by Shannon Gifford
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  • Linen

    For a summertime garment that is elegant and cool, turn to linen as your fiber of choice. Linen is known for its durability, comfort, and beauty. This fabric is quite stable, so it is an excellent choice for a beginner. Linen also lends itself to a variety of embellishments and creative additions, which makes it an excellent fabric for the advanced sewist!


    The more you wash linen, the softer it becomes. Use cold water and a medium heat dryer. No bleach or fabric softener. If you wash the fabric at least twice before sewing, you will lessen the intensity of the wrinkles. Some experts recommend five or six washings! I prefer to wash twice, make my project and wear it a couple of times, and let the additional washings soften the fabric further (I'm not very patient!).

    Needles and Thread:

    Universal needles will work well in linen; choose a 70/10 or 80/12 for the lighter weight linens such as "handkerchief" or "blouse" weight linens. For bottomweight linens, use a 90/14 needle. Use cotton thread or cotton covered polyester thread for sewing linen.

    Seams, Seam Finishes, and Hems:

    Standard straight seams, medium length stitching (2.5) are good choices. You can also use French seams, fell seams, mock welt seams, and hemstitching if you so desire. Hems can be done by machine topstitching, rolled hems (in the finer weights of linen), or by hand. Seam finishes will be necessary, as linen ravels. Choose a 3-thread balanced serger stitch, or zigzag over both layers of seam allowances (if you do not own a serger).


    Your choice of interfacing will be determined by the location of the interfacing in the finished garment. For crisp collars and cuffs, button plackets, and waistbands, use a weft-insertion interfacing cut on the bias. For soft lapels, reinforcement around zippers and pockets, and softer collars and cuffs, use So-Sheer. If you prefer to use a sew-in interfacing, use a layer of the linen itself. I generally choose to cut this self-fabric interfacing on the bias, as I think it helps maintain the drape of the outer fabric. Give this elegant interfacing option a try!

    Pattern Suggestions:

    Jackets, blouses, dresses, pants, lightweight coats, vests

    Creative Possibilities:

    Linen is a perfect fabric for embellishment. Choose a decorative or embroidery stitch on your machine and use it as a border for your garment. Try a hemstitch or entredeux stitch for finishing hems or as a seam finish. Pintucks, smocking, ribbon embroidery, and applique are all beautiful when done on linen. Rayon embroidery thread and linen fabric are a beautiful marriage.

    Additional Tips:

    Don't be put off by the wrinkles in linen. For many years, linen wrinkles were a status symbol; one expert calls them "rich wrinkles"! These creases were and are an indicator of the genuine linen article. Washing does soften the fabric and reduces much of the tendency to wrinkle. Linen loves to be ironed. Use a spray bottle of water, spritz the fabric, and then use a steam iron to smooth and polish your fabric. Seal your buttonholes and pocket openings with a dot of anti-fray solution (such as Fray Check or No-Fray) before cutting the openings.

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