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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A linen handkerchief with pulled thread embroidery around the edges
Linen cloth recovered from Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea.

Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather.

Textiles in a linen-weave texture, even when made of cotton, hemp and other non-flax fibers are also loosely referred to as "linen". Such fabrics generally have their own specific names other than linen; for example, fine cotton yarn in a linen-style weave is called Madapolam.

The collective term "linens" is still often used generically to describe a class of woven and even knitted bed, bath, table and kitchen textiles. The name linens is retained because traditionally, linen was used for many of these items. In the past, the word "linens" was also used to mean lightweight undergarments such as shirts, chemises, waistshirts, lingerie (a word which is cognate with linen), and detachable shirt collars and cuffs, which were historically made almost exclusively out of linen.

Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world: their history goes back many thousands of years. Fragments of straw, seeds, fibers, yarns, and various types of fabrics which date back to about 8000 BC have been found in Swiss lake dwellings. Dyed flax fibers found in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia suggest the use of woven linen fabrics from wild flax may date back even earlier to 36,000 BP.[1][2]

Linen was sometimes used as currency in ancient Egypt. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of light and purity, and as a display of wealth. Some of these fabrics, woven from hand spun yarns, were very fine for their day, but are coarse compared to modern linen.[3]

Today linen is usually an expensive textile, and is produced in relatively small quantities. It has a long "staple" (individual fiber length) relative to cotton and other natural fibers.[4]

Many products are made of linen: apron, bags, towels (swimmers, bath, beach, body and wash towel), napkins, bed linen, linen tablecloth, runners, chair cover, man and woman wear.


Flax fiber


Linen is said to be a bast fiber.

Flax fibers vary in length from about 25 to 150 centimeters (18 to 55 in) and average 12-16 micrometers in diameter. There are two varieties: shorter tow fibers used for coarser fabrics and longer line fibers used for finer fabrics. Flax fibers can usually be identified by their “nodes” which add to the flexibility and texture of the fabric.

The cross-section of the linen fiber is made up of irregular polygonal shapes which contribute to the coarse texture of the fabric.[5]


Highly absorbent and a good conductor of heat, linen fabric feels cool to the touch. Linen is the strongest of the vegetable fibers, with 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. It is smooth, making the finished fabric lint free, and gets softer the more it is washed. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads. This wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during laundering. Linen has poor elasticity and does not spring back readily, explaining why it wrinkles so easily.

Linen fabrics have a high natural luster; their natural color ranges between shades of ivory, ecru, tan, or grey. Pure white linen is created by heavy bleaching. Linen typically has a thick and thin character with a crisp and textured feel to it, but it can range from stiff and rough, to soft and smooth. When properly prepared, linen fabric has the ability to absorb and lose water rapidly. It can gain up to 20% moisture without feeling damp.

When freed from impurities, linen is highly absorbent and will quickly remove perspiration from the skin. Linen is a stiff fabric and is less likely to cling to the skin; when it billows away, it tends to dry out and become cool so that the skin is being continually touched by a cool surface. It is a very durable, strong fabric, and one of the few that are stronger wet than dry. The fibers do not stretch and are resistant to damage from abrasion. However, because linen fibers have a very low elasticity, the fabric will eventually break if it is folded and ironed at the same place repeatedly.

Mildew, perspiration, and bleach can also damage the fabric, but it is resistant to moths and carpet beetles. Linen is relatively easy to take care of, since it resists dirt and stains, has no lint or pilling tendency, and can be dry cleaned, machine washed or steamed. It can withstand high temperatures, and has only moderate initial shrinkage.[5]

Linen should not be dried too much by tumble drying: it is much easier to iron when damp. Linen wrinkles very easily, and so some more formal linen garments require ironing often, in order to maintain perfect smoothness. Nevertheless the tendency to wrinkle is often considered part of the fabric's particular "charm", and a lot of modern linen garments are designed to be air dried on a good hanger and worn without the necessity of ironing.

A characteristic often associated with contemporary linen yarn is the presence of "slubs", or small knots which occur randomly along its length. However, these slubs are actually defects associated with low quality. The finest linen has very consistent diameter threads, with no slubs.


The standard measure of bulk linen yarn is the lea, which is the number of yards in a pound of linen divided by 300. For example a yarn having a size of 1 lea will give 300 yards per pound. The fine yarns used in handkerchiefs, etc. might be 40 lea, and give 40x300 = 12,000 yards per pound. This is a specific length therefore an indirect measurement of the fineness of the linen, i.e. the number of length units per unit mass. The symbol is NeL. (3)

More commonly used in continental Europe is the Metric system, Nm. This is the number of 1,000 m lengths per kilogram.

In China, the English Cotton system unit, NeC, is common. This is the number of 840 yard lengths in a pound.

Production method

Details of the flax plant, from which linen fibers are derived
Mechanical harvesting of flax in Belgium, Summer 2009. On the left side, flax is waiting to be harvested.

The quality of the finished linen product is often dependent upon growing conditions and harvesting techniques. To generate the longest possible fibers, flax is either hand-harvested by pulling up the entire plant or stalks are cut very close to the root. After harvesting, the seeds are removed through a mechanized process called “rippling” or by winnowing.

