Until recently the finest linen was made exclusively in Western Europe. Whilst many of those producers still exist, much production has been shifted to the Far East. At KOTHEA, we endeavour to use European linen partly for sentimental reasons as we love the fabrics our mills have continued to deliver to us but also becuase the enviornmental impact of them is good and the quality fantastic.
Many of our natural linens are hydrogen peroxide bleached which is less environmentally damaging than the traditional use of the stronger chlorine-based bleach. Then, when colour is required, we typically only use dyes from natural materials.
Elegant, beautiful, durable, this luxury fabric is the strongest of the vegetable fibres and has 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. It is smooth, making the finished fabric lint free and ensures that it only gets softer and finer the more it is washed. Linen comes from flax, a bast fibre taken from the stalk of the plant. The lustre is from the natural wax content, with it’s colour ranging from creamy white to light tan. Linen does wrinkle but also presses easily when damp. Linen, like cotton, can also be boiled without damaging the fibre.
The decrease in use of linen may be attributed to the industrialisation of cotton production (a cheaper fibre), the increasing quality of synthetic fibers, and a decreasing appreciation of buyers for very high quality yarn and fabric. Very little top quality linen is produced now, and most is used in low volume applications like hand weaving, as an art material, or table and bed linens.
Although the actual growing of linen is free of the extensive spraying and use of pesticides used on cotton, it is the production process that can be environmentally damaging – the extensive water consumption and the chemicals and mordants used in the dying process. Our Eco linen is of the highest grade, is hand loomed in Latvia and is undyed. It is bleached using low impact hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine. See also Dye and Bleach, above, for further details.
Raffia and Tatami are often terms that are used synonymously these days by some interior designers.
Tatami are woven Japanese floor mats. Originally they were made from (rice-) straw but now they are made from a variety of materials with better properties for fire resistance, warmth and general comfort. Typically Tatami mats are made to be twice as long as they are wide and they are usually about 2m long.
Raffia (often Raphia in the USA) refers to fibres made from a tropical tree. Specifically raffia is made from the leaves of a specific palm tree called “Raphia ruffia”, which is usually found in Madagascar and more generally in Africa. A different variety in South America is “Raffia taedigera”.
Raffia that is more suited to top market interior design projects will probably often be made from other materials – one of the particular note would be made from high quality cellulose pulp.
So, often when clients ask for Tatami or Raffia they are really often asking for a straightforward, grass-like, woven fabric similar to that shown in the main image accompanying this article.
Such raffia and tatami fabrics are usually available by the meter and have additional properties making them more superior to traditional variants. For example having high martindale test scores making them suitable for upholstery and coming pre-treated for fire retardancy.
KOTHEA Fabric Picks For A Chilly Winter’s Day
With Verity du Sautoy of KOTHEA.
We love the seasons. All have their beauties and all have touched our senses in memorable ways over the years. Winter is no exception: lower, more balanced light; quietness and chaos with both the shopping and the weather; festive celebrations; the cuddle of a loved one; the hope and expectation of early spring flowers grasping for rare and tiny glimmers of light; and, perhaps, the welcomed warmth of a beautiful fabric.
Some of my best memories are centred on family: a warm fire; a little baby; or a bouncing toddler. Then an old children’s classic on the iPlayer watched on my Mac as it balances precariously on an elegant coffee table. I stroke my children’s hair with one hand and rest my other hand on my sofa. A generous cushion is warm, encapsulating and a bit of fun for the little ones to hide under. The curtains are not yet fully drawn but they smooth the boundary to the cold outside and give us tantalising glimpses of the world beyond – should we venture too close to the sheers that offer the final, soft protection from the elements.
I work for a fabric company. I love fabric. I can’t pretend that it (fabric) is a be-all and end-all to life and that somehow it will make your life complete. It can’t. But what it clearly can do is complete the sensory experiences in the parts of life that, if you choose, you have control over…the parts of your home. Memories are not just photo-like snapshots in your brain; they are stored, multi-sensory splashes of emotion.
Here are my Winter picks. They are actual ‘picks’ that I’ve recently purchased or are about to purchase.
Luxury Upholstery Velvet is notoriously difficult for interior designers to consistently source. Sourcing a generic velvet is easy enough but often velvets vary greatly in quality with many being relatively cheap and scoring relatively well with Martindale results but they just look ‘cheap’. The look and feel of the velvet are, after all, two of several important reasons why you are specifying it in the first place.
A further problem is composition. When, for example, you say you want a Mohair Velvet that is what you want: a velvet made out of Mohair and NOT lots of other things PLUS a bit of Mohair.
Whilst Mohair velvets are generally very good across the market they too can vary significantly in quality. So even when you buy a Mohair Velvet you are not necessarily getting the durable, luxury, fantastic looking product that you hoped for.
Further complications come when looking at Velvets made of a mix of yarns. Well, some of the mixed fibre yarns too are actually excellent in quality!
So I guess I’m saying that there really is no sure and fast way of knowing that what you are buying without actually seeing the fabric AND being assured of its technical characteristics, notably Martindale as we are considering upholstery here.
Most KOTHEA luxury upholstery velvets have inherent Martindale rub tests of in excess of 20,000 rubs with several collections exceeding 100,000 rubs fo contract usage – 20,000 Martindale being eminently suitable for domestic upholstery.
In addition to non-velvet, textured upholstery we have many luxury velvets suitable for upholstery including Italian Silk Velvet (high quality, luxury velvet), Cashmere & Silk Velvet (the ultimate velvet), trevira Velvet (inherent fire retardancy), Mohair Velvet (high quality, luxury velvet),
Most of our velvet is available by the metre with no minimum quantities.
Raffia adds texture as a wallcovering. As a natural product it has many benefits for the interior designer including a degree of thermal insulation and the ability to be adhered directly to wall surfaces or fastened to wall surfaces or ceiling when wrapped around wooden panels.
With Wyzenbeek rubs of 40,000 KOTHEA’s 2011 Raffia (Raphia) are also eminently suitable for a wide range of upholstery uses.
Raffias can usually be fire treated to meet a wide range of contract requirements including hotels and marine installations.
This type of raffia weave has been used for thousands of years perhaps most famously as Japanese Tatami mats. They are of course one of today’s modern day design staples for a clean, modern look.
Mohair Velvet is a type of fabric made from Mohair Wool. It is usually used for upholstery. A velvet is a fabric that is made in a certain way usually ending up with a pile; importantly it can be made from many different fibres including mixtures of fibres.
Upholstery Linen is notoriously difficult for interior designers to source. Sourcing linens for curtains is easy enough but often linens are not woven with sufficient strength to score Martindale results that are high enough to warrant using the fabric for upholstery.
Some suppliers can be a little evasive and will quote the weight of the linen as a measure of the linen’s quality. The implicaiton being that the higher the weight the better suited the fabric will be for upholstery. There is some thuth in that implication but you cannot say for certain that a high weight linen is inherently suitable for upholstery. Get the Martindale!
Most KOTHEA luxury upholstery linens have inherent Martindale rub tests of around 20,000 rubs with one range further strengthened to 85,000 rubs for contract usage – 20,000 Martindale being eminently suitable for domestic upholstery.
Furthermore when buying upholstery- (or curtain-) linen you need to know whether or not it will shrink when washed. Linen ALWAYS shrinks. So what you have to find out is whether or not it has been pre-shrunk before you buy it. A common way of pre-shrinking linen is through the sanforisation process.
Here are the details of our new 2011 upholstery linens that are named Recline, Relax and Restful. We have many others, these are just the new ones: