The difference between cotton and linen may be slight to most, but it is interesting to know how and why these fibers are used in the way they are.
Linen is one of the oldest recognized fibers around and dates back thousands of years. There have been records of linen that are over 4000 years old and it was used in the mummification process by the Egyptians. Linen is a fine fabric that comes from the Flax plant, the fibers of flax are one of the strongest vegetable fibers around and this is what makes linen such a refined and durable fabric. Linen is a bast fiber, that is, that the inner walls of the stem of the plant is used for extracting the fibers. This is one of the main reasons the fiber is so soft and forever being used to make fine and delicate items and also revered for its coolness and freshness in hot weather. The fiber is ‘hollow’ making it a good insulator. In garments it is more absorbent than cotton. Could also be considered more environmentally friendly as less pesticides and water is used in the growing process. Linen also has a incomparable texture and handle. It naturally soften with use and age and is naturally anti bacterial. Its is not as easy to produce as the threads are not as elastic as cotton making it slightly more expensive.
Cotton also dates back to antiquity but was not used as widely as linen until the invention of the cotton gin that lowered the cost of production and lead to its widespread use. It is a soft and fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll (or protective capsule) and most often spun into thread to make soft and breathable textiles. As cotton does not absorb as much moisture as linen it feels warmer and softer. Cotton is used widely today in clothing as it is easier to dye, does not crease as easily and is warmer in colder climates.
At Mungo we use both fibers independently as well as weaving a mix of cotton and linen. The Cloverleaf range is 100% linen and the Kikoi stripe range is pure cotton. While the Toulouse range is a cotton and linen mix. We have created this to get the best of both fibres. The crisp and durable handle of the linen while the cotton allows less creasing and a softer to touch feel.