The fibers must then be loosened from the stalk. This is achieved through retting. This is a process which uses bacteria to decompose the pectin that binds the fibers together. Natural retting methods take place in tanks and pools, or directly in the fields. There are also chemical retting methods; these are faster, but are typically more harmful to the environment and to the fibers themselves.

After retting, the stalks are ready for scutching, which takes place between August and December. Scutching removes the woody portion of the stalks by crushing them between two metal rollers, so that the parts of the stalk can be separated. The fibers are removed and the other parts such as linseed, shive, and tow are set aside for other uses. Next the fibers are heckled: the short fibers are separated with heckling combs by 'combing' them away, to leave behind only the long, soft flax fibers.

After the fibers have been separated and processed, they are typically spun into yarns and woven or knit into linen textiles. These textiles can then be bleached, dyed, printed on, or finished with a number of treatments or coatings.[5]

An alternate production method is known as “cottonizing” which is quicker and requires less equipment. The flax stalks are processed using traditional cotton machinery; however, the finished fibers often lose the characteristic linen look.

See also: hand processing flax


Flax is grown in many parts of the world, but top quality flax is primarily grown in Western Europe. In very recent years bulk linen production has moved to Eastern Europe and China, but high quality fabrics are still confined to niche producers in Ireland, Italy and Belgium. Also countries including Poland, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, British Isles and some parts of India.


Over the past 30 years the end use for linen has changed dramatically. Approximately 70% of linen production in the 1990s was for apparel textiles whereas in the 1970s only about 5% was used for fashion fabrics.

Linen uses range from bed and bath fabrics (tablecloths, dish towels, bed sheets, etc.), home and commercial furnishing items (wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments, etc.), apparel items (suits, dresses, skirts, shirts, etc.), to industrial products (luggage, canvases, sewing thread, etc.).[4] It was once the preferred yarn for handsewing the uppers of moccasin-style shoes (loafers), but its use has been replaced by synthetics.

A linen handkerchief, pressed and folded to display the corners, was a standard decoration of a well-dressed man's suit during most of the first part of the 20th century.

Currently researchers are working on a cotton/flax blend to create new yarns which will improve the feel of denim during hot and humid weather.[6]

Linen fabric is one of the preferred traditional supports for oil painting. In the United States cotton is popularly used instead as linen is many times more expensive there, restricting its use to professional painters. In Europe however, linen is usually the only fabric support available in art shops. Linen is preferred to cotton for its strength, durability and archival integrity.

In the past linen was also used for books (the only surviving example of which is the Liber Linteus). Due to its strength, in the Middle Ages linen was used for shields and gambeson (among other roles such as use for a bowstring), much like how in Classical antiquity and Hellenistic Greece linen was used to make multi-plied Hoplite cuirasses. Also because of its strength when wet, Irish linen is a very popular wrap of pool/billiard cues, due to its absorption of sweat from hands. Paper made of linen can be very strong and crisp, which is why the United States and many other countries print their currency on paper that is made from 25% linen and 75% cotton.


Linen fabric has been used for table coverings, bed coverings and clothing for centuries. The exclusiveness of linen comes from the difficulty of working with the thread making it time consuming to produce (flax in itself requires a great deal of attention to grow). Flax thread is not elastic so is difficult to weave without breaking threads. Thus it is more expensive to manufacture than cotton.

The Living Linen Project was set up in 1995 as an Oral Archive of the knowledge of the Irish linen industry which is still available within a nucleus of people who formerly worked in the industry in Ulster. There is a long history of linen in Ireland.

The discovery of dyed flax fibers in a cave in the Republic of Georgia dated to 36,000 BP suggests people used wild flax fibers to create linen-like fabrics from an early date.[7][8] The use of linen for priestly vestments was not confined to the Israelites. Plutarch, who lived one hundred years after the birth of Christ, wrote that the priests of Isis also wore linen because of its purity.

In December 2006 the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres to raise the profile of linen and other natural fibers.


When the tomb of the Pharaoh Ramesses II, who died 1213 BC, was discovered in 1881, the linen wrappings were in a state of perfect preservation - after more than 3000 years.

In the Belfast Library there is preserved the mummy of "Kaboolie,' the daughter of a priest of Ammon, who died 2,500 years ago. The linen on this mummy is in a like state of perfection. When the tomb of Tutankamen was opened, the linen curtains were found intact.

Earliest linen industry

Diocletian's 4th century maximum prices edict showing prices for 3 grades of linen across the Roman Empire

In olden days, in almost every country, each family grew flax and wove the linen for its own use; but the earliest records of an established linen industry are 4,000 years old, and come to us from Egypt. The earliest written documentation of a linen industry comes from the Linear B tablets of Pylos, Greece, where linen is depicted as an ideogram and also written as "ri-no" (Greek: λίνον, linon), and the female linen workers are catalogued as "ri-ne-ja" (λίνεια, lineia). [9][10 ]

The Phoenicians, who, with their merchant fleet, opened up new channels of commerce to the peoples of the Mediterranean, besides developing the tin mines of Cornwall, introduced flax growing and the making of linen into Ireland before the common era, but the internal dissensions, which even in those early days were prevalent in Erin, militated against the establishment of an organized industry, and it is not until the twelfth century that we can find records of a definite attempt to systematize flax production.

