Linen or cotton – which one is better?
Fashion for natural fabrics made linen and cotton extremely popular. However, sometimes it is hard to decide which one of these two products is the best. That is why you should know a thing or two about these fabrics to know their pros and cons.
How is linen made: cultivation
It is said that flax was cultivated in Ancient Egypt - linen clothes has always been a symbol of luxury and also served as currency. It is hard to believe that this simple blue-flowered plant would give birth to such an astonishing fabric. The cultivation of linen plant starts with stalks laid out on the grass for several weeks. This lets flax get soaked in dew thus helping to separate it from the woody part of its stalk. Then flax is dried, crushed, scotched, and combed; after that a thin thread – roving – is pulled out of it and is used to spin yarn or weave canvas.
Nowadays, the process of flax harvesting and combing is fully automated.
Linen fabric for health and comfort
Quality linen clothes are especially appreciated in hot climates - flax perfectly absorbs moisture and is highly breathable. Due to the fact that flax stops bacterial growth, there is no unpleasant odor even with excessive sweating. In other words, you will feel very comfortable in linen clothes. At the same time, linen fabric retains warmth and has antibacterial properties; that is why new-born babies were wrapped in sheets made of flax linen in the days passed. Linen fabric reduces radioactivity level by half and also relieves static charge and protects against electromagnetic radiation. By the way, when flax is cultivated no pesticides and herbicides are used, so this material is considered safe for health and is perfect for children and people with allergies.
And what durable material linen is!
No wonder it is used to make not only the most delicate textile for home use but also ropes, tents and work clothes. However, pure linen also has its disadvantages: it wrinkles and shrinks easily if washed at high temperature. But if you see words “wrinkle free linen” on the label of the linen product it means that is was processed with artificial resin and formaldehyde, so it can’t be considered “natural” anymore. Linen fabric is simple to maintain and easy to use; and to keep it from wrinkling many manufacturers add a bit of viscose which does not influence the unique characteristics of flax.
How cotton is cultivated?
Cotton bushes were first cultivated in Persia already in XV B.C., and now about 20 million tons of cotton is gathered in the world. Cotton pods are gathered from bushes by hand and then white fluffy wool is separated with the help of machines. Then cotton is cleaned of husks and used to spin cotton threads which the final fabric is made of. Depending on the length of the fibers and kinds of weave various fabrics can be made – sateen, calico, coarse calico, serge, batiste, poplin, jacquard, marquisette, taffeta, flannel, or frieze.
Cotton and its unique characteristics
Due to its porous structure, cotton has a high hygroscopic property and breathability; that is why it is quite helpful in hot weather. Cotton is used to make not only blankets, bedding, lining materials and clothes but also towels. Cotton fabrics are extremely comfortable and pleasant to wear; they are also easy to handle even though they shrink as much as linen after wash. Cotton is pleasant to touch and is easy to drape. Natural cotton fabrics also wrinkle as easily as linen; that is why about 5% of polyester or elastane is added to it. Besides, cotton material is very wear-proof. Cotton also retains warmth pretty well due to the hollow structure of the fiber.
Unfortunately, when growing cotton, pesticides and other chemicals are used – it is inevitable, otherwise the entire crop can get destroyed by pests. Also, toxic ingredients are often used during bleaching and dyeing of the cotton fabric. In these days many brands produce organic cotton that carries a “100% Organic Cotton” label on it. This kind of cotton is cultivated and processed at small farms in eco-friendly conditions. And, of course, such cotton costs so much more.