Irish linen is the brand name given to linen produced in Ireland. Linen is cloth woven from, or yarn spun from the flax fibre, which was grown in Ireland for many years before advanced agricultural methods and more suitable climate led to the concentration of quality flax cultivation in northern Europe (Most of the world crop of quality flax is now grown in Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands). Since about the 1950s to 1960s the flax fibre for Irish Linen yarn has been, almost exclusively, imported from France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It is bought by spinners who produce yarn and this, in turn, is sold to weavers (or knitters) who produce fabric. Irish linen spinning has now virtually ceased, yarns being imported from places such as Eastern Europe and China. The best of these yarns are still spun, on the whole, from Northern European flax.
Weaving continues mainly of plain linens for niche, top of the range, apparel uses. Linen damask weaving in Ireland has less capacity, and it is confined at very much the top end of the market for luxury end uses. The companies continuing to weave in Ireland tend to concentrate on the quality end of the market, and Jacquard weaving is moving towards the weaving of specials and custom damask pieces, made to the customers' own individual requirements. Fabric which is woven outside Ireland and brought to Ireland to be bleached/dyed and finished cannot carry the Irish Linen Guild logo, which is the Guild trademark, and signifies the genuine Irish Linen brand.
Irish linen yarn is defined as yarn which is spun in Ireland from 100% flax fibres. Irish linen fabric is defined as fabric which is woven in Ireland from 100% linen yarns. It is not required that every stage from the growing of the flax to the weaving must take place in Ireland. Flax is not Irish linen—Irish linen is made from flax. What constitutes genuine Irish linen has been defined by the Irish Linen Guild. To be Irish linen fabric the yarns do not necessarily have to come from an Irish spinner, and to be Irish linen yarn the flax fibre does not have to be grown in Ireland. However, the skills, craftsmanship, and technology that go into spinning the yarn must be Irish, as is the case with Irish linen fabric, the design and weaving skills must be Irish, and must take place in Ireland.
Finished garments, or household textile items can be labelled Irish linen, although they may have been made up in another country. Irish linen does not refer to the making up process (such as cutting and sewing). It refers to where the constituent fabric was woven or knitted.
- Marilyn Cohen (2003) "The Dynamics of Capitalism in the Irish Linen Industry: A 'Space-Time Structuration' Analysis", Journal of Historical Sociology Volume 16 Issue 4, pp. 432–459, DOI 10.1046/j.0952-1909.2003.00216.x
- G. P. F. Steed (1974) The Northern Ireland Linen Complex, 1950-1970
- History of Irish linen
- Irish Linen - The Fabric of Ireland
- Irish heritage Working in the Irish linen mills