L is for Linen
If you’ve owned a linen skirt or shirt for a long time, you’ll know that linen is a truly fabulous fabric. It is stronger than cotton and actually improves with age, the fibres softening the more it is washed. It’s also cool on the skin, and, amazingly, it doesn’t rot. Many of the linen bandages used to wrap mummies in ancient Egypt some 4,000 years ago are in almost perfect condition! Why is it cool on the skin? It’s because linen will absorb a lot of moisture and still feel dry, unlike cotton that develops large damp patches rather quickly.
Linen is a natural fabric, its fibres harvested from the woody stem of the flax plant. A field of flax, a reed-like plant, grows up to about waist height, and has been a familiar sight in many countries for at least 5,000 years. In fact, flax was one of the first fabrics to be used for clothing. After harvesting the plants, they have to be soaked in water to release the soft fibres from the woody outer coating. Each fibre can be up to 90 cm (3 ft) in length and these are spun into fabric, ranging from coarse to finer grades. Course linen has ‘slubs’ or small bumps in its texture. Higher grade, fine linen has none of these. Both are perfect for a variety of uses, from all sorts of household items, including cushions and covers, to clothing.
Linen has a natural stiffness. It makes it wrinkle easily – that’s why some linen clothes are made of a blend of linen and manmade fibre, which helps prevent such bad creasing. It is naturally white.
You may have wondered why sheets and pillowcases often referred to as ‘linens’? It’s simply because most bed sheets were once made of linen.
There’s more to this super-fabric. Linen is an eco-friendly fabric: the making of linen uses a lot less water than is needed for the production of cotton (or other man-made fibres). And once harvested, the parts of the plant not used for cloth can all be used in some way, from providing oil to making paper.
It is a lovely fabric to use for all sorts of projects, large and small, from lavender cases to cushions to hearts. A plain linen can be effectively embellished with all sorts of additions, from ribbons to buttons. For illustration here I’ve used a piece of white linen, matched it with a voile and made small lavender sachets.
Very easy and very effective! If you’ve never used linen, give it a go – it’s a lovely fabric to work with.
L is for Linen was brought to you by Sew Happy – visit at http://www.thesewhappyshop.blogspot.com/. Sew Happy is an small online shop selling pretty, handmade items for the home. Especially popular are the unusual fabric letter buntings. Place an order before 31 December 2010 and mention The Sewing Directory to receive a 10% discount.