More durable than wool and cooler than cotton, linen yarn lends itself to a variety of projects: from heirloom lace to cool, summer garments. But what is linen yarn, and – more importantly – what are its limitations?
Linen yarn, sometimes referred to as flax yarn, is spun from the flax plant.
The fibers come from the interior of the stem of the flax plant. Yarns made from flax plant fibers create an open weave, whether used in crocheting or knitting. Because of the properties of flax yarn, clothing made from linen yarn is much cooler than those made from cotton and wool fibers.
You can make lots of things with linen yarn, as long as it’s not an item that requires stretch, such as leggings or a tight-fitting hat.
What is Linen Yarn?
The flax plant creates a strong, durable fiber. Only silk is stronger than linen fiber. It takes a lot of work to make linen yarn, from extracting the cellulose fibers from the flax plant’s stem to weaving it into a lightweight yarn. The result is a perfect yarn for spring and summer knits, as linen is highly absorbent and drapes easily over your body. Completed projects also have a nice sheen and are naturally soft, becoming even softer through use.
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, natural linen is great for hot weather wear because it is cool and breathable. And, as it doesn’t require pesticides to grow it is eco-friendly.
The Many Uses for It
While linen is amazing for summer wear, it’s not for all types of projects. If an article of clothing needs to stretch – such as leggings, headbands, or hats – linen yarn is not your friend. However, it’s great for garments that have no need for stretching: knit cardigans for spring wear, tank tops, and the like.
Linen yarn is also perfect for crocheting lace. The yarn weight is ideal for lacey doilies and tablecloths and comes in many colors.
Because linen yarn is absorbent, it is good for clothing and other items that need to wick up moisture, such as a tank top or a beach cover.
Types of Linen Yarn
During the process of making linen yarn, manufacturers spin it in three ways: Wet spun, semi-wet spun and dry spun. If the fibers are long, manufacturers use the wet spin method. This creates a yarn that is very smooth.
Semi-wet spun, and dry spun methods are better for shorter fibers. The finished yarn is thicker and has a rougher feeling. However, the roughness smooths out each time you use and wash the garment.
You can use any of these types of linen yarn for most projects. However, wet spun is better for clothing worn directly against the skin, as it is not as rough for the first few wearings. When you use semi-wet or dry spun linen yarn, it tends to feel a bit rougher but becomes smoother each time you wash it.
Tips for Working with It
When using linen yarn, you might have to adjust how you knit or crochet.
- Hold the yarn loosely. Linen yarn does not have stretch, so holding it tightly creates tighter stitches. It needs to flow through your fingers as you knit or crochet. If the stitches are too tight, you’ll be fighting to get the hook or needle into the stitches, and your project might come out “warped” or uneven.
- Linen yarn does not have a center-pull end. You can wind the linen into a ball, or you can stand the linen cone up below your work and pull the yarn off the cone as you are working.
- Linen yarn tends to slide on the needles. You will most likely have better luck using bamboo needles as opposed to metal or plastic needles.
- To join a new skein, you can’t wet-splice or use a Russian join, as these methods do not work for linen. Instead, knit or crochet the new and old skein ends together for about 10 stitches.
- Always create a gauge swatch, then wash and block it before starting a project. Since linen lays different than wool or cotton, you won’t be able to guess the size, especially if you use a pattern that calls for wool or cotton yarn.
Caring for Linen Knits
Linen yarn is durable and can handle many washes. Before washing an item, check the washing instructions for the yarn. If you are making the item for someone, always provide washing instructions.
You can wash items made from linen yarn by handwashing with detergent for knitted garments. When removing excess water, squeeze the item gently, but do not twist it or wring it. Wrap it in a towel to remove excess water, then lay it flat to dry.
For linen items that allow machine washing, wash with like colors on the normal setting and place the item in the drying on regular heat. Remove the item while it is a little damp, and lay it flat to finish drying.
Linen Yarn vs. Wool and Cotton
Linen is a lot stronger than wool and cotton yarns. It is also cooler, so it makes great spring and summer clothing. Because of linen’s strength, items made with it last longer than items made with wool and cotton yarns, as long as you properly care of them.
Additionally, items made from linen drape differently on your body and are more absorbent than wool or cotton. Thus, items made from linen are good for wicking sweat away from your body or for making beach wraps to use when you get out of the surf or the pool.
Finally, linen comes from plants, as does cotton, whereas wool comes from animals. However, linen is stronger than cotton and does not need pesticides to grow it.
Patterns for Linen Yarn
You can use any pattern for linen yarn. However, you might have to go down a hook or needle size or two to meet the gauge size.
A common item you can make from linen yarn is a knit boho sweater or coverup. You can wear it over a camisole or a bathing suit. Make several in different colors to go with different camisoles or bathing suits.
While this table runner pattern uses cotton, it is the perfect type of pattern to create with linen. Use white linen for a light and airy summer table runner, and use fall colors to add to your fall table décor.
If you prefer long sleeves in the spring and summer, this lightweight cardigan made from linen yarn is cool enough for warm summer days. If it’s overly hot outside, the linen will keep you cool as it wicks moisture away from your skin.
What is linen yarn good for?
Linen yarn is great for making lightweight spring and summer clothing, lace doilies, tablecloths, and wearables that do not need to stretch. You can make an heirloom tablecloths, cardigans, and much more with linen yarn. What you can make is up to your imagination.
What is linen yarn made of?
Linen yarn is made from fibers taken from the stem of the flax plant.
Does linen yarn shrink when washed?
As with most other materials, linen can shrink when you use high heat. Wash it in cold or warm water, and dry it on the “normal” cycle to avoid shrinkage.
Does linen yarn stretch when blocked?
No. Linen yarn does not stretch. In many cases, you may not have to block linen. If you choose to block it, be sure you do not use high heat, as the heat squashes the stitches. Your item will look “flat” if you block it with high heat from the iron. In fact, it’s better not to let the iron touch the item directly.
Tying It All Together
When you want to create something that will last a lifetime – or even become an heirloom – you’ll find that linen yarn lends itself to the smaller knots needed for lace and the coolness needed for spring and summer clothing. And it’s easy to care for and more durable than wool or cotton.