When the Edict of Nantes was revoked, in A.D. 1685, many of the Huguenots who had to flee the country settled in the British Isles, and amongst them was Louis Crommelin, who was born, and brought up as a weaver of fine linen, in the town of Cambrai. He fled to Ulster, and eventually settled down in the small town of Lisburn, about ten miles from Belfast. Belfast itself is perhaps the most famous linen producing center throughout history, during the Victorian era the majority of the worlds linen was produced in the city which gained it the name Linenopolis.

During the late war Cambrai became well known as one of the centers of the most desperate fighting. The name "cambric" is derived from this town.

Although the linen industry was already established in Ulster, Louis Crommelin found scope for improvement in weaving, and his efforts were so successful that he was appointed by the Government to develop the industry over a much wider range.than the small confines of Lisburn and its surroundings. The direct result of his good work was the establishment, under statute, of the Board of Trustees of the Linen Manufacturers of Ireland in the year 1711.


In the Jewish religion, the only law concerning which fabrics may be interwoven together in clothing is one which concerns the mixture of linen and wool. This mixture is called shaatnez and is clearly restricted in Deuteronomy 22:11 "Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together" and Leviticus 19:19, "'...neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together.'" There is no explanation for this in the Torah itself and is categorized as a type of law known as chukim, a statute beyond man's ability to comprehend.[11] Josephus suggested that the reason for the prohibition was to keep the laity from wearing the official garb of the priests.[12] while Maimonides thought that the reason was because heathen priests wore such mixed garments.[13] Others explain that it is because God often forbids mixtures of disparate kinds, not designed by God to be compatible in a certain way, with mixing animal and vegetable fibers being similar to having two different types of plowing animals yoked together. And that such commands serve both a practical as well as allegorical purpose, perhaps here preventing a priestly garment that would cause discomfort (or excessive sweat) in a hot climate,[14] while also representing such forbidden spiritual admixtures as merit and grace as a means of salvation.[15]


The word linen is derived from the Latin for the flax plant, which is linum, and the earlier Greek linon. This word history has given rise to a number of other terms:

  • line, derived from the use of a linen thread to determine a straight line;
  • liniment, due to the use of finely ground flax seeds as a mild irritant applied to the skin to ease muscle pain
  • lining, because linen was often used to create a lining for wool and leather clothing
  • lingerie, via French, originally denotes underwear made of linen
  • linseed oil, an oil derived from flax seed
  • linoleum, a floor covering made from linseed oil and other materials

In addition, the term in English, flaxen-haired, denoting a very light, bright blonde, comes from a comparison to the color of raw flax fiber.

External links


  1. ^ Balter M. (2009). Clothes Make the (Hu) Man. Science,325(5946):1329.doi:10.1126/science.325_1329a
  2. ^ Kvavadze E, Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, Boaretto E,Jakeli N, Matskevich Z, Meshveliani T. (2009).30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers. Science, 325(5946):1359. doi:10.1126/science.1175404 Supporting Online Material
  3. ^ The natural history of the Bible, Thaddeus Mason Harris p 135
  4. ^ a b Textiles, Ninth Edition by Sara J. Kadolph and Anna L. Langford. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
  5. ^ a b c Classifications & Analysis of Textiles: A Handbook by Karen L. LaBat, Ph.D. and Carol J. Salusso, Ph.A. University of Minnesota, 2003
  6. ^ “Flax Fiber Offers Cotton Cool Comfort”, Agricultural Research magazine November 2005 issue
  7. ^ Balter M. (2009). Clothes Make the (Hu) Man. Science,325(5946):1329.doi:10.1126/science.325_1329a
  8. ^ Kvavadze E, Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, Boaretto E,Jakeli N, Matskevich Z, Meshveliani T. (2009).30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers. Science, 325(5946):1359. doi:10.1126/science.1175404 Supporting Online Material
  9. ^ Flax and Linen Textiles in the Mycenaean palatial economy
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ The Jewish Primer, by Shmuel Himelstein. New York, NY: Facts On File, 1990.
  12. ^ Etz Hayim p. 1118
  13. ^ Guide to the Perplexed 3:37
  14. ^ Jamieson, Fausset, Brown commentary, Lv. 19:19
  15. ^ John Gill; Ainsworth, Matthew Henry, Lv. 19:19 commentary

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LINEN and Linen Manufactures. Under the name of linen are comprehended all yarns spun and fabrics woven from flax fibre (see Flax).

From the earliest periods of human history till almost the close of the 18th century the linen manufacture was one of the most extensive and widely disseminated of the domestic industries of European countries. The industry was most largely developed in Russia, Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the northern provinces of France, and certain parts of England, in the north of Ireland, and throughout Scotland; and in these countries its importance was generally recognized by the enactment of special laws, having for their object the protection and extension of the trade. The inventions of Arkwright, Hargreaves and Crompton in the later part of the 18th century, benefiting almost exclusively the art of cotton-spinning, and the unparalleled development of that branch of textile manufactures, largely due to the ingenuity of these inventors, gave the linen trade as it then existed a fatal blow. Domestic spinning, and with it hand-loom weaving, immediately began to shrink; the trade which had supported whole villages and provinces entirely disappeared, and the linen manufacture, in attenuated dimensions and changed conditions, took refuge in special localities, where it resisted, not unsuccessfully, the further assaults of cotton, and, with varying fortunes, rearranged its relations in the community of textile industries. The linen industries of the United Kingdom were the first to suffer from the aggression of cotton; more slowly the influence of the rival textile reached other countries.

