Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Be Linen – a Movie worth Seeing


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I love linen. It is my favorite fabric, hands down, for needlework. But I love it for other things, too. I love it for clothing, I love it for household goods. (Did I mention that I love linen?!)

And good linen is …. oooooh. Like nothing else for stitching on!

I think it’s good for needleworkers to know about how linen is made, and to know that All Linen is Not Created Equal. Mass-produced linen made from inferior flax and woven for upholstery, for example, is not the same as linen made from superior flax where all the growing conditions are just right for the plant, where all the production is overseen step-by-step by people who know linen, and where this quality linen is woven specifically for needlework.

Be Linen, the Movie

The folks in northern Europe who make linen, really know linen.

Here’s a fantastic video on the production of linen called Be Linen (thanks, Léan!), and it is well worth watching. You get to see, up close, the production of linen, from the plowing of the fields, to the weaving of the fabric. Throughout the movie is a commentary on the linen industry in Northern Europe today (primarily in French and a little Italian, but with English subtitles). It’s a gorgeous movie – so if you have the ability to watch it “full screen,” you might want to! I hope you find it as fascinating as I do!

E-mail subscribers probably won’t be able to view the video in your e-mail, so here’s the link back here to watch it: Be Linen – a Movie worth Seeing.

Hope you enjoy it!



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(28) Comments

  1. Oh Mary, I LOVE linen, too. Any kind! I even take flax seed oil every morning!! Thank you for the movie and Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Great movie! Makes me want to buy some, just to feel it. Don’t have the courage to make something with it yet! Thanks for all the info you make available.


  3. Thanks for the great video, Mary! I do have a question: I don’t read all the comments each day, but I often see things under the “Recent Comments” section on the right of your website that I’d like to go read – is there any way to get to them, other than trying to find the day/comment post? Thanks and Happy Valentine’s Day!

    1. Hi, Janice – if you click on the name of the person who left the comment, it will take you to the full comment. I always forget that… I had to go back and check it myself!


  4. Mary,

    That truly was fascinating! I have always wondered what linen was made of, I knew it was a plant,but I had no idea the fields of flax were so beautiful!

    I was gifted some material that is silk and linen, it’s a wonderful piece of cloth that I cannot yet bring myself to cut! Someday!

  5. Happy Valentine’s Day Mary! Thank you for sharing this fascinating video! As a handspinner & weaver, it was so interesting to watch the ladies inspect and fix the cloth. Admittedly, flax is one thing I disliked spinning, ended up with nasty blisters when I neglected keeping the flax wet. Glad to see there’s a machine to do it Dianne in UT

  6. Will take this info with me for when I go to someplace with a fast connection (nowhere near here!); I too love linen.

    Not fiber flax but in the Canadian prairie provinces, the seed flax blooms that brilliant flax blue by the hundreds of acres, quite the sight if you ever have the chance. At the same time the rape is blooming, that wonderful strident rich yellow, and the blue and yellow is so beautiful it’s etched in my mind forever even though I’m decades and thousands of miles away….

    One other note: a new book on the lore and lure of flax is coming I think in March. I believe it is published by Schiffer. Just a little something to feed the addiction, as if we need the excuse!

  7. Wonderful video, thank you so much for sharing it Mary!
    Such a joy to see that there are still people who give their heart and soul to grow this beautiful fiber.
    One of my absolute favorite fabric is linen and now I have an other reason to love it … that beautiful field of flowers!

  8. Wonderful video. Thank you so much for sharing it. How do you tell the quality of linen. I assume that just because it is European doesn’t make it great quality.

    1. I agree, Cynthia. When it comes to needlework linen, I think you have to consider the source of the linen (as the film points out, the growing conditions have a lot to do with the quality of the raw materials), and the other thing I take into consideration is whether or not the linen is produced specifically for needlework. Linen produced, from the initial processing of the raw materials forward, for other things – upholstery, clothing, etc. – is not the same as linen produced for needlework. Additionally, I like to work with various brands of linen to judge for myself where they fall in the quality scale. Being able to feel them and see them up close is important to me. But in order to do this, you actually have to work with more than the more commonly available linens, and be willing to spend a little bit more now and then to try other linens so that there’s actually something to compare. Here in the States, I think – my personal opinion here – there are few Very Good types of linen available for hand embroidery, and it’s true that those linens are on the pricier side of things: Legacy is one, and also, for some types of needlework, Strathaven. There are some Belgian linens that are decent quality, that are usually sold for church goods. Another very good linen, but not available in the States “over the counter” is Sotema linen, made in Italy. It has to be ordered online from Italy, but it, too, is a very nice linen for stitching. Kingston linen is also quite good. And there are some Irish linens (actually from Ireland – not the ones that are sold as “Irish linen” and “Belfast linen” but that are not actually produced there) that are nice for sturdy table cloths and so forth. I think being able to try different linens now and then, and comparing them to other linens, is a worthwhile thing to do because it really helps in choosing the right linen for the right job – especially if you want a quality outcome that has the promise of longevity to it.

      Some specifics to look for in linen: plump threads that are even, without thin-stranded areas, and without heavy slubbing; linen with a “good hand” that feels smooth and looks solid; even coloring, and (this is probably weirdly put, but I can’t think of another way to say it!) a “healthy looking” selvage. Those are a couple things I look for. Drape is important, too, but it is mostly considered for larger pieces that hang – like table cloths and so forth.

      Just a few thoughts there. I’d love hearing other people’s input on what they look for in a good linen!

  9. G’day there Mary,
    The concentration on the faces of everyone involved and their reverent handling of every process from the soil to the last stitch says it all.
    Cheers, Kath.

  10. Gorgeous, Mary! You can tell when something has been created with care and honor. It’s that much more wonderful to work with.


  11. Thanks for sharing this video. And many thanks for your blog, full of inspiring ideas and useful reviews.
    I really admire your embroidery skills, and the care and precision you put in each step of the embroidery process.

  12. I’ll need to watch this. Also thanks for pointing out that not all linen is good for needlework. I’ve not done much buying linen yet. I wonder if it’s a case of growing conditions, or do different flax varieties have different fiber structures, like trees? What I mean is, you wouldn’t use balsa wood for a baseball bat (unless it was a prop for theatre), nor would you use oak for a toy glider. Maybe different wools from different sheep breeds would be a better example of different fiber qualities?

  13. I love linen! It’s such a luxurious and beautiful material. Wish I could use it more in my jewellery (yes, I’m a beader/jewellery-maker that learnt how to embroider as a kid and now wants to give it a go again).

    There’s a linen weaving mill just 3 km from where I live that produce pure linen tablecloths, towels etc. And then in the other direction, outside Förslöv, there’s an old so called bastua and brydestua, buildings where flax was died and prepared, which has been restored by enthusiasts so you can see how the whole process worked. As kids, we once bought linen fibre braids from the nearby hembygdsgård (a collection of old farm houses preserved by a local heritage society) in Boarp, where the modern weaving mill is also located. Grandma used to grow flax to mix into her imortelle bouquets she sold. As a kid I did some linen embroidery in school. As a beader, I became familiar with waxed linen cord. Then I stumble over your blog, begin following it and you write about this interesting movie. So even if I don’t use linen very often, it’s always been near me in one way or another. And everytime I think of linen, I say to myself: I must get some fabric and threads to work with.

  14. Oh Mary, I love linen and I loved the movie. I would love to visit a place where they fabric this fantastic fibre. Thanks for sharing.

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