How to Identify Linen

As a beautiful and natural fabric, linen serves many purposes in our lives. As an item of clothing, it makes a valuable addition that maintains and helps our skin to breathe.

Photo by cottonbro on

I’ve grown to love it the more I use and wear it, so I’m always on the look out for it. So how do we recognize what is linen? Let’s take a look.

What’s on a Label?

You’d have guessed that when observing the labels, you would look for the word ‘linen’, which is true. Sometimes, you won’t just see linen labeled so plainly.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Due to it’s origin, from the flax seed, linen garments can also be described as ‘100% flax’. Don’t let this confuse you as it is exactly the same as linen, it’s just more specific about its origin.

Classic Linen Weave

When linen fibers are formed into threads, these threads are usually fairly thick. They’re still pretty fine, but the weave in the fabric is visible to the naked eye.

Photo by Caroline Feelgood on

You will often see the way these threads make up the material, which is pretty cool. The reason they are slightly thicker than something like cotton is due to their rigidity, and the length of cellulose fibers it contains. These long fibers give it it’s extra strength, and lends a hand to the next feature.

Crisp Feel

Ever washed clothes that started out soft and flexible like cotton, then find it turns into a crisp and less flexible material? This end result is what linen feels like all the time.

Fresh linen embodies the texture something slightly rigid. There is no stretch to it at all, and it does feel kind of stiff.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

But over time, as you wash it more, you’ll feel a slight fluffiness to it on the surface of the material. This fluff, which is just the loose fibers escaping, makes linen start to feel softer. This is the beauty of natural fabrics that age well.

Incredibly Hard to Keep Ironed

It’s the kind of material that on a pair of trousers, sitting down will immediately make it crease behind your knees or as soon as you fold it.

Photo by Kelly Lacy on

This is just a prominent feature of linen fabric. But this can happen to many other natural fabrics too, just because they absorb water, which can give the fabric some holding power.

If this isn’t definitive in figuring out your linens, then we can go the scientific route.

What the Burn Test Reveals

Linen will react very quickly to a flame when bought up to one. As a lightweight, sugar-filled material, this makes the fabric go up and burn through very fast. The flame will have a yellow color, and like paper, it will go out with a slight glow at the edges.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

It’s ability to burn up quickly means the outcome of the test will be small; it will provide small amounts of lightweight, light grey ash and be pretty dry and brittle. This is probably the best way to figure out if it’s linen.

One thought on “How to Identify Linen

Leave a Reply