Irish Linen Guild


Is the Flax used for Irish Linen still Grown In Ireland?

Flax has not really been grown in Ireland on a true commercial basis sine the 1960’s and before.

Whilst Ireland did grow flax for the linen industry in the past, due to the nature of the climate, the retting process could not be carried out in an environmentally friendly manner. This started to become an issue with greater awareness of the environment, and flax was more and more sourced from mainland Europe.  The retting process was better done in France, Belgium and the Netherlands where it is  warmer and the flax could be dew retted in the fields; rather than water retted in dams and rivers. The retting process was not reflecting well on the industry as the waste water, full of rotting vegetable matter, deoxygenated the rivers and killed fish, and other wildlife. The raw material for the Irish linen industry had never exclusively been sourced in Ireland, but after this time all the retted flax had to be sourced outside Ireland.

Today flax is really only grown as a novelty for tourists, or by very small companies trying to gain some sort of marketing advantage. These small scale operations, which are not members of the Irish Linen Guild, hopefully limit any damage to the environment which might adversely reflect on the industry.

Dew retting is the way forward and this is what the Irish Linen Guild supports. Much work has gone into alternative methods, but nothing suitable has been discovered. This is the main reason why we no longer grow flax commercially in Ireland. The Irish Linen Guild would not support a return to water retting as long as this problem persists.

Where should I buy linen fabric to make clothing?

For apparel linen inquiries please contact: Baird McNutt or John England.

For interlining and collar/cuff stiffening linen please contact: William Clark

Where should I buy household linens?

For household Irish linens, such as damask tablelinen or bed linen please contact:Thomas Ferguson or Samuel Lamont.

Where can I buy Irish linen damask fabric from the weaver?

You can buy standard designs, or have your own designs woven by Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen.

They can weave damask fabric up to 3 metres wide, and will sell this in quite small lengths.

Where can I buy Irish linen yarn?

Currently the Irish Linen Guild has no linen spinners as members.

Where can I get the Irish Linen Guild labels?

The Irish Linen Guild authorises the production of a number of Point of Sale (POS) items for Guild members and their customers. These items include swing tags, sew in labels, adhesive labels.

These must be ordered from an Irish Linen Guild member company.

What can Irish linen do for my business?

Irish linen may cost more up front, but it is an investment, it has an increased service life and therefore may often not cost more per use. Never mind the potential marketing advantage the brand can give you over using non-branded linens..

Using Irish linen, whether as bed linen or on the table, says a lot about your establishment. It is recognised by the cognoscenti, not only as a luxury fabric, but also as a choice of quality and of timeless classic style. It can be used as a marketing tool to differentiate you from the norm; which is not always easy.

When told that Irish linen petticoats for Follies dancers were far more expensive than plain cotton, Florenz Ziegfeld replied: “I know. But Irish linen does something to their walk – remember, they are Ziegfeld Girls!”

How do I know what size of table cloth to buy for my table?

Thomas Ferguson have an interactive size guide to help you make your decision. Please click here.

How do I join the Irish Linen Guild?

Membership is open to all Irish companies producing flax, or Irish manufacturers of linen, made of the flax fibre.

Irish companies who purchase linen from manufacturing member companies may also become members. This is open to Irish companies who make-up Irish linen into finished products; if the use of Irish linen is a significant percentage of their business.

Irish designers, retailers and wholesalers who trade or use Irish linen, and it is a significant portion of their business, can also be considered for associate membership (In all cases a significant proportion of their business, is not just a few items, it is unlikely anything less than a two figure percentage would be considered as significant. The final decision will be that of the Guild).

After joining, your company logo and a link to your website, can be added for a one -off fee that helps maintain the website.

If you wish to be considered for membership please contact the Irish Linen Guild, with company details. Also, if you are not a manufacturer please provide the name of the companies that supply you with Irish Linen. As well as the approximate percentage of your business, the use of Irish linen constitutes. Also, how your membership of the Guild might benefit the Irish linen industry.

After being accepted as a member, membership is maintained by payment of your annual fees when requested.

What are the benefits of Irish Linen Guild membership?

The potential benefits of full Irish Linen Guild membership are as follows:

  1. 6cmx2cm logo on Guild web site which drives direct sales leads to your own company web site.
  2. Use of Guild labelling on your Irish linens.
  3. Use of Guild logo on web site, packaging and brochures.
  4. Your news items on Guild website news section.
  5. Networking opportunities with other members.
  6. Credibility that comes from membership
  7. Sales leads that come into the Guild direct.
  8. Use of Guild copyright films at discounted rates.

Can I have custom sized table cloths woven?

Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen can weave individual custom sized tablecloths for both wholesale and retail customers. For more information see their build your own tablecloth facility.

Where can I get samples of Irish linen?

If you require samples or swatches of Irish linen you should contact the Guild member companies. These can be found here.

If required the Irish Linen Guild may be able to help select the most appropriate supplier, but it does not hold, or send out, linen samples or swatches itself.

What does the Irish Linen Guild trademark look like?

To see the Irish Linen Guild trademark please click here.

The trademark is the focus of all promotional activities. This mark is often colloquially referred to as the, ‘carpet beater symbol’. It can only be used to mark genuine Irish linen products such as linen yarn spun in Ireland and linen fabrics woven in Ireland by members of the Guild.

What exactly is Irish Linen?

