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History of Linen

linen plant
natural flax linum fabric

Linen comes from the flax (linseed) plant, which is an important food and fibre crop found in cooler areas of the world such as Northern Eastern Europe. The first use of flax fabric in textile production was found in what is now Georgia and Middle East. In the ancient world linen was considered a hot commodity, valued for its practical uses and spiritual symbolism. In ancient Egypt, considered a symbol of purity, flax linen was worn by priests, as well as used in the embalming process; and in Rome it was often used to make sails. After the fall of the Roman Empire linen lost its international popularity for some time, but still had the time to make its way into Europe. In Western Europe linen became popularized by Charlemagne who was aware of its strength and hygienic properties. Flax linen first appeared in the Slavic regions in the IX century; they prized linen for its versatility, and considered the fabric pure, mystical, and holy. Flax was used by Slavic people of all social classes in day to day life, and in marriage and other rituals. Peter I, during his reign, industrialized the production of linen goods, and later, Catherine II encouraged export, making Belorussian linen available to the rest of Europe. To this day flax and the material it produces remains a prized national product of Belarus, prized for its quality, utility, and history.