Linen has been the chosen cloth of pharaohs, medieval royalty and the upper echelons of European society throughout history. Although superior characteristics such as strength, durability and softness have made linen a fabric of choice over the centuries, its association with aristocracy is not necessarily the reason why linen is more costly than cotton.
The high cost of linen bedding can be put down to three main reasons and they’re all to do with the production process.
- In colder climates, flax thrives. As a consequence, the best flax comes from countries in Western Europe, such as France, Belgium, Italy, etc. The cost of growing flax is simply higher than cotton, which is harder and grows much more widely, due to the generally higher cost of life and industry in these areas, there is a knock on effect on the cost of growing flax to be made into linen.
- It is very time-consuming and laborious to harvest flax. The time for flax to become ready is about 90 days from seed to harvest. To optimise the length of the fibre that can be harvested, the plant must be uprooted and not simply cut. If harvested, a laborious 3-step method of retting (soaking the stalks to soften them), scutching (separating the woody stalk from the inner fibre) and finally hackling (separating the long fibres from shorter ones) requires the process of extracting the flax fibre from the stalk of the plant.
- It is also a fine art to weave flax into linen cloth. Flax fibres can split easily and are fragile. As a result, the industrial scale of weaving linen requires machinery that runs slower and produces lower volumes compared to cotton in the same amount of time.
So, it's not so much that linen has become more costly, but rather that cotton has become cheaper and easier to procure. But hold on now before you run off to buy some cotton bedding unfortunately cotton is not as eco-friendly as linen fabric.
Compared to linen, cotton production uses much more water and, sadly, chemical pesticides. Finally whilst linen may be more expensive, its value for money is still superior. Linen bedding will outlast its cotton bedding counterpart several times over. Nor will it lose its shape with repeated washing, whilst cotton bedding does. If you're looking for the best linen bedding in the UK, look no further.