Vegetable flannel

Vegetable flannel is a type of flannel using fibres from the Scots pine, or pinus sylvestris, rather than traditional woollen fibres.[1] It is described as having a hemp like appearance, but with a tighter, softer texture.[2] In addition to this, the term can also describe coarse linen used for underclothing.[3]


Invented in the early 19th century by L. Léopold Lairitz of Germany, the manufacture of vegetable flannel became a Black Forest industry due to the wide availability of the pines there which provided the raw materials.[4][5] The raw fibre, called waldwolle (forest wool), and the pine oil were separated, and then the waldwolle was spun into yarn or thread, and either woven or knitted.[5]

By 1900, vegetable flannel was mainly woven at Breslau, which at the time was located in Germany.[2]


Vegetable flannel was promoted as an hypoallergenic option for those who could not wear wool, and was thought to be particularly good for rheumatism and neuralgia.[4][5] In the nineteenth century, this was attributed to the tannins and resins present in the fibre, and "formic acid, which creates a gentle and constant excitement of the skin."[5] Another contemporary article claimed that vegetable flannel regulated the release of phosphorus and other elements from the invalid's body.[4] In 1900, vegetable flannel was widely used for blankets in German hospitals, prisons and barracks as it was thought not to harbour pests and vermin.[2]


  1. "Vegetable flannel". Webster's 1913 Dictionary. Webster. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Cole, George S. (1900). Cole's Encyclopedia of Dry Goods. Root Newspaper Association. p. 566.
  3. Tortora, Phyllis G.; Johnson, Ingrid (2014). The Fairchild books dictionary of textiles (8th edition. ed.). New York: Fairchild Books. ISBN 9781609015350.
  4. 1 2 3 "Vegetable Flannel". Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours: 256. 1869.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Manufactures: Vegetable Flannel". The Journal of the Society of Arts: 281. 10 March 1865.
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