Caring for Linens

Linen, a fabric that is spun from flax, was the first fiber to be made into a fabric which dates back thousands of years. Upon the advent of the cotton gin around the time of the Industrial Revolution, its popularity waned in favor of cotton due to its relative ease to production and being less expensive to produce.

What’s so great about linen is that it lasts much longer than cotton, which is why it is possible to shop for beautiful vintage linens. Sleeping on linen is wonderful. Due to its breathability, it helps to regulate your body temperature as you sleep keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. At a flea market in Paris, I came across a gorgeous flat sheet with my monogram ‘GN’ but did not have the cash on hand to purchase it and the vendor could not accept a credit card, and I regret it to this day (note to self: ALWAYS arrive at a flea market prepared!). It was at least fifty years old and like all of the others at the booth, in great condition.

Linen gets softer with each wash, is highly absorbent, yet repels dirt, so it stays looking crisper on your bed longer than a cotton sheet or duvet, for example. When shopping for linens, be sure to check that it is 100% linen, and not a cotton blend. Pure linen is weightier than cotton and therefore has a better drape on your bed and if ironed, won’t rumple as much as cotton.  Linen needs to be washed in cold or tepid water to prevent shrinking in a mild detergent and line dried. Never put linen in the dryer. I would not recommend bleaching as it can weaken the fibers over time, but I have had no trouble getting my linens to return to their crisp white state with regular washing and pre-treating as needed. If it can be dried outdoors, the sun can help with brightening. While you don’t absolutely need to iron linen sheets and pillowcases, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of climbing into freshly ironed bedding, so don’t rule it out. Though I don’t always iron everything, I always iron the pillowcases because it makes your bed look that much more polished. If the linen has any embroidery or monogram, pass the iron on the reverse side instead of over the top so the embroidery pops.

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