In 1810 Napoleon I. offered a reward of one million francs to any inventor who should devise the best machinery for the spinning of flax yarn. Within a few weeks thereafter Philippe de Girard patented in France important inventions for flax spinning by both dry and wet methods. His inventions, however, did not receive the promised reward and were neglected in his native country. In 1815 he was invited by the Austrian government to establish a spinning mill at Hirtenberg near Vienna, which was run with his machinery for a number of years, but it failed to prove a commercial success. In the meantime English inventors had applied themselves to the task of adapting machines to the preparation and spinning of flax. The foundation of machine spinning of flax was laid by John Kendrew and Thomas Porthouse of Darlington, who, in 1787, secured a patent for "a mill or machine upon new principles for spinning yarn from hemp, tow, flax or wool." By innumerable successive improvements and modifications, the invention of Kendrew and Porthouse developed into the perfect system of machinery with which, at the present day, spinning-mills are furnished; but progress in adapting flax fibres fcr mechanical spinning, and linen yarn for weaving cloth by power-loom was much slower than in the corresponding case of cotton.

Till comparatively recent times, the sole spinning implements were the spindle and distaff. The spindle, which is the fundamental apparatus in all spinning machinery, was a round stick or rod of wood about 12 in. in length, tapering towards each extremity, and having at its upper end a notch or slit into which the yarn might be caught or fixed. In general, a ring or "whorl" of stone or clay was passed round the upper part of the spindle to give it momentum and steadiness when in rotation, while in some few cases an ordinary potato served the purpose of a whorl. The distaff, or rock, was a rather longer and stronger bar or stick, around one end of which, in a loose coil or ball, the fibrous material to be spun was wound. The other extremity of the distaff was carried under the left arm, or fixed in the girdle at the left side, so as to have the coil of flax in a convenient position for drawing out to form the yarn. A prepared end of yarn being fixed into the notch, the spinster, by a smart rolling motion of the spindle with the right hand against the right leg, threw it out from her, spinning in the air, while, with the left hand, she drew from the rock an additional supply of fibre which was formed into a uniform and equal strand with the right. The yarn being sufficiently twisted was released from the notch, wound around the lower part of the spindle, and again fixed in the notch at the point insufficiently twisted; and so the rotating, twisting and drawing out operations went on till the spindle was full. So persistent is an ancient and primitive art of this description that in remote districts of Scotland - a country where machine spinning has attained a high standard - spinning with rock and spindle is still practised;' and yarn of extraordinary delicacy, beauty and tenacity has been spun by their agency. The first improvement on the primitive spindle was found in the construction of the hand-wheel, in which the spindle, mounted in a frame, was fixed horizontally, and rotated by a band passing round it and a large wheel, set in the same framework. Such a wheel became known in Europe about the middle of the 16th century, but it appears to have been in use for cotton spinning in the East from time immemorial. At a later date, which cannot be fixed, the treadle motion was attached to the spinning wheel, enabling the spinster to sit at work with both hands free; and the introduction of the two-handed or double-spindle wheel, with flyers or twisting arms on the spindles, completed the series of mechanical improvements effected on flax spinning till the end of the 18th century. The common use of the two-handed wheel throughout the rural districts of Ireland and Scotland is a matter still within the recollection of some people; but spinning wheels are now seldom seen.

The modern manufacture of linen divides itself into two branches, spinning and weaving, to which may be added the ' See Sir Arthur Mitchell's The Past in the Present (Edinburgh, 1880).

bleaching and various finishing processes, which, in the case of many linen textures, are laborious undertakings and important branches of industry. The flax fibre is received in bundles from the scutch mill, and after having been classed into various grades, according to the quality of the material, it is labelled and placed in the store ready for the flax mill. The whole operations in yarn manufacture comprise (i) hackling, (2) preparing and (3) spinning.

Table of contents


This first preparatory process consists not only in combing out, disentangling and laying smooth and parallel the separate fibres, but also serves to split up and separate into their ultimate filaments the strands of fibre which, up to this point, have been agglutinated together. The hackling process was originally performed by hand, and it was one of fundamental importance, requiring the exercise of much dexterity and judgment. The broken, ravelled and short fibres, which separate out in the hackling process, form tow, an article of much inferior value to the spinner. A good deal of hand-hackling is still practised, especially in Irish and continental mills; and it has not been found practicable, in any case, to dispense entirely with a rough preparation of the fibre by hand labour. In hackling by hand, the hackler takes a handful or "strick" of rough flax, winds the top end around his hands, and then, spreading out the root end as broad and flat as possible, by a swinging motion dashes the fibre into the hackle teeth or needles of the rougher or "ruffer." The rougher is a board plated with tin, and studded with spikes or teeth of steel about 7 in. in length, which taper to a fine sharp point. The hackler draws his strick several times through this tool, working gradually up from the roots to near his hand, till in his judgment the fibres at the root end are sufficiently combed out and smoothed. He then seizes the root end and similarly treats the top end of the strick. The same process is again repeated on a similar tool, the teeth of which are 5 in. long, and much more closely studded together; and for the finer counts of yarn a third and a fourth hackle may be used, of still increasing fineness and closeness of teeth. In dealing with certain varieties of the fibre, for fine spinning especially, the flax is, after roughing, broken or cut into three lengths - the top, middle and root ends. Of these the middle cut is most valuable, being uniform in length, strength and quality. The root end is more woody and harsh, while the top, though fine in quality, is uneven and variable in strength. From some flax of extra length it is possible to take two short middle cuts; and, again, the fibre is occasionally only broken into two cuts. Flax so prepared is known as "cut line" in contradistinction to "long line" flax, which is the fibre unbroken. The subsequent treatment of line, whether long or cut, does not present sufficient variation to require further reference to these distinctions.

