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£791.00 - £944.00
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Choice Furniture Superstore
Linen Sofa Buying Guide
Once you have decided on your sofa size and design, the next big step is choosing the fabric.
Choosing the fabric could be daunting as there are a lot of factors to be considered while choosing the fabric like- usage, lifestyle, positioning of the sofa(read positioning in relation to the window/ sunlight).
Linen has been growing in prominence as the chosen fabric for sofas and sofa beds.
Linen is produced from the fibers of the stalk of the flaxseed plant. It is also one of the oldest cultivated plants. Linen’s usage as a fabric dates back many thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used to use linen to make burial shrouds for the mummification process and it was considered a symbol of purity and wealth.
What is linen? How is it made?
Linen is made from the cellulose fibers that grow inside of the stalks of the flax plant, one the oldest cultivated plants around the world. It is an all natural fiber which is made using an entire plant. Unlike cotton, which only uses the flower like fibre encasing the cotton seed.
High quality linen making is indeed a labour intensive process as the best quality is ensured when they use the whole plant including its roots. This means the whole plant has to be pulled from the soil along with its roots, and not simply cut at its stem. It is then bundled up to dry in the sun and once it's dry the flax seeds are removed.
Next is the crucial stage which determines the quality and thereby the price of the fibre and thereby the linen. It is called retting, a process of bacterial decomposition of pectin which binds the fibre to the stalk. Once the stalk and fibers are loose, the woody stalk is then separated through breaking, scutching and is heckled through machines with various blades to ensure only the fabric remains ready to be spun.
Once it is spun, then the process of bleaching and dyeing begins. The natural linen in its first appearance is tan in color which is then bleached and dye is then introduced to bring in the desired color.
Why is it a sustainable alternative to cotton?
Flax seed plants are an easily produced crop with a fraction of water required for cotton cultivation. They are also highly resistant to pests and insects thereby reducing the use of pesticides and insecticides. In comparison to cotton which causes faster soil quality, linen/ flax seed plants hardly cause any degradation of soil quality. Cotton also consumes a large amount of energy when it is spun because of how mechanized the production process is.
Linen is also widely produced in Europe meaning it is more local to the European and UK market unlike Cotton which is grown and imported from countries like India, United States of America, Brazil, China etc. This clearly shows that choosing linen as your sofa fabric results in less carbon footprint compared to other fabrics specially cotton and cotton blends.
Choosing Linen as your sofa fabric- pros and cons
It is important to weigh the pros and cons of any important purchase, especially one like a sofa, that can make or break your home decor/ design project.
Linen fabric is a great choice for furniture because of its durability and fresh look. However, to be certain linen is right for your home, it’s important to evaluate all the pros and cons of using this fabric.
Linen is a highly durable fabric. If longevity of the fabric is important to you when investing in your pieces of furniture, linen is the way to go. Especially as slipcovers for the sofa, linen fares really well as it can withstand repeated washing and becomes softer after each wash.
- Moisture resistant
Linen is highly moisture resistant making it a suitable fabric for upholstery in places with high humidity. It also absorbs dampness to a certain extent.
As it is moisture resistant, linen creates less opportunity for mold and mildew to grow and is ideal for sensitive people.
Even though this is not worrying for sofas upholstered in linen fabric.
It could be a worry if you have linen slipcovers, as linen fabric can shrink if not washed following the manufacturer's instructions. But this can be easily overcome if you place back the slip cover while it is still damp(not soaking wet- we do not want our sofa filling to grow mold and mildew).
- Not stain resistant
Even though pure linen does not absorb dye very well, it is not stain resistant. The wine spillage or ketchup stains will have to be spot cleaned immediately. It is not recommended to use bleach on linen as it will lead to discoloration and breakdown the fabric.
Linen wrinkles easily especially after a wash. This is not a concern if you have it as your upholstery fabric on sofas/ sofa bed. If however, it is used as a removable piece of upholstery fabric, like a slipcover for the sofa, the key thing to remember is not to let it dry completely and put it back on the furniture when it is slightly damp and iron it. Again, refrain from ironing it till its crisp, that again attracts more wrinkles.
- Less colors/ designs to choose from
Colors are an important factor when you are deciding on your sofa and sofa fabric. Cotton, velvet, leather, and other upholstery fabrics are available in a myriad of colours and prints. However, natural linen is not dye friendly and it’s natural color is a light tan- beige. This means that linen does not naturally dye well and takes prints easily. So the natural color would have to be bleached away and then re-coloured or dyed in the desired colour/ print/ pattern. This means harmful for the environment as well as the fibre as it affects the quality and its durability.
If opting for linen as your sofa fabric, it's best to choose from earthy muted neutral colors such as grey, pale blue, beige, tan etc.
How to choose right linen for your sofa
The general rule of thumb when it comes to determining the quality of fabric is thread count. However, please feel the fabric and check it closely to examine the thickness of the fabric and tightness of the weave. Thicker the thread and tighter the weave, better the fabric and will ensure longevity of your sofa.
Cleaning guide for linen sofa
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions which would be supplied with the sofa.
Always take note not to twist or scrub the fabric since it can damage the fabric and make it lopsided. Using bleach can discolour and weaken the fabric.
If spot cleaning to remove a stain from your linen sofa, consider doing a patch test on an inconspicuous area, so there is no discoloration.
Styling linen sofa
Linen has a muted earthy touch and feel to it. Style up the area with plants to add to the drama without going overboard. The greenery will contrast well with the neutral colors of the sofa fabric.
If going with the neutral colours of linen, dress up your couch with stylish bold patterns, especially stripes. Add textures like wool and sheepskin in assorted cushions shapes to oomph up the linen sofa.