[Ansteorra] Linen - fun facts to know and tell

Harris Mark.S-rsve60 Mark.s.Harris at motorola.com
Tue Oct 15 15:05:41 PDT 2002

Don Dore gave an excellant summation of linen use and care.

> 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.

If you are calling around checking on who has linen, ask specifically
for linen cloth and let them know you are asking about cloth made of
linen and not "linen-look". I was doing this last year looking for
linen to make clothes for Pennsic. The response I often seemed to
get was "Huh? Why would you want the real stuff? We have this
stuff which looks just like linen and is so much better...". Sometimes
they will point you to the cotton sheeting material, so look at the
contents labels carefully until you can tell by look and feel.

Can you tell the differance between cotton and linen with a
"burn test"?

> - 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.

Also, mixing a linen undertunic and a cotton overtunic or vice-versa
may defeat the features you are trying to achieve.

> - 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.

Are you speaking of only natural dyes here? Or also the modern
chemical dyes? I thought that linen would not dye with natural
dyes, but folks have been proclaiming elsewise since I brought
this up before Pennsic.

> - 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.
Oh! Thank you. This is the first I've heard this mentioned, but it
makes a lot of sense. I've heard before that the linen gets softer the
more it is washed and I think my linen garb has now gotten washed
enough for this to begin to happen.

> Also, do not
> forget to zig zag before washing so you can avoid having a washer full
> of thread instead of cloth. :-)

Uh. Oh. Sounds like someone else who has learned this from practical
experience. I cut a bunch of linen strips to experiment with leg
bindings. And didn't hem them. I spent a lot of time untangling the
strips where the threads on the edges managed to come undone and
tangle into knots with each other and the strips themselves. :-(

> - 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.
What is "dual duty thread"? Is this just heavy duty thread or is it
made of particular materials? Would sewing linen with linen thread
help? But I know it isn't that common, and especially not available
in a wide variety of colors to match the cloth.

For those interested in some linen information, which will include
Dore's message in a future revision :-), see this file in the
TEXTILE ARTS section of the Florilegium:
linen-msg         (62K)  2/16/99    Period and modern linen cloth. Sources. Care

Stefan li Rous

PS: Now how about a flax to linen class at some future King's College.

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