Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Linen is a strong, cool cloth woven from flax and the word comes from the Latin for the flax plant, linum, and the earlier Greek λίνον (linon). From this, in turn, come the equivalent words in Breton, French and English. The place name Allineuc adds a Breton article al, 'the' and a suffix -euc, an adjectival ending which comes from the Old Breton -oc,-og, 'place' [-eg in modern Breton].

Linen has been manufactured from flax for thousands of years and Brittany has had a linen weaving tradition going back centuries.  From 1670-1830 growing flax and producing linen was one of Brittany’s main industries. In the 18th century around 35,000 people lived off the linen trade in the Cotes d’Armor region.
Women spun the flax and the weaving was done by men assisted by the boys who trained at their father’s side from a very young age. Often the family lived in one room which they shared with the huge loom that dominated their lives.
Uzel, only a few kilometers away from Allineuc, was a linen manufacturing centre. There is even a museum there, Atelier Musée du Tissage, part of la Route du Lin which includes Collinée, Allineuc, Loudéac, Saint-Thélo as well as Uzel.
Atelier Musee du Tissage, Uzel
And then global competition got in the way, particularly the British and then the Belgians in the 19th century. It is the Belgians who now run any of the flax and linen businesses left in France; mostly in Normandy and further east.
The name Allineuc, with its Breton roots, indicates that this trade dates back to the early Middle Ages.

For an etymological root linum has been worked pretty hard. It is behind words like: line, the first lines were measured and drawn in linen thread; lint, linen waste for dressing wounds; lining, for wool garments; lingerie, originally for all linen garments but in English the French term was first used euphemistically for underwear; lino/linoleum, made from linseed oil; and linnet, a songbird with a penchant for flaxseed.

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