San Rafael's Rough Linen wins North Bay Maker Awards for workforce development tactics

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Linen — the oldest textile known to mankind — has been around for 65,000 years, confirmed by flax thread found in ancient caves.

Today, this relaxed fabric is witnessing a revival, after two centuries of cotton dominance, and is now available in a wide range of luxury handmade products manufactured in the U.S.

Nine years ago, Tricia Rose founded Rough Linen, a San Rafael firm with a small team of 20 cutters, ironers, sewers and customer service employees — all women except for one “seamster” — supporting a growing global customer base (www.roughlinen.com).

Originally from England, Rose also spent time in Australia before coming to the states. Her company produces an extensive product family only available online and through Amazon.com, with no middlemen in between.

“I’ve loved the ways that quality linen fabrics enhance our lives and senses,” said Rose. “Linen has inherent attributes, including texture, color, strength, lustre, drape and handle.”

Rose slept on her grandmother’s family linens, homespun by her great-grandmother, until she was five. She discovered a hand-sewn linen pillowslip while clearing out her grandmother’s cottage and later found a source of natural linen with a similar feel. She decided to make bedding in the same tradition.

“In 2008, I was delighted to find the exact homespun texture and weight of linen woven from flax by a European mill. I made it into bedding and Rough Linen was born — I couldn’t keep it a secret. Soon, friends started putting in requests for the same duvet covers and curtains I made for myself. ”

She wrote a press release announcing her new startup and posted it online and had 10 orders in just a few days. Rose uses fabric made from four flax variations, open weave Myriad, Orkney, St. Barts and Smooth linen, and adds subtle colors to the cloth using her own dyes.

Rough Linen transforms this fabric into many bedding forms, such as sheets, pillowslips, and bedskirts, along with shams, duvet and cushion covers. The company also produces bath and beach towels, robes, washcloths, tablecloths, curtains, throws, tea towels, napkins and runners.

Rose added a “Touch” line of women’s clothing over a year ago, which encompasses everything from the perfect T, to a boxy shirt, collarless popovers, simple shells, the icon dress, crossback tops and dresses, the cultotte, tapered crop, the mirage scarf, wide-leg pant, plus aprons and pinafores — all from 100 percent fine linen.

“Our goal is to make products with simple designs using timeless natural linen and good manufacturing principles responsibly crafted here in Marin County.”

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