q Linen fabric: All about linen and the best linen patterns

Linen fabric: Learn more about the sustainable natural fiber and what you can sew with linen!

Have you ever wondered what makes linen fabric so special? In this article, you can find out more about the process of extracting linen, its unique properties, be inspired by some linen fabric sewing projects and how you can use it. If you’ve always wanted to sew a simple linen dress or linen trousers yourself, you’ve come to the right place because you’ll learn everything you need to know.

Content:
1. History of linen
2. Obtaining linen fabric
3. Properties of linen
4. What to sew with linen fabric?
5. How to sew linen fabric?

1. History of linen

The history of linen is rich in tradition, innovation and cultural heritage spanning thousands of years. The origins of linen date back to prehistoric times, when people began to cultivate flax and use its fibers. Flax, from which linen fabric is made, is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been domesticated independently in different parts of the world, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America.

Linen fabric
Linen fabric

The use of linen goes back as far as 30,000 years, when people began to grow and spin flax to make clothing and other items. This marked a turning point in human history, as linen drove the development of textiles. In ancient times, linen became a symbol of wealth and luxury, especially in Egypt, where it was used for clothing, sails, writing materials and even mummy bandages.

Linen production in Europe experienced a boom in the Middle Ages, particularly thanks to trade associations such as the Hanseatic League, which spread trade across the continent. During the Industrial Revolution, mechanical looms and spinning machines enabled the mass production of linen fabric, which led to its wider distribution.

In the 20th century, linen lost importance due to competition from synthetic fibers and cotton, but was a crucial raw material during the war. Linen has recently experienced a revival due to the demand for natural materials. It is valued for its ecological compatibility, breathability and unique look.

Linen harvest
Flax harvest, circa 1930

Today, linen is grown and processed worldwide, with some of the most important producing countries being Belgium, France, Russia, China and Poland. The processing of linen fabric is a fascinating chapter in human history that shows how a simple natural material has shaped and continues to shape the development of mankind.

2. Obtaining linen fabric

The production of linen is a multi-stage process that requires careful planning, care and manual labor. Here is an insight into how linen is produced:

Cultivation of flax

The production of linen begins with the cultivation of flax. This typically takes place in spring on well-prepared fields. The flax seeds are sown in the soil and germinate after a short time.

Flax is a hardy plant that thrives in temperate climates.

Growth phase

Flax requires regular watering and care as it grows. The plants grow to a height of around 60 to 90 centimeters and develop delicate, blue flowers. The technical fibers needed for the linen fabric are found in the stalk of the plant and mature over time.

Flax fiber
Structure of the flax plant

Harvesting the flax stalk

After around 100 days, the flax plants are ready for harvesting. This typically happens in summer, when the plants start to wilt and the stems turn yellow. Harvesting is done by cutting off the stems close to the ground to keep the fibers intact or by “raking”, in which the flax plants are pulled out by the roots to obtain the longest possible fibers.

Retting

After harvesting, the flax stalks are pulled through a riffle comb to separate the seed capsules from the stalks. The seeds are then sieved out and used for various purposes.

Roasting the stems

After harvesting, the flax stalks are bundled and either exposed to the weather (dew roasting) or placed in water pits (water roasting). In a fermentation or rotting process lasting several weeks, the cohesion between the wood and bast layers and between the individual fibers is dissolved.

Drying/Darkening

After roasting, the flax stalks must be dried or kilned. This can be caused by solar radiation, residual heat or over an open fire.

Breaking

The kiln-dried, dry flax stalks are pulled through a flax crusher, while the movable upper part of the crusher is simultaneously knocked up and down. This breaks the woody parts of the stems and exposes the fibers.

Scutching

Now the broken flax bundles are processed with a swinging knife until short fibers and the remaining wood parts have fallen out and only the longer fibers, the so-called swinging flax, are left.

Hackling

A hackle is a board with iron pins attached through which the flax is pulled in bundles. This causes the flax to unravel further and the inferior, short fibers separate from the hackled long fibers.

Hackling linen
Hackling process, on the right the finished flax long fibers

Spinning linen cloth

The cleaned linen fibers are then spun into yarns or threads. This can be done in the traditional way with hand spinning wheels or with mechanical spinning machines in larger factories. The resulting linen yarn is ready for further processing into linen fabric or other products.

These are the basic steps in the production of linen fabric from flax. This process requires patience, experience and craftsmanship to obtain high-quality linen fibers that can be used in a variety of products, from clothing to home textiles. This elaborate process is the reason why fairly produced linen fabric is usually more expensive.

3. Properties of linen

Linen has been valued for centuries for its many uses. In this chapter you can find out more about the properties that make up the fiber.

Breathable

One of the most remarkable properties of linen is its breathability. It is known for its ability to absorb moisture and dry quickly, making it particularly suitable for warm or humid environments. But linen is not only particularly attractive in tropical regions: linen is also popular in Europe, America and other countries in summer. This makes linen a popular fabric for clothing, especially for summer clothing such as shirts, pants and dresses.

Durable

Linen is also exceptionally hard-wearing, as the fibers are naturally extra-fine and long, which is why fabrics made from it are extremely smooth and leave little room for air pockets. Although it may feel stiff at first, it becomes softer and more supple over time and with each wash, without losing any of its firmness. This durability makes it ideal for use in a variety of areas, from clothing to home textiles such as bed linen and towels.

Linen sewing pattern
Functional cutlery set made of linen fabric

Hypoallergenic

Another advantage of linen fabric is its hypoallergenic nature. Compared to synthetic materials or even cotton, linen is less susceptible to the accumulation of dust, dirt and allergens. This makes it a good choice for people with sensitive skin or allergies.