In the case of hackling by machinery, the flax is first roughed and arranged in stricks, as above described under hand hackling. In the construction of hackling machines, the general principles of those now most commonly adopted are identical. The machines are known as vertical sheet hackling machines, their essential features being a set of endless leather bands or sheets revolving over a pair of rollers in a vertical direction. These sheets are crossed by iron bars, to which hackle stocks, furnished with teeth, are screwed. The hackle stocks on each separate sheet are of one size and gauge, but each successive sheet in the length of the machine is furnished with stocks of increasing fineness, so that the hackling tool at the end where the flax is entered is the coarsest, say about four pins per inch, while that to which the fibre is last submitted has the smallest and most closely set teeth. The finest tools may contain from 45 to 60 pins per inch. Thus the whole of the endless vertical revolving sheet presents a continuous series of hackle teeth, and the machines are furnished with a double set of such sheets revolving face to face, so close together that the pins of one set of sheets intersect those on the opposite stocks. Overhead, and exactly centred between these revolving sheets, is the head or holder channel, from which the flax hangs down while it is undergoing the hackling process on both sides. The flax is fastened in a holder consisting of two heavy flat plates of iron, between which it is spread and tightly screwed up. The holder is i i in. in length, and the holder channel is fitted to contain a line of six, eight or twelve such holders, according to the number of separate bands of hackling stocks in the machine. The head or holder channel has a falling and rising motion, by which it first presents the ends and gradually more and more of the length of the fibre to the hackle teeth, and, after dipping down the full length of the fibre exposed, it slowly rises and lifts the flax clear of the hackle stocks. By a reciprocal motion all the holders are then moved forward one length; that at the last and finest set of stocks is thrown out, and place is made for filling in an additional holder at the beginning of the series. Thus with a six-tool hackle, or set of stocks, each holder full of flax from beginning to end descends into and rises from the hackle teeth six times in travelling from end to end of the machine. The root ends being thus first hackled, the holders are shot back along an inclined plane, the iron plates unclamped, the flax reversed, and the top ends are then submitted to the same hackling operation. The tow made during the hackling process is carried down by the pins of the sheet, and is stripped from them by means of a circular brush placed immediately under the bottom roller. The brush revolves in the same direction as, but quicker than the sheet, consequently the tow is withdrawn from the pins. The tow is then removed from the brush by a doffer roller, from which it is finally removed by a doffing knife. This material is then carded by a machine similar to, but finer than, the one described under Jute. The hackled flax, however, is taken direct to the preparing department.


The various operations in this stage have for their object the proper assortment of dressed line into qualities fit for spinning, and the drawing out of the fibres to a perfectly level and uniform continuous ribbon or sliver, containing throughout an equal quantity of fibre in any given length. From the hackling the now smooth, glossy and clean stricks are taken to the sorting room, where they are assorted into different qualities by the "line sorter," who judges by both eye and touch the quality and capabilities of the fibre. So sorted, the material is passed to the spreading and drawing frames, a series or system of machines all similar in construction and effect. The essential features of the spreading frame are: (1) the feeding cloth or creeping sheet, which delivers the flax to (2) a pair of "feed and jockey" rollers, which pass it on (3) to the gill frame or fallers. The gill frame consists of a series of narrow hackle bars, with short closely studded teeth, which travel between the feed rollers and the drawing or "boss and pressing" rollers to be immediately attended to. They are, by an endless screw arrangement, carried forward at approximately the same rate at which the flax is delivered to them, and when they reach the end of their course they fall under, and by a similar screw arrangement are brought back to the starting-point; and thus they form an endless moving level toothed platform for carrying away the flax from the feed rollers. This is the machine in which the fibres are, for the first time, formed into a continuous length termed a sliver. In order to form this continuous sliver it is necessary that the short lengths of flax should overlap each other on the spread sheet or creeping sheet. This sheet contains four or six divisions, so that four or six lots of overlapped flax are moving at the same time towards the first pair of rollers - the boss rollers or retaining rollers. The fibre passes between these rollers and is immediately caught by the rising gills which carry the fibre towards the drawing rollers. The pins of the gills should pass through the fibre so that they may have complete control over it, while their speed should be a little greater than the surface speed of the retaining rollers. The fibre is thus carried forward to the drawing rollers, which have a surface speed of from 10 to 30 times that of the retaining rollers. The great difference between the speeds of the retaining and drawing rollers results in each sliver being drawn out to a corresponding degree. Finally all the slivers are run into one and in this state are passed between the delivery rollers into the sliver cans. Each can should contain the same length of sliver, a common length being moo yds. A bell is automatically rung by the machine to warn the attendant that the desired length has been deposited into the can. From the spreading frame the cans of sliver pass to the drawing frames, where from four to twelve slivers combined are passed through feed rollers over gills, and drawn out by drawing rollers to the thickness of one. A third and fourth similar doubling and drawing may be embraced in a preparing system, so that the number of doublings the flax undergoes, before it arrives at the roving frame, may amount to from one thousand to one hundred thousand, according to the quality of yarn in progress. Thus, for example, the doublings on one preparing system may be 6 X12 X12 X12 X 8 = 82 ,944. The slivers delivered by the last drawing frame are taken to the roving frame, where they are singly passed through feed rollers and over gills, and, after drafting to sufficient tenuity, they are slightly twisted by flyers and wound on bobbins, in which condition the material - termed "rove" or "rovings" - is ready for the spinning frame.' Spinning. - The spinning operation, which follows the roving, is done in two principal ways, called respectively dry spinning and wet spinning, the first being used for the lower counts or heavier yarns, while the second is exclusively adopted in the preparation of fine yarns. The spinning frame does not differ in principle from the throstle spinning machine used in cotton manufacture. The bobbins of flax rove are arranged in rows on each side of the frame (the spinning frames being all double) on pins in an inclined plane.

