Materials and Meanings
Linen is, strictly speaking, the material made from the flax plant, although in English it has taken on a more generic meaning for fine fabrics - as in "linen cupboard". From its Latin name linum derives also "Linoleum" and "Linseed" for example.
Cotton is grown across the world in the dry climates and rich soils that suit it. The cotton belts of America and Brazil continue through many countries including Egypt, Turkey and on to India, Pakistan and China.
It is grown in Africa and Australia: in all about 80 countries in the world. Grown for over 3000 years it has a renowned history and an important place in the global economy.
The crop is picked or harvested, spun, woven and finished by dying or bleaching etc into the materials that are so familiar to us. The longer the staple the finer the yarn, which is why the varieties grown in Egypt are so prized, and why there is probably much much more Egyptian cotton sold than is grown there! (Egypt grows less than Nigeria and only slightly more than Argentina). American cotton (Pima varieties) is also valued for its long staple, and Turkish cotton for its absorbency, which is why the best towelling cotton is Turkish.
Cotton suffered a decline with the invention of synthetic materials in the twentieth century, but its importance has seen a renaissance in the last forty years; it is always been the ideal for bedding, towelling and other household textiles.
The word TOG comes from the informal – and now rather dated – word “Togs” for clothes, which may in turn derive from the Latin toga. If you’re still with us and really are thirsty for knowledge, here goes:
The TOG is a measure of thermal resistance of a unit area, also known as thermal insulance. It was developed by the Shirley Institute in Manchester as an easy-to-follow alternative to the SI unit of m2K/W.
The basic unit of insulation coefficient is the RSI, (1 m² K / Watt). 1 tog = 0.1 RSI. There is also a clo clothing unit equivalent to 0.155 RSI or 1.55 tog.
A tog is 0.1 m2K/W. In other words, the thermal resistance in togs is equal to ten times the temperature difference (in °C) between the two surfaces of a material, when the flow of heat is equal to one watt per square metre.
You really shouldn't have got this far, but we're grateful to Wikipedia for explaining it.
FOR THE CURIOUS
Worsted is a heavy woollen cloth, named after the small village of Worstead in Norfolk. East Anglia, from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century was almost the sheep walk of England, which explains its wealth of huge and magnificent medieval churches.
Fustian was originally a heavy woven cloth often used for padding - hence its literary use to describe pompous, inflated speech. The word may derive from El-Fustat, a suburb of Cairo.
Muslin is an eighteenth century word for a semi-fine cotton cloth. The word derives from the town of Mosul in modern-day Iraq.
Denim, as most people know, is a word for a twill cloth that comes de Nîmes in France.
Corduroy similarly from Cordoba in Spain.
Cambric was originally a fine weave white linen from Cambrai in France.
Buckram is a stiff cloth soaked in a substance to fill the weave. The derivation of the word is uncertain but we like the romantic possibility that the name of such a dull material comes from Bokhara on the Silk Road in modern-day Uzbekistan.
Velvet - an obscure one, most likely from the Old French velluet and ultimately the Latin Word vellus, meaning fleece. Velour is probably similar in derivation.