linen #3: boring? no way!

creative linen
creative linen

Quick Review: You’ve got a piece of linen in your hand – exciting!

Take your linen, and some jeans (non-bleeding!) or large towels, and pop them into the wash on hot.

W-H-A-T? you shriek.

  • Yes! Wash linen as you intend to wash the finished garment, you can wash several times, and hot water isn’t bad for linen. (Remember, it’s strongest when wet.)
  • Linen fabric doesn’t shrink much, but sizing does need to be washed out before sewing begins.
  • DO NOT USE BLEACH! Bleach can damage the linen fibres.
  • Dry as you intend the finished garment to dry. But I’d do dryer first, plus an old (clean) tennis ball or two, and watch that lint trap to see how much fuzz comes off. (I’ve included a photo of the fuzz from the orange linen, and you see how much fuzz this can be.)
  • Bone-dry linen becomes brittle and can break, so don’t over-use that dryer. Remove linen when it’s slightly damp and either hang to complete drying or… iron on highest iron setting, with steam for best results.
  • The more linen is washed, the softer it becomes, particularly if you toss in old jeans or towels.

Remember my trick with my camp shirt: Because it was stiff after air drying, I decided to liberally sprinkle the shirt with water and toss into the dryer for a few minutes so I didn’t have to iron it.

Or you can iron it with lots of steam, then toss into the dryer for 5 minutes to soften.

seam allowances:

  • Linen ravels. Sometimes a lot.
  • Before cutting out your garment, decide what seam finishing is needed.
  • Test seam finishes before cutting out your garment: work with a scrap to try different finishes (french, zigzag, serge/overlock, etc), then launder to see what works best.
  • If your chosen seam finish requires more seam allowance than your pattern, add that amount before cutting.

After a couple of tests with different linens, you’ll start knowing what works with what, just as with any other fabric.

creativity: Let’s say you’ve got a great piece of linen, but it’s a solid colour, and looks boring. A-ha! Now’s where your creativity comes in.

  • Linen takes dyes beautifully, so you can start thinking about ~
  • Fabric dyeing or stenciling portions of your fabric, or all of it, either before cutting or after completing your project.
  • Fringed hems or exposing fringed seams. (Secure the fringe with a tiny zigzag stitch just before the fringed area begins.)
  • Use rubber bands on bunched up linen or enclose soft-edged buttons in linen then wind rubber bands around linen before washing and drying. The folds stay in the fabric for quite a while and give 3-dimensional effects. See my example below.
  • Forgot to mention how much longer it takes the bunched up fabric to dry. Rather than risk damaging the entire piece, I pulled it out of the dryer and allowed the entire piece to finish air drying before removing elastics and buttons. (Tossed it on my cutting table overnight, but a shower rod or ironing board would suffice.)

Previous linen posts:
linen #1: learning about linen 
linen #2: different weights 

15 thoughts on “linen #3: boring? no way!”

  1. Seems the fibres will bend and hold a shape if wet and then dried in that shape. But be careful not to overly dry the fabric. Always remembering that consistent bending, as in a hem, may eventually break the fibres.

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  2. As you know, I sew with linen a lot and yet I’ve never tried anything like this before. I also wasn’t aware that it was that resilient a fibre and could be abused as much as that!!

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  3. You’ve made my day with your comment! 😂 Americans have a lot of trouble finding linen, and getting a good piece costs the earth. But you’re in fabric heaven over in Blighty, and should be able to locate some choice pieces at good prices! Not saying it’s suitable for wearing whilst crewing, mind you.😉 But a cool shift to wear going down the pub on a warm night – perfect. Have fun with it!


  4. I’ve never really sewn with linen. And only ever really worn it in wide legged trousers. Time to start thinking of it differently…

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  5. Thank you so much for the kind thoughts, but I really just cribbed from Wikipedia and Threads magazine. They got me so enthusiastic about linen I thought others might too, if they knew a bit more…


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