Since yesterday’s post on linen and sustainability sent several commentators to their cupboards to fondle stashed linen fabrics, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up while working with linen. This is the way I handle the fabric, and so far has worked out quite well for me.
- Prewashing- it’s always a good idea to prewash a length of fabric in the same manner you plan to wash the finished garment.
- It’s usually best to pre-wash linen 3-4 times, drying completely between washes. I finish the raw edges of the fabric, then toss the length in with like-colored loads.
- To dry- I prefer to hang the length of fabric on the line, smoothing the wet fabric with my hands and gently aligning the selvedges. Once it dries, I don’t need to painstakingly press the entire length of fabric. I give it a quick once over (if that).
- Otherwise, it’s a good idea to put the fabric in the dryer and take it out while still a little damp for pressing. It’s easier to press well than crispy fabric that was wadded in the dryer for a few days.
- Use sharp needles, in a weight that matches the weight of your fabric. That is, heavy needles for heavy linen and light needles for lightweight linen. Click here for more tips on choosing needles.
- Linen presses well, and prefers steam. Use the highest heat and plenty of steam- a dry iron will scorch the fabric.
- Linen usually tailors well, but keep it relatively simple. For example- a single welt pocket (well interfaced) will look better longer than a double welt over time.
- Take care with “appendages” like pocket flaps. They will always need ironing to look good unless you take into account the nature of the fabric. My favorite trick is to sew down appendages. Or, in the case of a pocket flap, try a button in each corner of the flap.
- Other design features like pleats, darts, and even seam allowances can be top-stitched down with relative discretion and it makes for easier care later on.
- Linen is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial. The shape and nature of the fibers also repel dirt.
- That doesn’t mean linen doesn’t get dirty, but a linen garment need not be laundered as often as a cotton tee. Just hang up the garment (or if you’re like me, drape it over the top of the bureau) after wear. If you wad it up, you’ll have a big gross wrinkly mess.
- Use warm, cold or hot for linen. I like to wash darks on cool settings, and lights on warm. I use a mild detergent I make myself, and often toss a little vinegar in the rinse cycle which freshens the fabric.
- Dark colors or reds will fade long before the fabric gives out. I like to drop a little packet of iDye into my blacks every now and then, and occasionally in my reds. It’s amazing how a little bit of dye.
I hope that helps! I’m always on the lookout for tips, so if I left something out, please tell me about it.
Wondering where to get linen? Click here to check out linen fabrics from a large range of online retailers.
Next- I think I’ll make a binding foot video to show how I hold my hands and manipulate the fabric. Perhaps. An ode to my binding foot– How do I love thee, tiny piece of metal? To the length and breadth and depth of my soul….