HNW - Re: Linen evenweave? or cotton?

Chris Laning claning at
Tue May 4 22:08:25 PDT 1999

Kathryn wrote:

>I'm not a whiz on fibres. I bought (and am happy working with) a 28 count
>fabric that claims  be linen. The  bolt said "100% linen". However -- it
>only cost $10/yard.

Hmmm. We get Chinese-woven linen here in California, and if you go to the
right store, there are several weights and quite a few colors available in
the $12-$15 per yard range. I bring a linen tester (small magnifier with
ruler marks) and have once or twice found linen there that turned out to be
even-weave (i.e. less than 5% difference between warp and weft counts).

I've also been able to find non-even linen that was a pretty good color and
weight match for some even-weave I already had. (The long-term plan is to
use this for a linen shirt with blackwork collar and cuffs. I'm currently
working occasionally on a sampler of blackwork patterns for this; the linen
is about 40-count, and I can't do a thing with it unless I wear reading

I've also on occasion found lightweight "100% flax linen" (which seems to
be what the Real Thing is called these days) for $5 a yard on sale --
though it's somewhat scratchy and I don't know yet whether it will soften
with time (so far it's only been washed once).

In craft stores, if you look hard in the embroidery section you can
sometimes find packages that hold an 18-inch square of evenweave linen for
7 or 8 dollars; this is still cheaper than the $50-$60 per yard one pays
for the top-quality imported stuff in a needlework store.

*              *              *              *              *
*              *

As for Aida cloth, the competitions I see are pretty forgiving of it,
simply because so many people are beginners and that's what everyone starts
out with. We always seem to have about 80% beginners in our group; I don't
know if this is standard!

The advice my own Laurel (= mentor) gives is that, when you have to use
non-period materials, simply *explain why.* Don't feel you have to make
elaborate excuses or feel guilty. Stories like, "Well, my persona would
have had fake pearls available to her through her cousin, who was a pirate
. . ." tend to annoy judges. Simply say, "I used fake pearls because I
couldn't afford real ones." Often there are perfectly good reasons not to
use period materials: we can't find them (wool velvet, for instance, or
silk woven from untwisted fibers); or we can't afford them; or they're a
health hazard (some mineral paints).

In the same way, I hope other needleworkers would be courteous enough not
to make you feel you had done something "wrong" by using Aida cloth as a
beginner. It's good to find people who will encourage you to try more
authentic materials, once you've mastered the basic techniques. But the
needlework you have done is something you have put a lot of yourself and
your effort into, and that deserves to be appreciated, whatever materials
you used.

(This is, BTW, also an argument for using only good-quality materials; if
you realize that you will put 40 to 60 hours of your life into a project,
it makes it look much more worthwhile to spend $10 for silk thread, rather
than $2 for cotton.)

An approach that sometimes works for doing counted-thread work on non-even
linen, by the way, is to use waste canvas or an easy-to-count fabric on the
*wrong* side of your collars, cuffs or other garment pieces. This helps
your stitches to stay even and straight on the right side. Since these
pieces will have a backing anyway, the counting fabric doesn't have to be
removed, but can just be left in as interlining. (Waste canvas softens up
when washed, even if you don't remove it.) I have a friend who did her
first blackwork collar and cuffs this way with Aida cloth on the wrong
side, and they looked great and were easy to do. (Of course this doesn't
work for pieces where both sides will be visible.)

O   Chris Laning
|   <claning at>
+    Davis, California

Go to to perform mailing list tasks.

More information about the H-needlework mailing list