' The preparation of tow for spinning differs in essential features from the processes above described. Tow from different sources, such as scutching tow, hackle tow, &c. differs considerably in quality and value, some being very impure, filled with woody shives, &c. while other kinds are comparatively open and clean. A preliminary opening and cleaning is necessary for the dirty muchmatted tows, and in general thereafter they are passed through two carding engines called respectively the breaker and the finisher cards till the slivers from their processes are ready for the drawing and roving frames. In the case of fine clean tows, on the other hand, passing through a single carding engine may be sufficient. The processes which follow the carding do not differ materially from those followed in the preparation of rove from line flax.

The rove passes downwards through an eyelet or guide to a pair of nipping rollers between which and the final drawing rollers, placed in the case of dry spinning from 18 to 22 in. lower down, the fibre receives its final draft while passing over and under cylinders and guide-plate, and attains that degree of tenuity which the finished yarn must possess. From the last rollers the now attenuated material, in passing to the flyers receives the degree of twist which compacts the fibres into the round hard cord which constitutes spun yarn; and from the flyers it is wound on the more slowly rotating spool within the flyer arms, centred on the top of the spindle. The amount of twist given to the thread at the spinning frame varies from 1 . 5 to 2 times the square root of the count. In wet spinning the general sequence of operations is the same, but the rove, as unwound from its bobbin, first passes through a trough of water heated to about 120° Fahr.; and the interval between the two pairs of rollers in which the drawing out of the rove is accomplished is very much shorter. The influence of the hot water on the flax fibre appears to be that it softens the gummy substance which binds the separate cells together, and thereby allows the elementary cells to a certain extent to be drawn out without breaking the continuity of the fibre; and further it makes a finer, smoother and more uniform strand than can be obtained by dry spinning. The extent to which the original strick of flax as laid on the feeding roller for (say) the production of a 50 lea yarn is, by doublings and drawings, extended, when it reaches the spinning spindle, may be stated thus: 35 times on spreading frame, 15 times on first drawing frame, 15 times on second drawing frame, 14 times on third drawing frame, 15 times on roving frame and io times on spinning frame, in all 16,537,500 times its original length, with 8 X12 X16=1536 doublings on the three drawing frames. That is to say, 1 yd: of hackled line fed into the spreading frame is spread out, mixed with other fibres, to a length of about 9400 m. of yarn, when the above drafts obtain. The drafts are much shorter for the majority of yarns.

The next operation is reeling from the bobbins into hanks. By act of parliament, throughout the United Kingdom the standard measure of flax yard is the "lea," called also in Scotland the "cut" of 300 yds. The flax is wound or reeled on a reel having a circumference of 90 in. (22 yds.) making "a thread," and one hundred and twenty such threads form a lea. The grist or count of all fine yarns is estimated by the number of leas in 1 lb; thus "50 lea" indicates that there are 50 leas or cuts of 300 yds. each in 1 lb of the yard so denominated. With the heavier yarns in Scotland the quality is indicated by their weight per "spyndle" of 48 cuts or leas; thus "3 lb tow yarn" is such as weighs 3 lb per spyndle, equivalent to "16 lea." The hanks of yarn from wet spinning are either dried in a loft with artificial heat or exposed over ropes in the open air. When dry they are twisted back and forward to take the wiry feeling out of the yarn, and made up in bundles for the market as "grey yarn." English spinners make up their yarns into "bundles" of 20 hanks, each hank containing 10 leas; Irish spinners make hanks of 12 leas, 163 of which form a bundle; Scottish manufacturers adhere to the spyndle containing 4 hanks of 12 cuts or leas.

