Evaluating fabric options for a project can be a daunting task.
Even when you have narrowed down your choices and selected linen as your fabric of choice, deciding which types of linen to use is a whole other decision-making process.
Italian linen, French linen, Belgian linen, European linen, Irish linen … There are a host of choices available to you.
Italian linen, in particular, often garners a lot of attention based on its namesake. But, in reality, a name doesn’t make a piece of fabric any more or less luxurious. In fact, many of the fibers used to construct different types of linen are all sourced from the same region.
When shopping for linen fabric for your project, here’s what you need to know about Italian vs. European and finding the best fabric that meets your needs.
Flax Production In Europe
The northern regions of Italy, such as Tuscany, are known for their textile production, including linen and cotton. In fact, many Italian families have a long history of fabric production.
However, linen is created using the fibers from flax plants, and many of these flax plants are located in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. These countries feature cool, coastal climates with rich soils, making them the ideal location for flax fields.
In fact, most of the world’s flax production originates in these countries that border the English Channel and North Sea. That means most of the linen manufactured in Europe … whether in Italy, Belgium, or France…uses the flax grown in these regions.
In other words, although Italian linen may be manufactured in Italy, the flax fibers manufacturers use to create linen fabric comes from the same source as the flax fibers used in European linen or other types of linen.
It’s important to note that other countries like China and the United States also grow flax. However, the European countries of France, Belgium and the Netherlands remain the gold standard for flax growth and linen production due to other factors that we’ll explore below.
Whether the flax is grown to construct Italian linen, European linen or another type of linen, this process is known for its sustainability.
Many of the flax fields found along the western shores of Europe embrace sustainable practices. Even linen itself is a sustainable product because:
- Very little water is required to grow flax, so farmers are not required to irrigate or fertilize during this process.
- Flax typically does not require pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
- Very little is wasted once the plant is harvested. Other parts of the plant can be used for other purposes, such as flax seeds for consumption.
- Linen enjoys a long lifespan because of its durability.
- When linen is discarded, it is biodegradable.
Whether you utilize Italian linen or European linen, you’ll enjoy the same sustainable benefits from both.
Same Level Of Care
Both Italian linen and European linen require similar levels of care. The good news is, that care is minimal.
One of the best features of linen is its fairly simple cleaning and drying process. This makes linen an optimal textile for products like upholstery and window treatments.
Linen can even be cleaned and dried in an individual’s washing machine and dryer, though it can also be hand-washed or dry-cleaned using professional services.
For example, there are just a few washing and drying methods to keep in mind with linen:
- Hot water should be avoided since it can cause linen fabric to shrink. It can also damage or weaken the fibers.
- Linen fabric should never be twisted or scrubbed, as this can damage the fibers as well.
- Bleaching should be avoided as it can discolor the fabric.
- Dry linen upholstery on low heat and remove when they are somewhat damp.
Linen fabric located in high-traffic areas should receive more regular maintenance than linen fabric located in other areas in order to retain its fresh feel.
Other Similar Benefits
Both Italian and European linen feature many of the same benefits that make them highly sought after. They are both moisture-resistant, hypoallergenic and breathable.
No matter where linen fabric is constructed, the textile comes from the cellulose-based fibers of the flax plant that feature these qualities. In fact, linen can absorb dampness up to 20% without even feeling wet. This is an important benefit in humid climates since hidden dampness can lead to bacterial growth.
Because flax is naturally hypoallergenic, it is considered friendly to a person’s skin. This can be especially beneficial for those who suffer from allergies.
Those who live in hot climates appreciate how linen keeps you cool in the summer, yet it also has the ability to keep a person warm in the winter as well.
Finally, linen is very breathable, allowing for better regulation of a person’s body temperature. This, in turn, impacts how well a person sleeps at night and is why it is a go-to fabric for fine linens.
Because the soil and cool climates found in European countries like France, the Netherlands and Belgium are ideal for flax crops, much of the flax sourced for linen (whether Italian, European or another type) comes from this region.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in the name, especially since Italian products often denote extravagance and affluence. However, most of the flax used in the production of linen is sourced from the same region. Therefore, various types of linen all enjoy the same high-quality, sustainable and durable benefits.
Perhaps more important is the linen supplier you use to obtain your textile. This can impact communication with your supplier, shipping times, potential customs issues and your ability to verify manufacturing processes.
Our article, What To Look For In A Linen Supplier, explores whether your supplier should be located domestically or overseas, what customization opportunities it should offer, and other items to look for when choosing a partner for your project.