When the English landscape designer Isabella Bannerman attended a countryside sale of historian Arthur Bryant’s house, her family went in search of undiscovered gems. “In the attics were some incredible brick red and cream cut velvet curtains which were fabulous and we thought looked pre-Raphaelite,” Bannerman tells Vogue. The family of five argued over the curtains’ lot number. “We had a huge row...one of us was sure we'd won the curtains for a staggeringly low price. Later, the auctioneer was better informed.” They had, in fact, won the contents of a dusty cabinet in the basement which contained Arthur Bryant’s sheets and pillowcases. They were linen, and intact—some are still in use today at the Bannerman residence. “Only a few survive, 25 years later, but we wouldn't swap them for the curtains any day.”
The durability of linen is part of what has made it a luxurious staple for centuries. Usually considered a summer fabric for its cooling effect, new direct-to-consumer brands are making the case for keeping linen around all year long. Compared to cotton or silk, linen has heft—a Once Milano linen quilt might be a good replacement for this year’s popular weighted blankets, which are said to help with anxiety and increase levels of serotonin.
Linen’s temperature regulation actually stems from its fibers, which are longer than cotton, making the fabric more absorbent. ?“In your sleep, what makes you wake up uncomfortable is getting sweaty, a bit clammy, wet, and then suddenly cold,” Jessica Mason, the founder of linen PJ and bedding company Piglet in Bed, tells Vogue. “Linen enables to you have a dry sleep. ?And with cotton, the whole emphasis is on high thread count...the closer the weave the better. ?With linen, it’s a much looser weave, which is what makes it more breathable.”
Linen also has a locavore quality that makes it appealing to the bedding consumer who’s already sourcing their food from farmers’ markets, their furniture through upcycling dealers. Its strenuous production process requires careful skill, often passed down for generations on small farms in Europe. Piglet in Bed works with a farm in France when sourcing material for their contrast-piping linen pajamas. “When comparing to cotton, which is easy to grow and can be produced on a mass scale,” Mason explains, “linen is a difficult crop. As a result, much of it is still being grown by the same family farms.”
Genevieve Rosen, the founder of Australian bedding company Bed Threads, is a former journalist who channels her love of facts by publishing information about linen regularly on the company website, including styling tips and maintenance guides. ?“I think consumers now want to know where their homewares come from,” Rosen says. “They want something that will last and that does what it says. I can go on about linen forever.” Bed Threads bedding bundles come in reusable flax bags, with no plastic, and are available in 12 different colors.
There is something to be said for the way linen feels—it’s soft without being slick, and clearly all-natural without being scratchy. My housemate reports that her Piglet in Bed pajamas feel “luxurious, but not princess-like.” To be comfortable without feeling too precious is perhaps the greatest luxury, particularly as we head into—and cuddle up for—the coldest months of the year.