Commercial qualities of yarn range from about 8 lb tow yarns (6 lea) up to 160 lea line yarn. Very much finer yarn up even to 400 lea may be spun from the system of machines found in many mills; but these higher counts are only used for fine thread for sewing and for the making of lace. The highest counts of cut line flax are spun in Irish mills for the manufacture of fine cambrics and lawns which are characteristic features of the Ulster trade. Exceedingly high counts have sometimes been spun by hand, and for the preparation of the finest lace threads it is said the Belgian hand spinners must work in damp cellars, where the spinner is guided by the sense of touch alone, the filament being too fine to be seen by the eye. Such lace yarn is said to have been sold for as much as;240 per lb. In the Great Exhibition of 1851, yarn of 760 lea, equal to about 130 m. per Ib, was shown which had been spun by an Irish woman eighty-four years of age. In the same exhibition there was shown by a Cambray manufacturing firm hand-spun yarn equal to 1200 warp and 1600 weft or to more than 204 and 272 m. per lb respectively.


A large proportion of the linen yarn of commerce undergoes a more or less thorough bleaching before it is handed over to the weaver. Linen yarns in the green condition contain such a large proportion of gummy and resinous matter, removable by bleaching, that cloths which might present a firm close texture in their natural unbleached state would become thin and impoverished in a perfectly bleached condition. Nevertheless. in many cases it is much more satisfactory to weave the yarns in the green or natural colour, and to perform all bleaching operations in the piece. Manufacturers allow about 20 to 25% of loss in weight of yarn in bleaching from the green to the fully bleached stage; and the intermediate stages of boiled, improved, duck, cream, half bleach and three-quarters bleach, all indicating a certain degree of bleaching, have corresponding degrees of loss in weight. The differences in colour resulting from different degrees of bleaching are taken advantage of for producing patterns in certain classes of linen fabrics.

Linen thread is prepared from the various counts of fine bleached line yarn by winding the hanks on large spools, and twisting the various strands, two, three, four or six cord as the case may be, on a doubling spindle similar in principle to the yarn spinning frame, excepting, of course, the drawing rollers. A large trade in linen thread has been created by its use in the machine manufacture of boots and shoes, saddlery and other leather goods, and in heavy sewing-machine work generally. The thread industry is largely developed at Lisburn near Belfast, at Johnstone near Glasgow, Bridport, Dorsetshire, and at Paterson, New Jersey, United States. Fine cords, net twine and ropes are also twisted from flax.


The difficulties in the way of power-loom linen weaving, combined with the obstinate competition of hand-loom weavers, delayed the introduction of factory weaving of linen fabrics for many years after the system was fully applied to other textiles. The principal difficulty arose through the hardness and inelasticity of the linen yarns, owing to which the yarn frequently broke under the tension to which it was subjected. Competition with the hand-loom against the power-loom in certain classes of work is conceivable, although it is absolutely impossible for the. work of the spinning wheel to stand against the rivalry of drawing, roving and spinning frames. To the present day, in Ireland especially, a great deal of fine weaving is done by hand-loom. Warden states that power was applied on a small scale to the weaving of canvas in London about 1812; that in 1821 powerlooms were started for weaving linen at Kirkcaldy, Scotland; and that in 1824 Maberly & Co. of Aberdeen had two hundred power-looms erected for linen manu facture. The power-loom has been in uninterrupted use in the Broadford factory, Aberdeen, which then belonged to Maberly & Co., down to the present day, and that firm may be credited with being the effective introducers of power-loom weaving in the linen trade.

The various operations connected with linen weaving, such as winding, warping, dressing, beaming and drawing-in, do not differ in essential features from the like processes in the case of cotton weaving, &c., neither is there any significant modification in the looms employed (see Weaving). Dressing is a matter of importance in the preparation of linen warps for beaming. It consists in treating the spread yarn with flour or farina paste, applied to it by flannel-covered rollers, the lowermost of which revolves in a trough of paste. The paste is equalized on the yarn by brushes, and dried by passing the web over steam-heated cylinders before it is finally wound on the beam for weaving.

Linen fabrics are numerous in variety and widely different in their qualities, appearance and applications, ranging from heavy sail-cloth and rough sacking to the most delicate cambrics, lawns and scrims. The heavier manufactures include as a principal item sail-cloth, with canvas, tarpaulin, sacking and carpeting. The principal seats of the manufacture of these linens are Dundee, Arbroath, Forfar, Kirkcaldy, Aberdeen and Barnsley. The medium weight linens, which are used for a great variety of purposes, such as tent-making, towelling, covers, outer garments for men, linings, upholstery work, &c., include duck, huckaback, crash, tick, dowlas, osnaburg, low sheetings and low brown linens. Plain bleached linens form a class by themselves, and include principally the materials for shirts and collars and for bed sheets. Under the head of twilled linens are included drills, diapers and dimity for household use; and damasks for table linen, of which two kinds are distinguished - single or five-leaf damask, and double or eight-leaf damask, the pattern being formed by the intersection of warp and weft yarns at intervals of five and eight threads of yarn respectively. The fine linens are cambrics, lawns and handkerchiefs; and lastly, printed and dyed linen fabrics may be assigned to a special though not important class. In a general way it may be said regarding the British industry that the heavy linen trade centres in Dundee; medium goods are made in most linen manufacturing districts; damasks are chiefly produced in Belfast, Dunfermline and Perth; and the fine linen manufactures have their seat in Belfast and the north of Ireland. Leeds and Barnsley are the centres of the linen trade in England.

