Buying high-quality fabrics like linen not only helps you save money but also protects the environment by reducing resource consumption, waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
And valuable fabrics like good quality linen are more likely to be produced sustainably and under decent conditions for textile factory workers. They drive positive change in the global textile and apparel industry.
Premium fabrics not only are more environmentally friendly but also last longer. And clothes made of high-quality materials like pure natural linen look and feel much better.
Linen is durable, comfortable, resistant, lightweight, versatile, breathable, easy to care for, and quick-drying. Organic linen is also considered a very luxurious fabric and environmentally friendly.
One of the best ways to promote sustainable fashion is to buy higher-quality textiles. To help you make more mindful purchasing decisions, here is how to check the fabric quality of linen.
We've got you covered if you also need sustainable and affordable linen clothing from the best fashion brands.
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1. Check for true linen
The first step to inspect linen quality is to verify that the material is true linen. Linen usually makes high-quality fabrics but it has to be true linen from 100% natural sources.
Unfortunately, many fabrics are labeled linen when in reality they are made from synthetic materials. Because linen is rare and so expensive to make, fake linen is everywhere.
Don't mistake natural, luxurious, and eco-friendly linen with fake linen. Many fabrics made from synthetic fiber blends, such as polyester, nylon, rayon, or acrylic, are often mislabeled as linen.
If you've just received clothing, sheets, furniture made of linen as a gift, or if you're planning to purchase them at a second-hand shop, vintage market, auction, fashion fair, you might want to know if the fabric is truly linen.
The easiest and most common method to know if it's real linen is to take a close look at the fabric, check for natural colors, strong fibers, wrinkles, obvious slubs, and moisture-wicking properties.
This is how you can tell that the fabric is true linen when tags, labels, copyright, brand name, care instructions, and certifications are missing.
2. Look for natural colors
The natural color of undyed linen is pale yellowish-gray. Depending on its fabrication, the color of natural linen can vary between beige, taupe, grey, cream, ecru, sand, and ivory.
Since linen is made from flax fibers, the color of natural linen is massively affected by the farming and manufacturing processes used to obtain fibers from flax plants. Retting is one of the main factors that determine the color of natural linen.
Straw is an agricultural by-product consisting of the dry stalks of the flax plant. Dressing the flax is the process of removing the straw from the fibers. The color of unspun, dressed flax is pale yellowish-gray, the color of straw.
Contrary to popular belief, perfect white isn't the natural color of linen.
Since linen can be dyed very easily, most linen textiles are bought pure white or in a wide range of colors.
Make sure to look for information on the dyes used during manufacturing to ensure a durable and eco-friendly process. Well-done coloring is a clue for quality linen fabric.
3. Analyze the price point
Linen as a fabric is quite difficult to weave compared to other natural fibers. Its manufacturing is laborious and time-consuming and its production costs are two times higher than cotton.
Linen is the most expensive and sustainable clothing fabric in the world. It's a woven fabric made from 100% natural fibers and sold at a high price because it's difficult to make and has a lower availability.
Low-priced fabrics are cheaply made and of low quality. High prices don't necessarily mean higher quality but they are good indicators and help you make better choices.
Linen is rare and expensive. It's considered a very luxurious fabric and a great choice for high-end garments. It's a fabulous high-quality and expensive material that is also environmentally friendly.
In history, linen cloth symbolized luxury, preciousness, and extravagance. It was used at dining tables in the Middle Age as a symbol of power, to exhibit authority and wealth.
Nowadays, many luxury fashion brands and well-known clothing designers choose linen fabric for their collections. Linen is also used for tablecloths and beddings in high-rated restaurants and hotels.
4. Search for wrinkles
Since linen isn't very elastic, search for wrinkles throughout the fabric. Natural creases are often a great indication of real linen. The main disadvantage of linen is its poor elasticity.
Linen can wrinkle easily. And during linen fabric manufacturing, the machinery has to run quite slow to weave flax fibers as they break quickly. That's why linen is often blended with other materials.
5. Test linen high strength
Linen fabric is natural and very versatile. Linen is used for men's and women's clothing alike. It's also highly resistant, durable, and rigid. Linen is about two to three times stronger than cotton.
High-quality fabrics like linen keep their strength and shape even after being stretched out. Pull the fabric with both hands and see if it comes back into place.
Linen fabric is very durable, resistant, long-lasting, and strong. Examine the fabric for its sturdiness, no trace of wear, or tear. It's a great sign for durability and longevity.
6. Feel linen good quality
Another way to tell if linen is of good quality is to get up close and personal and feel the fabric by hand. How does linen feel under your hand and on your skin?
Look up close as the linen fiber is much coarser and thicker than other natural fibers such as cotton yarn. It's rough as well but gets smoother over time.
7. Check the fabric weight
Check the linen fabric weight to see if it's good quality. Lightweight fabrics tend to be cheaper and less resistant than heavier textiles. Fabric weight is a great indicator of strong construction.
If you want a sturdier and more durable fabric, pick heavier fabrics that are known for their strength and quality. Lighter fabrics are usually cheaply made to preserve raw materials and reduce costs.
8. Test linen moisture-wicking properties
Linen fabric is highly absorbent and moisture-wicking. Test linen water absorption and moisture-wicking properties to tell if it's good quality. Natural and high-quality fabrics are generally highly permeable.
The main advantages of linen for clothing are breathability, easy care, and quick-dry qualities. Linen is often used for bath towels, mats, robes, and other household articles.
Simply moisten the fabric gently, press it with your fingers, and see how fast it absorbs liquids. Moisture should follow the threads of linen and not make an even wet spot.
9. Look for imperfections
Imperfections are the sign of true linen and they are exactly what makes it so appealing. You can see slubs in linen fabrics, small bumps throughout the weave, and feel them with your hand.
Real, quality linen has obvious bulges in the fabric. It gives a natural feel and charming look to any wardrobe. Whereas fake linen is very flat and even in appearance.
However, small imperfections are very common in low-quality and cheaply made textiles. Cuts, irregularities, and defects are often caused by cheap materials with low fiber strength or simply bad construction.
10. Avoid see-through textiles
Fabrics that are unintentionally see-through and revealing aren't safe to buy. They are bound to cause issues as the fabric is light, thin, and won't hold. Avoid buying transparent fabrics at all costs.
See-through textiles are loose and more subject to deterioration over time. They tear and break down easily after wearing and washing them. Instead, choose quality linen fabrics made with a tight weave or knit.
11. Source linen responsibly
Where does the linen fabric come from? Who made it and under what kind of conditions? The fabric's origin tells you a lot about its quality. Pay great attention to the store and its suppliers before making any purchase.
Buy linen fabric made sustainably with ethical production methods. The best textiles are manufactured with high standards regarding the environment and people.
12. Search for certification standards
Certification standards guarantee production with sustainable processes under environmentally friendly and socially responsible working conditions.
Choose quality linen textiles that are certified by third-party organizations for a lower impact on people, the environment, animals, and responsible use of resources.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.