Saturday, 18 April 2020

Basque Country Linen

Early in the 20th century a weaving tradition was well established in the Basque country and by the 1920s the industry was booming, with several well known brands well established in fashionable Paris, and sold all over the world. The fabrics are hard wearing, colourful and practical (one company boasts that their tablecloths will last 100 years) but in the 1970s the French weaving industry cannot compete in a world market and most of the weaving workshops closed or drastically reduced in size and output.

The Lartigue boutique in Saint Jean de Luz.
Lartigue boutique, Saint Jean de Luz. Pyrenees-Atlantiques. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The fabric gets its distinctive Basque look from the traditional striped 'cloaks' worn by cattle in the area to protect them from the sun and biting flies. In time tablecloths, bed sheets and tea towels in similar designs began appearing in comfortable middle class households. Once the Empress Eugenie started holidaying in Biarritz and buying local fabric they became established interior and garden decor.

Traditionally the Basque linens were white, red, indigo and green, but today they come in a myriad of colours. The other major change in contemporary times is the switch from linen to cotton fibre. As in Ireland, flax is no longer grown in the area, but in the Basque country the weavers chose to switch to weaving imported cotton rather than importing flax to make linen cloth. Nowadays the term linen refers to the function of the woven products, not the fibre they are made from.

The most well known of the Basque Country Linen weaving companies is Lartigue who are designated a 'living heritage' business. You can visit their workshops and they have boutiques and outlet shops in several places, including at the factory in Ascain.


For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

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