Linen fabrics have several advantages over cotton, resulting principally from the microscopic structure and length of the flax fibre. The cloth is much smoother and more lustrous than cotton cloth; and, presenting a less "woolly" surface, it does not soil so readily, nor absorb and retain moisture so freely, as the more spongy cotton; and it is at once a cool, clean and healthful material for bed-sheeting and clothing. Bleached linen, starched and dressed, possesses that unequalled purity, gloss and smoothness which make it alone the material suitable for shirt-fronts, collars and wristbands; and the gossamer delicacy, yet strength, of the thread it may be spun into fits it for the fine lace-making to which it is devoted. Flax is a slightly heavier material than cotton, while its strength is about double.



Number of


for Flax



Number of

Power looms

for Linen


Austria-Hungary. .









. 3400

England and Wales










Germany. .





Holland. .





Ireland. .










Norway. .. .





Russia. .





Scotland. .










Sweden .





As regards the actual number of spindles and power-looms engaged in linen manufacture, the following particulars are taken from the report of the Flax Supply Association for 1905: - British Exports of Linen Yarn and Cloth. Authorities. - History of the trade, &c.: Warden's Linen Trade, Ancient and Modern. Spinning: Peter Sharp, Flax, Tow and Jute Spinning (Dundee); H. R. Carter, Spinning and Twisting of Long Vegetable Fibres (London). Weaving: Woodhouse and Milne, Jute and Linen Weaving, part i., Mechanism, part ii., Calculations and Cloth Structure (Manchester); and Woodhouse and Milne, Textile Design: Pure and Applied (London). (T. Wo.)

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Middle English from Old English līnen from Proto-Germanic *līnīno- from Proto-Germanic *līnom from Proto-Indo-European *līn- (flax). Akin to Latin linum.




countable and uncountable; plural linens

linen (countable and uncountable; plural linens)

  1. (uncountable) Thread or cloth made from flax fiber.
  2. (countable) Domestic textiles, such as tablecloths, bedding, towels, under clothes, etc., that are made of linen or linen-like fabrics of cotton or other fibers; linens.
    She put the freshly cleaned linens into the linen closet.
  3. (colour) A light beige colour, like that of linen cloth undyed.
    linen colour:    


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  • Anagrams of eilnn
  • Lenin

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

  1. Heb., pishet, pishtah, denotes "flax," of which linen is made (Isa 19:9); wrought flax, i.e., "linen cloth", Lev 13:47, 48, 52, 59; Deut 22:11. Flax was early cultivated in Egypt (Ex 9:31), and also in Palestine (Josh 2:6; Hos 2:9). Various articles were made of it: garments (2 Sam 6:14), girdles (Jer 13:1), ropes and thread (Ezek 40:3), napkins (Lk 24:12; Jn 20:7), turbans (Ezek 44:18), and lamp-wicks (Isa 42:3).
  2. Heb. buts, "whiteness;" rendered "fine linen" in 1Chr 4:21; 15:27; 2Chr 2:14; 3:14; Est 1:6; 8:15, and "white linen" 2Chr 5:12. It is not certain whether this word means cotton or linen.
  3. Heb. bad; rendered "linen" Ex 28:42; 39:28; Lev 6:10; 16:4, 23, 32; 1Sam 2:18; 2 Sam 6:14, etc. It is uniformly used of the sacred vestments worn by the priests. The word is from a root signifying "separation."
  4. Heb. shesh; rendered "fine linen" Ex 25:4; 26:1, 31, 36, etc. In Prov 31:22 it is rendered in Authorized Version "silk," and in Revised Version "fine linen." The word denotes Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness (byssus). The finest Indian linen, the finest now made, has in an inch one hundred threads of warp and eighty-four of woof; while the Egyptian had sometimes one hundred and forty in the warp and sixty-four in the woof. This was the usual dress of the Egyptian priest. Pharaoh arrayed Joseph in a dress of linen (Gen 41:42).
  5. Heb. 'etun. Prov 7:16, "fine linen of Egypt;" in Revised Version, "the yarn of Egypt."
  6. Heb. sadin. Prov 31:24, "fine linen;" in Revised Version, "linen garments" (Jdg 14:12, 13; Isa 3:23). From this Hebrew word is probably derived the Greek word sindon, rendered "linen" in Mk 14:51, 52; 15:46; Mt 27:59.

The word "linen" is used as an emblem of moral purity (Rev 15:6). In Lk 16:19 it is mentioned as a mark of luxury.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Linen is a material made from the fibers of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum). It is usually used to make cloth.

It is often used in the creation of light clothing and table coverings.


The flax plant is one of the plants humans have grown and used. Linen cloth was already made at least 6,000 years ago in Egypt and Mesopotamia. This makes linen one of the oldest fibers and cloths used by humans, besides wool and hemp. Linen and hemp were the most important fiber plants in Europe for a long time. Linen was for example also used to wrap Egyptian mummies.

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