[Ansteorra] Linen - fun facts to know and tell

James T. Crouchet jtc at io.com
Tue Oct 15 14:01:32 PDT 2002

There was a linen question asked a few days ago so I though the writer
might be interested in some other basics about linen.

- A number of stores sell "Linen" referring to the LOOK of the fabric,
not the fiber. Real linen is made of 100% flax. Some of the fakes are
make of Rayon, cotton and "unspecified fiber content". If you are not
going to get real linen, you are better off just getting cotton. Do not
count on store clerks to know the difference or tell you the truth.

- Linen blends do not necessarily give you the benefits of linen.
Blended with cotton it may hang, breath, dry and smell more like cotton
than linen. Silk is a great natural insulator so combining it with linen
makes the linen much warmer (which may be good or bad, according to your
use). Silk blends are also lighter weight, more susceptible to UV damage
and easier to dye.

- Linen breaths very well -- much better even than cotton. That makes it
great in hot weather as it allows heat to get out and sweat to dry when
cotton will hold that moisture. Of course, that makes it a crummy
insulator in cold weather.

- I have found that coarse weaves -- like Judy's linen -- are actually
cooler than finer, handkerchief weight linens even though the Judy's is
thicker. It's all about which breaths best.

- Linen does not seal when wet as cotton does. For that reason, it
breaths well even when sweated out while cotton does not. It also dries
faster than cotton.

- Linen does not "hold funk" like many materials so it is possible to
hang it up to dry and air out, or even hand wash it and hang it to dry.
You cannot expect a 3 layer jacket to go from just washed soaking wet to
dry overnight outdoors in the Stargate, but it will dry quickly enough
that you could reuse it at a war or even a 3 day event. That cuts down
on the amount of clothing you must take.

- Linen does not take dye well. Unless you really know what you are
doing and have the money to burn in experimenting I strongly advise you
buy your linen in the color you want. Plan for a color that looks good
when faded too.

- For fencers only, if your armor is made of linen you should hang it to
dry or tumble it with no heat. A hot dryer breaks down the penetration
resistance of linen much faster than normal wear so it is generally to
be avoided. OTOH, that same process makes linen soft and oh so comfy so
I recommend the dryer for linen shirts and other smalls.

- Absolutely, positively always zig zag the edges of your linen unless
you are going to use French or flat feld seams. Even if the seam will be
between layers of a garment, the garment will fall apart long before
it's time if you fail to do this. Linen ravels terribly. Also, do not
forget to zig zag before washing so you can avoid having a washer full
of thread instead of cloth. :-)

- I have noticed that the linen sold nowadays comes with a LOT of
starch/sizing in it. I recommend washing 3 times before cutting out your
garment, and drying in a hot dryer between each wash (this also
eliminates future shrinking issues).

- Use at least dual duty thread as linen tends to wear thread rapidly.
Even better is if you can wax your thread (but maybe not good for your
sewing machine...). The exception to the use of heavy thread is, of
course, if you are sewing very thin fabric.

- For you (we?) authenticity buffs, linen hangs different from other
fabrics. Only linen clothes really look like linen.


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