no labels. It does have some stains. I am afraid to bleach it to much to ruin the fibers. What do you suggest?
BTW, this is my first visit to your blog. May I add you as a favorite?

Shimmy Mom said...

No real linens here. (Although my hubby did just buy some Egyptian cotton sheets last week that are SO soft, we are loving them.) But I very much enjoyed your post.


~♥~ Monica S said...

I do! :-) I have my great-grandmothers bed-sheet-linen with monograms and the whole shabang! It's beautiful, old and unwashed for years. hehe.. I found it at my grandmothers house last year (after she had passed) among items noone wanted.. They must have overlooked it! I wanted it of course.. and this reminds me.. I must dig it out and give it a nice wash! :-) Thanks for reminding me.. I love anything old, and linen is one of my favorites!

Monica PS! Love your new site!

Natasha Burns said...

What beautiful Irish linen, and thank you for the wonderful information! There's nothing like linen, it's one of my favourite fibres/fabrics. Actually, I have just bought some stretched linen to paint on instead of canvas, because the texture looks so amazing!

ScrappinAway said...

I don't have any heirloom linens but after reading this post and seeing the gorgeous pic, I wish I did!

rosecottagegardensandfarm said...

Lovely post!! I, too, just adore linen. My dream is to have linen sheets...someday!! Thanks for all the information!

Rose Cottage Gardens and Farm

Mimi Sue said...

I LOVE the feel of linen. It stays nice and cool when you wear it in the summer. As always I've learned something about linen today. Thank you. Mimi

Allidink said...

I WISH I had heirloom linens lol. But I LOVE that you put a picture of the monogrammed A it looks awesome!!! :) I want one just like it now lol.

All the best,

vicki archer said...

Thank you for this informative post - I am a great lover of linen and collect old sheets, pillowcases and whatever else I can find. These images you have posted are lovely, xv.

leigh ann said...

Hi! I really love this post! I have some linens from my grandmother that were her grandfather's that we use often. I have some pictures of them on my last post, but your pictures are better! I'm off to read some more on your blog!

Draffin Bears said...

Hi Laura,

I do love old linen and that one with the beautiful monogram is just wonderful. I hope that you get it.

I have some old pillowslips from my Grandmother that I really love.


Miss Sandy said...

I dropped in to thank you for those sweet well wishes and prayers, they are working, I am well on the mend! I love the new look over here and the post on Irish linens is as always just delightful! A friend of mine traveled to Ireland and brought me back a piece of Irish lace that I just treasure. Now that I think about it, I need to get it out and frame it! Have a wonderful weekend!

sales said...


that was a very interesting and informative read. Thanks!

from Ireland

Hi, I'm MarySue said...

I too love linen but you really gave me good information. So much beauty and inspiration in your photos. Wishing you a blessed day.

Lisa said...

I did enjoy this post!

Bonnie said...

Beautiful pictures. So elegant and interesting. Thanks for the historical facts about linen and Irish linen. That is a gorgeous monogram.

Auntie Em said...

The linens are all so beautiful. My mother had a damask table cloth and I can remember her being so particular about how it was folded and ironed to have the proper creases.

Bonnie said...

Commenting from your 2014 Irish post.... linen is so comfortable to wear. I could become very spoiled because it is expensive. Isn't it amazing how natural fibers like cotton, linen and wool perform over and over again and are superior to fabric blends for comfort. I am intrigued by your historical facts about fibers and am challenged to learn more especially about irish linens.