No one knows when or where a group of humans discovered that plant materials contained fibers. This was useful for making fabric and other items. Archeologists can provide physical evidence that prehistoric Swiss people created woven cloth around 5,000 BC. Flax, which is used to make linen, is one of the oldest agricultural crops that has been grown purposefully in the world. In biblical accounts, pictographs, and hieroglyphics, there are references to flax farming and linen weaving.
Ancient Egyptians created ceremonial robes, royal tunics, and everyday clothes from flax linen. The fibers were also used by weavers to create everyday items such as fish nets or sail cloth. The linen fabric was also used to make the wraps or bandages for mummifying the deceased. Burial wrappings that are soil-resistant, yet appear to be old after thousands of years, is a sign of their durability, as demonstrated by the discoveries of King Tutankhamen’s tombs and the tombs of Pharaoh Ramses.
Elegant linen tops fabrics with embroidered borders were favored by the wealthy. These embellishments could be made with metallic threads, or other finer details. The art of dyeing linen with plant pigments and other natural materials was also taught to weavers. Purple cloth is a result of a liquid that was found in a Murex brandaris gland. Many believe damask and fine brocade fabrics were also made in Damascus. This linen is woven with a double-sided pattern. It is created by switching the number of threads that are passed over or under the fabric during weaving.
Trade between countries was common once civilizations started traveling extensively by sea. Fine linens were one of the most traded products. Later, flax seeds, flax crops and the knowledge to weave linen were also included. Fine linens were often imported from abroad by the aristocrats of Rome and ancient Greece. Nero was said to have fine linen tapestries with gold and silver embellishments hanging in his palace. The cloth was used by the rich for tablecloths, bath towels, and bed linens.
In medieval times, villages and settlements created linen and other woven fabrics using spinning wheels and homemade machines. This chore provided fabric for families and was a source of income. Many weavers also sold their garments at the weekly market. Industrialists later invent the weaving industry by creating machinery that can be powered by water, steam, and then gas and electricity.