Oh my, the myriad types of linen available to home sewists is almost overwhelming.
The blends, the weaves, the weights… How do you know which linen will work for your next garment masterpiece?
Don’t let too many options keep you from sewing with linen, because you’re about to learn everything you need to know about this terrific textile.
In this article, you will discover:
🪡 A brief history of linen and why it’s popular
🪡 How to choose the correct type of linen for your needs
🪡 The different types of linen fabric available
🪡 Top tips for sewing with linen fabrics
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Why Do People Love Sewing with Linen?
Humans have loved linen fabric for thousands of years.
There’s evidence that Paleolithic peoples were sewing garments made from wild flax fibers 30,000 years ago. (In case you didn’t know, linen is made from the flowering flax plant, aka linseed.)
And did you know that into the mid-19th century, most farmers in the American north raised flax to clothe their families?
There’s a lot to love about linen fabric, which probably explains its longevity as a favorite textile.
Linen is durable and quick drying, and its ability to keep you cool in hot weather is legendary.
Linen’s naturally bumpy, nubby texture gets softer when washed, and while the fiber isn’t stretchy on its own, it can be blended with other fibers to increase elasticity.
And, because linen is a natural fiber, it’s biodegradable. Yup, you can compost linen fabric.
How to Choose the Right Linen Fabric for Your Needs
Let’s talk about your desired garment and personal preferences when it comes to selecting linen fabric for a project.
There are a couple characteristics to keep in mind about linen right from the start:
⭐ Linen wrinkles. That’s just how it do be. However, it’s less wrinkly when blended with other fibers (e.g., cotton, poly). So, if wrinkles would bring down your design, be choosy about linen.
⭐ As a fabric, linen usually has a matte look — it doesn’t reflect light in the least — and a dry feel to the hand. If your design calls for any sort of slickness or flash, linen might not be the fabric for you.
Probably the most important factor when picking fabric for a garment is fabric weight.
This table can help you understand the best fabric weight for various projects.
|Fabric Weights for Sewing Clothes|
|Fabric Weight||Imperial and Metric (Approximate)||Good For…||Fabric Examples|
|Top/Lightweight||Up to 4 oz/yd² / 130 gsm||Light shirts, scarves||Rayon jersey, gauze, cotton lawn|
|Medium/Mid-Weight||4-9 oz/yd² / 130-300 gsm||Dresses, skirts||Denim, cotton twill, oxford cloth|
|Bottom/Heavyweight||More than 9 oz/yd² / 300 gsm||pants, jackets||Ponte di Roma, Melton wool, corduroy|
You can find linen fabric in any weight, from a beefy suiting to the most barely there jersey knit.
Especially let the ounces per square yard (oz/yd²) and grams per meter (gsm) in the table above guide you to appropriate linen options.
You should also know that linen can be patterned, printed, sheer, solid, or textured, and fabric textures include (but are not limited to):
More than likely, there’s a type of linen that will work for whatever sewing project you dream up. Linen: For all seasons, for all reasons. (Yea or nay to this linen tagline?)
To summarize this section on how to choose fabric, the following path will get you to where you need to be:
Your garment ➡️ Fabric weight ➡️ Color ➡️ Texture
✂️ Shop Robert Kaufman Linen on Amazon 🧵
Robert Kaufman’s Brussels Washer linen (linen-rayon blend) and Essex linen (linen-cotton blend) are popular with home sewists. I used Brussels Washer linen to sew this lightweight coat, and I can vouch for the fabric’s quality.
Types of Linen Fabric for Garment Sewing
As discussed, humans have a long relationship with flax and linen, which means we’ve had A LOT of time to experiment with all the different ways linen can appear as a fabric.
This is very cool, but it can also be very confusing when you’re shopping for linen. So. Many. Options.
This section is going to focus on what you’re likely to see as you search for linen fabric.
Linen often is blended with other natural and/or synthetic fibers. Some of the common blends you’ll see are:
- Cotton linen
- Bamboo linen
- Rayon/viscose linen
- Silk linen
- Linen polyester
- Linen metallic (blended with metallic threads)
- Linen spandex/lycra/elastane
- Linen Tencel
These blends may be transformed into woven or knit fabrics.
Here are common woven linens and what you might used them for as a garment sewist:
|Woven Linen Fabrics|
|Type of Linen||Application|
|Linen chambray||-Light to medium weight and opaque with a denim-ish look.|
-Good for shirts, skirts, and dresses.
|Linen shirting||-Lightweight, soft, and barely transparent.|
-Good for shirts, airy dresses.
|Stretch linen (blended with spandex)||-Medium weight, crisp, and generally opaque.|
-Good for fitted dresses, jackets, and pants.
|Suiting||-Medium to heavyweight and opaque.|
-Good for blazers, jackets, pants.
|Linen twill||-Medium to heavyweight, opaque, and durable.|
-Good for pants, blazers, jackets.
|Linen scrim||-Lightweight, voluminous, bouncy, and sheer.|
-Good for blouses (and floaty window treatments).
|Linen-rayon/viscose blend||-Light to medium weight, soft, and drapey.|
-Good for dress, skirts, and flowy pants.
RELATED: 28 Jersey Fabric Patterns You Can Sew in an Afternoon
Knit linens are less common than woven linens. Here are knit linen fabrics you might come across while shopping for your next project:
|Knit Linen Fabrics|
|Type of Linen||Application|
|Slubbed linen jersey||-Lightweight and semi-sheer with a fluid drape.|
-Good for drapey tops/tees (I sewed a Cass T-shirt in slubbed linen jersey.)
|Linen sweater knit||-Light/medium weight.|
-Good for lightweight sweaters.
RELATED: Sewing Stretchy Fabric without a Serger: Stretch Stitch Settings and More
3 Top Tips for Sewing with Linen
I have three things for you to remember when you’re stitching linen garments.
1.) Beware of Shrinkage
My No. 1 tip for sewing with linen is if you plan to wash your garment creation, buy extra yardage (maybe 1/4 yard?) and DEFINITELY wash it before you start cutting pattern pieces. Linen is notorious for shrinking.
2.) Understand Transparency
Lightweight linens have a tendency to be sheer-ish, regardless of whether they’re knit or woven fabrics. Overexposure while wearing breezy linens is a real risk.
If you’re buying fabric in person, hold the linen in front of a window to judge transparency. If you’re buying online, be sure to ask about whether the fabric is see-through before you put your money down.
3.) Understand Drape
Linen fabric, depending what it’s blended with and how it’s made (woven vs. knit), can have a ton of body or no body at all.
Linen wovens often stand away from the body and are crisp. Linen knits often have drape for days and swim over curves. Choose wisely.
Final Thoughts About Types of Linen
Linen is a versatile textile that can be stitched into almost anything your little fashion-designy heart years for.
I, for one, after writing this article, am more excited to experiment with different types of linen fabric. I want to challenge myself to sew with new-to-me linens, such as linen twill and linen chambray.
Over to you, dear reader: Where do you like to buy linen fabric? Believe it or not, I’ve had good luck with a linen-rayon blend from Joann. Please leave a comment to share your finest linen sources. Thanks!