Back in March when the shelter in place was issued, many textile businesses quickly pivoted and started making masks. One local company, San Rafael–based Rough Linen, did just that and focused its efforts on keeping health care and law enforcement workers safe. The company prides itself on the products being natural, sustainable, breathable and inherently antimicrobial, and this approach is reflected in everything from face masks to pinafores and aprons, curtains and bath textiles. Founder Tricia Rose says, “Linen has always spelled magic for me, it evokes my grandmother’s house, and everything that is secure and loving. The wholesome roughness of its unironed texture, its fresh smell, even the weight of it. Humans co-evolved with linen. I love its provenance, its freshness under my hand.”
Although linen is the fabric of choice for sunny summer afternoons spent by the sea, it has a long history, getting its start in Europe and dating back some 65,000 years. And unlike linen, Rose says, “the first poly-cotton sheet ever woven is still out there, in landfill or the ocean; that’s a sobering thought.” Linen is a natural fiber, fashioned from the stem of the flax plant, making it 100 percent biodegradable. And compared to cotton, the growing process for flax uses less water, less fertilizer and almost no pesticide — something we can all feel good about.