Flax colours

11 July 2023

  • Fashion
  • Linen

Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of colourful linen and let yourself be transported. From the history of dyeing this textile the most complex shades, discover how linen became an indispensable, versatile, and colourful plant-based material through the ages.

Linen, colourful plant-based material

A few historical milestones

The origins of flax can be traced back to 36,000 BCE following the discovery of the first flax fibres in a cave in the Caucasus. From then, flax has travelled across time, leaving its mark on many civilisations. In Ancient Egypt, linen played a key role in the economy, where it was used to make clothes, ropes, and sails. The Phoenicians exported flax to Scotland, Persia, India, and China around 3000 BCE. During the Gallic Wars (58-52 BCE), Julius Caesar was impressed by the quality of textiles made by the population of Gaul. In the Middle Ages, flax growing and dyeing developed significantly in Europe, where the textile was used to manufacture clothing for people of different social standing, as well as to create works of art, especially painted canvases.

Classic line colours

Basic linen colours

Linen, a noble and versatile material, has a rich colour palette, of which some hues are considered classics thanks to their popularity and frequent use throughout the ages. Often, the classic shades of linen were shaped by traditions, beliefs and cultural preferences.

Among the most commonly used colours, white holds a predominant place. It is synonymous with purity, simplicity and elegance. White is also associated with religious rituals and important ceremonies, such as marriages and baptisms. White linen is often chosen for its timeless character, easy care, and its ability to be used alongside other colours and patterns.

So-called “natural” linen, which retains the raw colour of the plant fibre, is another classic shade, popular for its authenticity and simplicity. Beige and ecru, resulting from the flax transformation process, reflect the material’s rustic, organic aspects. These natural hues are often selected for their warm appearance and their ability to create a soothing, comfortable atmosphere. These tones are also popular for their versatility, since they can be easily adapted for different styles of interior design.

Finally, shades of grey, for example light grey or anthracite grey, are becoming increasingly popular in linen textiles, especially for use in interior design. Grey is considered to be a neutral and versatile colour, which can harmonise with a multitude of colours and can lend an air of sophistication and modernity to a space. Shades of grey are often chosen for their ability to balance moods and contrasts.

The complex colours of flax fibre

Flax fibre offers a natural colour palette from beige to brown to grey. These shades are obtained through different fibre processing methods. For example, retting, which consists of laying the flax plant stalks on the ground to break down the pectin that binds the flax fibres, gives the fibres a lighter colour. The shade also depends on the fibre quality and climatic conditions. Organic flax is often a darker colour due to the absence of chemicals during its cultivation.

Flax fibre has remarkable dyeability, giving it an extraordinary ability to take on deep, nuanced colours. The porous structure of flax promotes the even absorption of pigments, allowing for intense, lasting hues. In addition, flax fibre is resistant to light and repeated washing, guaranteeing colour longevity.

Among the complex colours that can be obtained through dyeing flax, some are particularly deep and bright. For example, dark blue has always been a challenge due to its tendency to turn green during the dyeing process. To obtain this hue, the flax must be repeatedly steeped in the dye solution, and the pigment dosage must be perfectly calibrated.

Fenêtre avec rideau en lin orange copyright Lissoy
Essuie mains en lin orange copyright Joséphine Pavot

Crimson red is also difficult to achieve due to the need to overlay different pigments to achieve the desired depth. Dyers must often use different sources of red pigment, such as madder and cochineal, to create this enchanting hue. The exact blend of pigments and the duration of their application are crucial to obtaining the sought-after deep and bright purplish red.

Emerald green is another colour that is difficult to obtain, as it requires a delicate balance between blue and yellow pigments. To create it, dyers must master the art of layering colours. Finally, deep black is a colour that also demands exceptional skills for complete mastery.

Unlike the other colours, black requires a high pigment concentration and a long soaking time so that it can deeply penetrate the flax fibre. Moreover, the stability of the black colour depends on the quality of the pigments used, as well as on how the fibre was pre-treated.

The linen rainbow

Linen has the advantage of being easily dyed and offers a broad range of potential colours.

Purple linen

Purple linen evokes the aura of royalty and nobility. It is often associated with spirituality and meditation. This deep colour looks magnificent in a dress or linen skirt. The softness and lightness of linen are a perfect companion for the richness of the colour purple.

 Indigo linen

Indigo linen is a timeless classic. Both deep and rich at the same time, it is often associated with tranquillity and serenity. An indigo linen shirt would be an elegant and refined choice for formal or casual occasions. Indigo linen is often popular for use in linen trousers.

Lin inspirant copyright Alliance Nouta Kiaïe
Caractéristiques lin vert copyright Hast

Blue linen

Blue is a soft and soothing colour. Often associated with the sea and the sky, it is popular for summer linen garments such as dresses, skirts and shirts. This colour works for all occasions, from casual picnics to dressier nights out.

Green linen

Green is fresh and invigorating, bringing to mind nature and rebirth. It is often associated with good luck and harmony. A green linen shirt would be the ideal choice for a relaxed and elegant look, while a green linen dress is a popular option for weddings and formal occasions.

Yellow linen

Yellow or even ochre is bright and sunny, evoking joy and optimism. This colour is ideal for summer clothing such as shorts, skirts and dresses. Yellow linen is also an excellent choice for beachwear.

Orange linen

Orange linen, both audacious and energetic, radiates confidence and creativity. This colour is perfect for relaxed summer clothing, such as linen shorts and T-shirts.

Red linen

A passionate and vibrant colour, red linen evokes love and sensuality. It is the ideal colour for evening wear, such as long linen dresses.

Features yellow linen Copyright Lapuan Kankurit

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