Last week I published my 10th pattern featuring linen yarn and thought it was high time I write a blog on working with this unique fiber!
Without a doubt, linen is the “black sheep” of the cellulose fiber bases. But like all black sheep it is the unique characteristics of the fiber that will draw you in and keep you coming back for more! It has the best stitch memory of any cellulous fiber I’ve tried. Linen is naturally antibacterial, anti-fungal, and thermoregulating like some of the other cellulous fibers like bamboo. However, unlike the others in the category, it lacks elasticity and is initial rough to the touch – thus making it the black sheep.
When knitting the 2 most important things to know are –
1 – yes, it feels VERY different than any fiber you’ve worked with before. It will soften the more you handle it. If your grandmother ever had a linen pillowcase or nighty you may remember just how soft it felt after years of use!
2 – The lack of elasticity means that it may not slide through your fingers if you tension tightly. Just loosen your grip a bit and let it do the hard work for you 😊.
Through knitting the samples and writing the patterns I’ve noticed a few tricks to working with the fiber. I hope these both encourage you to try this “black sheep” as well as provide some tools so that you’ll come back to it again and again… as I have. (And in case I haven’t mentioned it before – my linen FOs are by far my most worn as I find the temperature regulating properties perfectly suited to life in the mountains.)
Stitch details – linen fabulously shows off the elegance of even the simplest stitch detail. The inelasticity keeps stitches crisp and fresh whether they are cables, lace, or something as simple as seed stitch.
Selvedge edge stitches – best skip them with the linen unless you are matching it up to another selvedge side. Since the fiber doesn’t relax much it will shorten your FO along that edge. With other fibers the selvedge edge will average, but due to the inelasticity of linen this effect doesn’t occur.
Adding sleeves – again, since linen doesn’t relax when picking up stitches around the arm opening to add a sleeve of any length, I recommend doing a 1:1 pick up. Then work decreases in the sleeve cap in order to reach your desired final stitch count.
Happy Easter to you all from Puddles & me. Luke 24:45-47 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Footnote: yarns shown –
Eco-Stitch hand dyed linen sport
Eco-Stitch hand dyed linen dk multi
Quine and Co sparrow
Caveat: this article talks about 100% linen. Linen blends may take on the characteristics of the fibers with which it is blended.