Up next in our spring fabrics blog series, we’re taking a look at the ultimate warm-weather fabric—linen! Like shirtings, this can be a vast category of fabrics to consider, given how many variations are available. While this may be a bit confusing for some sewists, it is also what makes linen so unique and versatile. From gauzy tunics and tailored blazers to classic dresses and must-have pants, you really could fill your handmade wardrobe with linen!
Technically, linen is a natural fiber, not a fabric type. Still, most use the term to describe any woven fabric composed of linen or a linen blend. Linen is one of the world’s oldest fabrics and still reigns supreme due to its unique combination of inherent properties. These include excellent durability, breathability, moisture-wicking/absorbent, and hypoallergenic, among others. It is also very renewable and fully biodegradable, making it a very sustainable choice. The list goes on and on!
Adding to its uniqueness, linen is available in a wide range of weights, textures, and blends, making it also one of the most versatile fabrics in a sewist’s arsenal. From light gauzy weaves for tunics to thick twill weaves for pants and jackets or a soft linen blend for staple tops and dresses, linen can do it all! This spring you can’t go wrong with a classic oversized button-up, two-piece set, or cropped linen pants.
When we think about linen, two talented sewists immediately come to mind, Karen (@intostitches) and Romy (@sewlike). Not only are these ladies devoted linen fans, they are also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sewing with it, and are pretty amazing seamstresses, too. We are so excited to have them join us for today’s post! Check out their stunning makes and read a few of the reasons they love working with linen.
Details about Karen’s Outfit—Fabric: Animal Print Collage Digital Print Linen, Pattern: Liesl + Co Geneva V-Neck Blouse (The only modification made is the added ruffle at the neckline made using a 2″ wide strip, folded in half and gathered.)
Karen commented, “Let me just say that I LOVE sewing with linen… It is easy to sew, presses like a dream, and does everything you ask it to.” She often asks a lot from fabrics to create the look she wants, with linen Karen says it “just waits and asks ‘what would you like me to do next?'”. She also notes that these fabrics “feel good in your hands while you’re working with [them] and lovely to wear after you’re done!”
As you peruse Karen’s previous makes, linen fabrics are definitely a recurring favorite. She mentioned, “The beauty of linen is the variety of weights it comes in,” making it an excellent choice for any number of garments. Her favorite makes include, “A heavier weight natural piece in a classic blazer, mid weights for pants, and a variety of weights for tops.” And her breathtaking digital print linen blouse is sure to become another staple!
Details about Romy’s Outfit—Fabrics: Various Linens (including the Soft Washed Linen Solid), Patterns: True Bias’s Ogden Cami (bodice) + McCalls 7498 (skirt) (Modifications include squaring the neckline, doubling the strap width, adding 1-1/2″ to the Ogden’s length, and block piecing the skirt tiers.)
For Romy, linen “just ticks all the boxes”! She gushed, “Linen is so easy to work with. It comes in different weights and blends so there’s a linen for nearly every project. It’s versatile for layering or wearing on its own. I love how breathable it is. Oh, and I love the wide range of colours and prints available.”
While it was hard for her to narrow down her favorites, Romy mentioned, “I love specifically making dresses in linen blends and washed linens. They just have that effortless feel to them and only get better with wear.” She added, “I also really enjoy two-piece sets in linen; trust me you’re going to want to make yourself some luxury pjs; there’s no going back!” We’ll definitely have to give that a try—Anyone else up for some washed linen Carolyn Pajamas?!
When prepping and working with linen, there are quite a few different tips and schools of thought. For 100% linen, like the shirting she used above, Karen recommends prepping the fabric by,”Pressing with a hot dry iron, pre-washing in hot water, drying in a hot dryer until almost dry and then pressing again.” She adds, “After my garment is made, I wash in cool water and dry on delicate. The more washing and wearing, the softer the linen becomes.”
For Romy, she suggests, “Prewash your linen the way you intend to wash your garment. No matter the composition, I almost always cold wash, delicate cycle, and then dry without heat in my dryer. Oh, and be sure to iron your linen as best as you can before you cut; it will just save you a lot of headaches.”
As with many wovens, linen does tend to fray the more it is handled, so finishing your seams is a must. Try using a zig-zag stitch, serger, pinking shears, or as Karen recommends, with French seams. She commented, “Seam finishes are the key to getting nice professional results. I like French seam treatments for shoulder and side seams. ” She added that she also, “Uses a lot of top stitching to keep seams from bunching up during washing and making it so much easier to pull [garments] out of the dryer and wear without major pressing.”
Shopping for linen can be a bit overwhelming. With so many weights, blends, and designs to choose from it can be hard to narrow down the choices. As Romy says, “There’s a linen for every season and occasion,” and we totally agree! Here are a few of our tips.
For that classic crinkly linen look, watch for 100% linen rather than a blend. Get that well-worn feel by using a soft washed linen. When considering linen blends, think about the pattern you will use or the look you’d like to achieve. For a more structured, less wrinkled look, go with a linen and cotton blend. For a drapier, more fluid look, we recommend a linen and rayon blend. The more rayon in the composition, the more drape and movement your garment will have.
We stock a few different staple linens in our shop year-round. Here are a few more details about three of our favorites we try to keep in stock in a wide range of colors all the time.
Soft Washed Linen—This mid-weight 100% linen is a favorite for any number of garments. It has been enzyme-washed to give it that well-worn look and feel that you normally have to wait years to achieve. It has a nice balance of structure and drape, making it a great choice for pants, jackets, skirts, and more!
Looking for an even heavier option? Check out our Soft Washed Linen Twill.
Slub Texture Linen Blend—A tried-and-true customer favorite, this rayon and linen blend offers a softer, drapier look. Its composition has more rayon than linen giving it more movement while maintaining that textured linen look and feel. It is an excellent choice for shirts and other blouses or dresses.
Brussels Washer Linen Blend—The best of both worlds! This linen and rayon blend finds the perfect balance between the other two staples mentioned above. It features more linen than rayon, giving it more of that classic linen feel while still offering a bit of softness and drape. This fabric is also just the right mid-range weight making it a suitable choice for just about any garment—from tops to pants, you can’t go wrong!
You can probably tell we could go on and on about our love of linen! Not only is it durable and easy to work with, but it is also a fabric that you can depend on and enjoy season after season, not just this spring and summer. Interested in learning more about linen and getting other suggestions about sewing with and caring for this treasured fabric? Check out our resource article, “Fabric Profile: Linen,” for lots more information!
We’ll be picking up this series again next week with another spring staple—Rayon Wovens!
We SEW Want To Know What You Think! What are some of your favorite sewing patterns to pair with linen?