Quilters love cotton, it’s true. But there’s another fabric that’s been showing up in bags, clothing, and even quilts. It’s linen. Linen provides contrast and texture that you can see and feel, adding richness and depth to your projects.
Ready to give linen a try, but not sure where to start? Read on!
Corey Yoder of Little Miss Shabby is a big fan of linen in general and especially likes working with Moda linens, which are actually a blend of 70% linen and 30% cotton. With a weave that’s similar to quilting cottons, it’s easy to marry both fabrics in a single quilt. Corey did just that in her Moda Bake Shop Candy Scraps quilt. “I love that I can go about the business of making a quilt without changing my quilt-making habits with wonderful results,” says Corey. “Because the weave of Moda’s linen isn’t as loose as other linens I had to make no adjustments to stitch length when sewing blocks together. I’ve seen quilts that have fallen apart when pairing cottons and linens (because of the difference in weave between cottons and linens) and this just isn’t the case with Moda’s linen—the drape is beautiful and the weight is lovely.”
Some sewists recommend stabilizing linen with spray starch when cutting and ironing, but Corey treated it similarly to quilting cotton. “I pressed in the same manner, at the same temperature as I normally would for cotton,” she says. “And I always got nice crispy blocks with none of the distortion from pressing that can easily occur with other linens.”
An obvious question about combining different fabrics is whether they need to be prewashed. Moda staffer and Cutting Post contributor Tammy Vonderschmitt stitched the Fishsticks Katie J jumper (above left) with the bodice and straps of quilting cotton and Momo Avant Garden linen for the skirt and didn’t prewash the fabric. Corey Yoder finds that the while many linens shrink significantly, the shrinkage rate for Moda linen is very similar to quilting cotton. “This means that, as a quilter who doesn’t prewash fabrics, pairing the two without prewashing isn’t a problem,” says Corey.
If you’re not ready to commit to a quilt or clothing, you can dip your toe into the linen pool with numerous small projects. Vanessa Christensen prizes linen for its natural feel and her Color Block Zipper Pouches are a quick way to give linen and cotton a try. “Linen gives projects a more picnic-y, organic feel than bleached white,” she says. “If I don’t use white or gray as a background, I like to use linen.”
Of course, you can always use linen on its own. Moda staffer Debbi Duckworth and a friend stitched these Pink Sand Little Glam bags of linen Mochi dots. “I washed and dried the fabric first to make it very soft, yet still have some body,” says Debbi. “I used Aurifil 40-wt thread for the actual sewing of the project and then Aurifil 12-wt thread for the embroidered initials. It was very easy to make even, uniform stitches on the soft linen. I used the Paper Pieces for the hexies, and again, it was easy to make the folds on the edges of the hexagon paper pieces.”
The Amy Butler Barcelona skirt (two photos above) was stitched by Tammy, using Momo’s Avant Garden (above) with raw edge panels of linen. She washed it after finishing, so that the edges would gently fray. “It looks softer after washing and the colors are just the same,” she says.
So there. It’s not so scary. Expand your horizons and give linen a try!