“There’ll be time enough for sleeping in the grave,” quoth Ben Franklin, founding father, inventor, foreign diplomat, and historically dirty old man, later paraphrased by 80’s hair rocker Bon Jovi. Personally, I love to sleep too much to wait for death’s sweet release, but when I do kick that fatal bucket: you’d best bury me in linen. And I’m far from the first to feel this way. Mankind, whether living or dead, has had a longtime and rich love affair with linen.
As far back as 34,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers collected and spun durable, temperature-regulating cloth from the flax plants to use for clothing, stitching, and bedding. Archaeologists Indiana Jones-ing around Egypt over the decades have discovered thousands of mummies (some as old as 5,000 years), and every one of them is wrapped in linen bandages meant to see them comfortably into the afterlife. The Ancient Egyptian elite even used high-quality linen articles as marks of their wealth and opulence, using such items as gifts to influence their peers.
So—what exactly makes linen so special? I thought you’d never ask.
After the Norman invasion of England in 1066, Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, embroidered a tapestry recounting her husband’s epic campaign win on 230 feet of linen fabric. The Bayeux Tapestry, as it’s known, is just shy of a thousand years old. The middle ages comic book tapestry remains unbroken, and can be found on display at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Normandy, France today. Talk about durable goods.
And Mrs. “the Conqueror” wasn’t the only artist who relied upon linen’s durable quality. During the Italian Renaissance, when artists began using stretched canvases instead of wooden panels or fresco, these canvases were almost ubiquitously made of linen or hemp: guaranteeing that the artist’s genius would be preserved for generations.
Takeaway number one: linen is tough. And not just tough, but like, one of the strongest natural woven materials on earth, getting even stronger when wet. How else could a tapestry last a thousand years on the rainy Northern coast of France?
Hot N Cold
To quote the immortal words of Katy Perry:
You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in then you're out
You're up then you're down
...pretty well sums up my sleep experience in most sheet sets.
I’m what you might call a hot sleeper (please do) and many nights I would wake up dripping sweat (maybe don’t mention that part). I’d get too hot, throw off the sheets; too cold, pile ‘em back on; wake up moist, get up and towel off. Meanwhile, with all the sleep I lost you could bet my moods ran hot and cold, too.
My savior? Linen.
Linen fabric is remarkably good at alleviating sleepy-time temperature for hot sleepers like me because it is breathable and moisture-wicking. Because it’s breathable, the warmth my body radiates can escape instead of being trapped. Meanwhile, any moisture on my skin is wicked away by the fabric instead of pooling, leaving my bed and I cool, dry, and comfortable all night long. Linen is even hypoallergenic, so it’s less likely to irritate your skin.
Cool linen: so hot right now.
Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., mastermind behind the famous Ziegfeld Follies in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, insisted that the chorus girls in his shows (the singular mainstay of Follies productions) must have linen petticoats to wear under their elaborate Erte-designed costumes. When a penny-pinching producer complained that cotton petticoats would be far cheaper, Ziegfeld allegedly told him: "I know. But linen does something to their walk. And remember, they are Ziegfeld Girls!"
Not only would a linen petticoat offer breathability and wick away moisture for the hard-working Ziegfeld dancers, but the material was soft and smooth enough to give them that silky shimmy between chorus line kicks. Linen has a natural soft sheen to it and it actually gets softer over time, with each and every wash.
Primary Good Enough
It's no surprise then, that when Primary Goods set out to make the best bedding imaginable, we chose 100% French Linen as our go-to fabric. It’s long-lasting, temperature-regulating, hypoallergenic, and soft as a Ziegfeld girl’s cheek. But, because we’re a company that believes in going the extra mile for a better world (with the consumer in mind) our linen carries two distinct certifications: GOTS & OEKO-TEX.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification in the leading international standard for ensuring a company’s textiles are made of organic materials, using ecologically and socially responsible manufacturing processes, from harvesting to labeling and every step in between. Every set of Primary Goods linens carries this distinction.
OEKO-TEX, aka (deep breath) The International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology, is the third party organization that issues unbiased certification to companies whose products contain less than a trace amount of a comprehensive list of toxic substances and materials often found in industrial products. This means our sheets are verified and guaranteed non-toxic and safe for the consumer.
As a side note to our eco-friendly standards—flax itself is a fantastically green crop. This hardy plant requires much less water and fertilizer than the thirsty cotton plant, making linen is an eco-friendly investment. And because our supplier in Volckerinkhove, France uses every part of the flax plant in their manufacturing process, we’re reducing our carbon footprint by minimizing waste.
These latter qualities may not be as flashy as a thousand-year-old tapestry, a Renaissance masterpiece, or a Ziegfeld dancer’s petticoat—but we find it just as important to share with our customers who choose to invest their hard-won earnings in a set of Primary Goods linens.
We believe in the quality of our product from the hardy flax plants used for linen production to the eco-friendly certifications that accompany our bed sets. And, of course, every stitch of 100% French linen between you and your mattress.
If this article doesn’t convince you that the price-tag on our sheets is worth every cent of linen-loving investment capital: well, may God strike me down. And if I die tomorrow, I’ll insist right here to go to the big sleep mummy-style:
Bury me in linen, baby.