The linen fabric 101

The history of linen fabric

Linen is a fabric full of character, detail and strength. It’s story goes far back in history, with flax widely believed to be one of the most ancient agricultural crops in existence. This natural fibre has been used for many applications from ship sails to shield coverings. The oldest linen sample studied was found in a cave in Georgia that dates back 36,000 years and was likely made with wild flax fibres. The long fibres of the flax plant are extremely durable and robust, they can also be easily coloured with natural dyes making linen a form of expression and art. Ancient Egyptians took advantage of its coolness and anti-bacterial properties from mummification to garments.

Image via de la Cuona
Image via de la Cuona

The facts on flax

The craft of linen manufacture begins with a humble flaxseed. Sown in the ground in early March, the seed germinates, grows and blooms in in the spring and summer, before it is ready to be harvested. With plants standing three feet tall with glossy leaves and pale blue flowers, flax fields are a spectacle to see. The flax plant grows wild in cool climates all over the world, from India to Western Europe. The sturdy flax stocks are soaked, causing them to be broken down by a biological process called retting. Although the manual spinning and loom weaving have been replaced by modern techniques, linen continues to uphold the heritage of these traditional techniques.

flax-field - linen fabric sofas & stuff

Linen fabric characteristics

Absorbent and breathable, linen often feels cool to the touch. It is an inelastic fibre, which is why linen creases so easily. Linen is widely known and used in fashion and interior design. It is an extremely breathable fabric with a relaxed aesthetic. Perhaps one of linen’s most shining qualities, however, is its durability. Linen’s soft texture evolves over time. Few other fabrics share this quality of improving with age, making it an excellent choice as an upholstery fabric. Like your favourite linen shirt, a sofa upholstered in a linen fabric will gracefully mature, staying in beautiful condition for many years to come. Moreover, linen fabric does not pill easily and is also resistant to moths.

Linen in Interiors

Good quality plain linen never goes out of fashion and occupies a special space in the heart of many interior designers. Likewise its relaxed aesthetic has a lived-in feel and softens a space. “Linen is completely versatile, and we continue to develop different fabrics,” says Bernie de Le Cuona, founder of de Le Cuona, a textile company known for both quality and breadth of choice when it comes to linen.

image via: de la Cuona
image via: de la Cuona

A bespoke, handmade British sofa, upholstered in a soft and tactile linen is a sophisticated piece equally at home in a country cottage or townhouse. Whether it’s a relaxed farmhouse feel or laid back luxury you are striving towards, there is a linen fabric for you. A structured and buttoned sofa such as the Haresfield, for instance, takes on a fresh and inviting character when upholstered in the softly tactile Sole Linen. For a space to feel homely interior designers often introduce a mix of textures and layers to bring interest and depth to a space. Linen can dress anything from windows treatments, furniture to soft furnishings.

haresfield sofa in linen fabirc sofas & Stuff


Linen fabrics, in various weights and forms, feature strongly in Sofas & Stuff’s fabric collections. You can choose from silky plains in neutral and earthy shades, bold woven stripes or glorious floral prints. There is a wealth of choice across our Essentials, Signature and Exclusive fabric ranges and a linen to suit all interiors and lifestyles. Come into your nearest showroom, see a selection of our favourite linens on our sofas and chairs and browse through our fabric libraries. You can also book a free design consultation to discuss your plans and ideas.

Alysha Stirling