Versatile

Linen is also an extremely versatile material. It can be dyed, printed, embroidered and treated to create a variety of textures and finishes. This versatility allows designers and manufacturers to use linen fabric in a variety of products, from elegant tablecloths to robust canvas.

Embroidered linen shirt
Embroidered linen shirt
Linen sailing cloth
Canvas
Linen tablecloth
Linen tablecloth

Sustainable

Finally, linen fabric is also a sustainable choice. As it is a natural fiber, linen is biodegradable and has a comparatively lower environmental impact than synthetic materials. In addition, the cultivation of flax requires less water and pesticides than other materials, especially in comparison to cotton. In addition, the flax plant can be grown and processed in Europe, meaning that long transportation routes are often not necessary.

Tip: For a sustainable choice when buying your linen fabric, make sure that you do not buy a linen-synthetic blend, as the fabric is then no longer biodegradable!

5. What to sew with linen fabric?

As you already know from the previous sections, linen is best suited for summer clothing. But what to sew with linen fabric? In this chapter, you can take inspiration from well-known designers and create a sewing project for your beautiful linen fabric.

Sew linen blouse

Linen blouses are not only stylish, but also extremely practical. The natural linen fabric offers excellent breathability, which means you stay cool and comfortable even on warm days. The structured texture of linen makes blouses look both casual and elegant and can therefore be worn both in the office and in your free time. Thanks to its ability to absorb moisture and dry quickly, linen remains comfortable and fresh even when worn for long periods. Designers such as Max Mara and J.Crew are known for their high-quality linen blouses, which are appreciated for their timeless style and first-class workmanship. If you want to sew your own blouse from linen fabric, the linen shirt pattern The Noella Blouse is the perfect choice, especially for beginners. The oversized cut with large patch pockets and simple sleeves without cuffs is easy to sew and looks particularly modern and stylish.

Linen pants pattern

Linen pants are an excellent choice for warm weather as the fabric is light and airy. Linen is also very hard-wearing and durable, making it an ideal option for everyday use of pants. Linen pants come in a variety of styles, from casual wide leg pants to slim and tailored cuts that are suitable for formal occasions.

Wide-cut pyjama pants made of linen are particularly popular. With these linen trousers, we are sewing a basic piece for summer that goes with everything and gives every outfit a casual look.

They go well with both plain T-shirts for a relaxed everyday look and chic blouses for an elegant twist. The loose cut and airy material make these linen pyjama bottoms not only comfortable to wear, but also perfect for warm days. Whether in classic striped white or in bright colors – any color is suitable for sewing your linen pants. These versatile trousers are a must-have in any summer wardrobe.

Sewing linen trousers is a lot of fun as it is very quick and therefore also a great project for beginners. A well-suited pattern for these trendy linen pants is the straight pants pattern The Leslie Pants, due to the straight, wide cut and the simple elastic waistband. To learn how to sew linen trousers, you can take a look at these free sewing instructions:

Simple linen dress pattern

Linen dresses are a popular choice for summer. Zimmermann, an Australian fashion brand, shows how cleverly light and airy linen fabrics can be integrated into designs. These dresses exude a relaxed, springtime elegance and can be worn effortlessly from day to night, beach to city. If you want to sew a simple linen dress pattern yourself, you can take inspiration from Zimmermann’s designs by choosing high-quality linen fabrics and a linen dress pattern with a flowing silhouette, such as the A line summer dress pattern The Rory Dress.

Sew linen two-piece suit

If you can’t decide whether you’d rather wear a linen blouse or shorts, why not wear both?

A coordinating set of a linen shirt and matching linen pants pattern is not only a fashion statement, but also a practical solution for versatile outfit options. With a set like this, you can get dressed in the morning in a flash without having to think about whether the pieces fit together.

A typical coordinated set often consists of a top and a bottom, such as a blouse and shorts as in the 2-piece set with blouse pattern and matching summer trousers pattern The Linen Co-Ord.

Tip: For a harmonious, monochrome look, choose the same fabric for the top and bottom. If you prefer to make a fashion statement, how about a complementary color palette or a mix of patterns?

What makes a coordinated set particularly practical is its versatility. The individual pieces can easily be worn together or separately, depending on the occasion and mood. For example, the blouse can be combined with a different pair of trousers or a skirt, while the shorts can be styled with a different top or a jacket. So you can combine many outfits from two pieces.

6. How to sew linen?

1. Washing linen

First of all, it is advisable to wash and dry the linen fabric before cutting it to size, as linen tends to warp when first washed. This pre-washing also removes any residual starch or chemicals from the manufacturing process, which helps to ensure that the finished garment is comfortable to wear and does not change unexpectedly.

2. Ironing linen fabric

When ironing linen cloth, it is important to use a steam iron to smooth out the creases that linen is known for. If you don’t have a steam iron, you can iron the linen fabric slightly damp. You should always adjust the temperature of the iron to the thickness of the fabric to avoid damaging the linen.

3. Sewing linen fabric

When actually sewing with linen, it is better to use a slightly longer stitch length, as linen is a rather coarse material. A stitch length of around 2.5 to 3 is generally suitable for creating beautiful seams that are also stable. It is also advisable to finish the edges of the fabric with a zigzag stitch or overlock to prevent linen fabric from fraying too much and to increase the durability of the garment.

From its long history to its modern applications, linen is a material that continues to impress us with its beauty, durability and versatility. Whether you are an experienced sewer or just starting out with fabrics, you can never go wrong with a sewing project made from linen fabric. So grab your sewing machine and have fun sewing!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top