To use the Irish Linen Guild logo the linen has to be manufactured in Ireland whether it is yarn or fabric. However, the raw material for the finished product does not also have to me made or grown in Ireland.Irish linen fabric must be woven or knitted in Ireland, but the yarn it uses does not have to be Irish linen for the fabric to be Irish linen.Also, if a manufacturer in another country makes fabric from Irish linen yarn it is not Irish linen fabric.Or if a spinner in another country use Irish grown flax it is not Irish linen yarn.

Tell me about the Irish linen brand?

It is important that the Irish Linen brand and logo are used to sell only linen from our member companies.

The Irish Linen Guild does not deal directly with our member company customers. This is mainly because the Guild cannot be sure if customers are bone fide Irish Linen users or not.

Our members have the right to use the Irish Linen logo and it is their responsibility to grant the use of the logo to their customers and to manage that it is being used properly. If the member company does not have an image of the logo to send to their customer they should contact the Guild for a copy.

Valuations of antique Irish linen

The Irish Linen Guild is a promotional organisation for the modern Irish linen industry. Unfortunately we have not the knowledge nor expertise to value antique Irish linen, and this is especially so when we cannot examine it.

For valuations of antique linens it is best to take your linen to a local auction house, or antique shop where they can examine it and give you a proper valuation.

Where can I get Irish linen thread?

The Irish Linen guild does not have any members who produce thread. In fact we do not believe linen thread is produced in Ireland at present.

There may still be linen thread, old stock, around produced by the Barbour Threads Mill. It closed relatively recently.

Barbour Threads was taken over by Coats Plc. . We don’t know where this is produced, but it is still sold by Coats Plc. as Barbour thread.Crawford Thread is another linen thread which claims to be Irish Linen and is relatively easily bought online, but we don’t know where this is produced; again it may be old stock.

Where are the Irish Linen Guild Offices?

The Irish Linen Guild does not have premises, a telephone number, nor any paid staff.

The Guild is made up of voluntary members from the Irish linen industry who put in a lot of hard work and time, free of charge to maintain the website, and reply to emails and enquiries. Also, to arrange meetings, etc.

Does the Irish Linen Guild supply educational packs for schools?

Currently the Irish Linen guild does not supply educational packs for schools. In the past these were available.

Can the Irish Linen Guild advise me on how best to clean or launder my linens?

The Irish Linen Guild is often asked for specific advice on cleaning and laundering linens, or removing stains. This is something we are relunctant to do, without seeing the actual problem.

It is a much better idea to seek out a local cleaning professional or laundry, and take your item along for them to look at and evaluate the problem properly.Apart from this the Irish Linen Guild members would see themselves more as experts on the manufacture of linen. The laundry industry is often better qualified to advise on cleaning or laundering it.

The Guild can help with general inquiries regarding the recommended laundering process for the linens their members produce.

Irish Linen Guild Promotional Films

A number of promotional films were made by the Irish Linen Guild mainly in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.

The most well known of these is probably The Wee Blue Blossom (1944), Directed by John Alderson.

Some of the others include:

  • Irish Interlude (1948)
  • Irish Symphony (1952)
  • Flaxen Heritage (1953)
  • Irish and Elegant (1957)
  • To Last a Lifetime (1961)
  • Looking in on Irish Linen (1968)

The Irish Linen Guild does not currently supply or hold copies of these films. Further details can be found at the British archive or Northern Ireland Screen.

If you wish to use any of these films, or excerpts from these films, they belong to the Irish Linen Guild. The Guild must be contacted for permission to use any of the content.There is normally a small charge which goes towards the running costs of the Irish Linen Guild.

Historic information on the Irish linen industry

The Irish Linen Guild may be able to help in a limited way with historical queries about the  industry, but it’s function is really promoting modern Irish linen companies.

For historic information on old companies, or linens a good point of contact is the Irish Linen Museum, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. Another point of contact is possibly the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland or the National Archives of Ireland.

Virtually all the Irish Linen Guilds historic documents have been passed to various museums and record offices.

What is linen?

Linen should not be confused with cotton, although its name is often used generically to refer to all household fabrics. This is due to linens once domination of this market. However, in more recent years, mostly at the bottom end of the market, it has lost out to the cheaper cottons, synthetics and man-made fibres.

Linen is ideal for household linens because it increases in strength when wet, allowing it to stand up to the rough and tumble of repeated laundering very well. It can be easily laundered at home and requires no special laundering treatment. It is also paradoxical that at a time when everyone is worried about the environment. Our natural products are more and more being replaced by synthetic substitutes.

Linen is a yarn or fabric made from the cultivated flax plant, named ‘Linum usitatissimum’. It is a cellulosic plant fibre, or bast fibre, and it forms the fibrous bundles in the inner bark of the stems of the plant. The plant is an annual that grows to a height of about a metre and the fibres run the entire length of the stem and help hold it upright.

The fibre strands are normally released from the cellular and woody stem tissue by a process known as retting (controlled rotting). In Ireland this was traditionally done in water, rivers, ponds or retting dams.

The original flax to be used for its fibre was the wild, Linum angustifolium. This is not grown commercially, and is found in southwestern Europe, including Britain, to the Mediterranean, Madeira and the Canaries. It is considered by some experts to be a distinct species in its own right and the parent of Linum usitatissimum, the cultivated flax.

Where can I buy Irish Linen upholstery and drapery curtain linens?

For upholstery and drapery curtain linens contact: William Clark or Earthed