Chocolate and linen expertise – really, what is not to love about Belgium?
Sweets aside for a moment – what makes Belgian linen – well, so Belgian?
Belgian linen is “bespoke” in the sense that is made to a set of standards.
I have waited & waited for the right moment to use that word.
What makes it so & how can we non Belgians separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak?
I am going to tell you right now – so hands out of the virtual chocolate box & pay attention…
What Makes Belgian Linen Special
Get this, Belgian Linen is so special ’cause it is made – all made – in Belgium or Western Europe.
Let’s step back & learn the two distinctions of linen:
- Belgian Linen – made from flax grown, processed, spun & woven into fabric in Europe.
- Belgian Flax Linen – made from flax grown in Europe, but sent after retting to China or India for further processing, spinning & weaving.
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant.
The very best flax is grown in a specific coastal band of Western Europe. The area is south of Normandy in Northern France through Belgium and into the Netherlands.
Hence, all Belgian Linen & European Flax Linen starts out as a flax plant in Europe. It is in post harvest that the linen gets the distinction.
Flax grows best in Western Europe due to the unique combination of a damp ocean climate, the plant’s low thermal density, rich soil and the experience gained by the growers over centuries.
Other countries such as Russia & Canada also grow flax, but the conditions are not as ideal as those in Western Europe. Better flax = better linen.
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Difference between Belgian Linen and European Flax Linen
Ok, so since both materials are made from European flax, wherein does the difference actually lie.
Belgian linen is simply better quality as it made in European mills & by craftspeople that have created this sought after fabric for centuries. As with most things, practice & experience makes perfect.
That is not to say that you can’t get really lovely fabric of the European Flax Linen variety ~ you can. There are simply degrees of difference depending on the country of manufacture. The second string quarterback can still score a touchdown sort of thing.
Both Belgian Linen and European Flax Linen have associations that require the fabrics to meet certain standards.
For Belgian Linen the association is the Masters of Linen. This association requires its members to produce material of the highest standard with respect to quality, eco-friendly & labor practices.
The European Flax Linen Association certifies linen made outside of Europe if the material and production passes quality & environmental standards of less stringency than that of the Masters of Linen. That being said, still wonderful products.
How to tell if a fabric is authentic Belgian Linen
This is easy.
If a fabric is authentic Belgian Linen it will have a label or tag stating such. Here is an example of such a label or tag.
As I am sorting thru books of fabric & swatches these days in search of the perfect linen for a set of thrifted chairs, a vintage sofa and drapes.
I wanted to understand the bespoke – ness of Belgian Linen in order to make informed choices.
Now that I have the scoop, I need to make some choices!
More on that on another day…
** Kelly **
If you like to know about things like I do you’ll love my 101 series. Have a look, learn & have a laugh or two!