The Texture of History… Linen on Inis Meáin

20th April 2023

From flax to fabric, the story of linen is deeply connected to Inis Meáin. One of the oldest textile fabrics in the world, flax was used in textiles in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) as far back as the Neolithic period. Its species name Linum utisatissimum—meaning ‘most useful’—is particularly apt, as flax has been grown in Ireland since the Bronze Age and been cultivated for use for clothing for a thousand years.

Page from the 1821 census. At this time the Island had as many flax spinners as wool spinners.

Linen was widely used in the Aran Islands until the middle of the nineteenth century. The 1821 census shows the Island had as many flax spinners as wool spinners. Local fields and gardens still bear witness to this heritage with names such as Garraí an Lín (the flax garden) and Loch an Lín (the flax lake). In Stone of Aran: Pilgrimage, Tim Robinson’s evocative and imaginative account of the landscape, history and folklore, he describes beaches and rocks covered with seaweed, noting that three centuries ago, kelp-burning became popular because vegetable ash was used in the hand-dyeing of linen.

While flax is no longer grown on the island, last year we planted a flax garden outside our studio window and enjoyed the vivid blue petals dance in the breeze on a warm afternoon. The flowers gave way to a beautiful rust coloured bud on long bracken stems.

We’re proud to celebrate Inis Meáin’s heritage with the Island Linen Collection. European Masters of Linen quality and Oeko-Tex certification guarantees European linen of the highest standard and traceability from field to yarn. Each piece in the Island Linen Collection is our own unique design, made and hand-finished with pride in our Aran Islands workshop.