A letter to Linen

Dear Linen,

You’re awful purdy in plant form.

Your seeds make tasty bread topping, or, when crushed, useful (and excitingly self-combustible) oil for the handles of my garden tools and as a vehicle for the pigments of my oil paints.

Along with quinine-laced tonic and an astonishing sense of entitlement, you helped Europeans look cool and stay cool while they colonised hot and sticky places.

Your fibres have wrapped mummies, supported great works of art, and dried tears from countless faces. Rich people sleep on sheets made from you. Printed with novelty patterns, you’ve dried many a dish (and flicked many a bare-leg-of-annoying-sibling. YEOUCH!!) You’re famous for being durable and long-lasting.

AND YET, I narrow my eyes at you, Linen, because in garment form, you’ve been nothing but a disappointment to me.

The wrinkling I can live with because my persona is naturally a bit crumpled. But you have proved far less resilient than promised and garments made from you have torn in embarassing places, in embarassing moments. To wit: the loose black linen pants that made me super happy for about a week as I swanned about feeling quite the breezy thing, until two gaping tears appeared in the area most familiar with my bicycle seat.

Then there was this dress.

Black linen New Look 6067

Black linen New Look 6067

Lint-free? My arse. Every time I wear this dress I am covered in tiny bits of linen stubble. It embeds in my layer of sunscreen and makes me look grubby and unwashed. Long-lived? PAH! I’ve sewn up and patched the skirt vent three times and this morning it tore again. And inexplicable pea-sized holes appeared in the side of the skirt too. And laundering has turned it from lightweight to uncomfortably sheer.

Did I do something wrong, Linen? I recall this black dress took a few washes not to reek of cheap dye – could it be that the dye weakened your fibres? Or were these not your finest fibres to start with?

Maybe I should just leave you to those who understand you, like Steph C, Or do some book-learnin’ to catch up. But right now, I’m not sure I can trust you again.

Later, Linen.

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15 thoughts on “A letter to Linen

  1. Oh! Hahahah! I love your writing. šŸ™‚

    I think you might have gotten your hands on some cheap nasty linen. Or- this one really steams me- sometimes all manner of fabric is sold under the word “linen” even if there is no linen fiber content. It’s done as a weave descriptor, I can kind of see it but it drives me nuts…

    When you put your hand on pure linen fabric, the fabric should feel cool to the touch against your palm. This is due to the nature of the fibers, the way they conduct heat. It’s also a good indicator of linen fiber vs. linen weave… Dear me, how I do go on. Thanks for the link!

  2. I agree with Steph, I think you worked with cheap linen or a linen imposter. I have never had any of the problems you mentioned with any of the linen with which I’ve worked. Don’t give up on this fabric. It’s really lovely when it’s real and of good quality.

  3. I once made a black linen dress that had massive rips evolve (not even along seam lines) the first time I wore it. Good thing that I was wearing big black undies that day. But since then I’ve worked with some beautiful quality linen and I’m a linen convert. I suspect that the black dye is part of the problem – but I have no evidence to support my statement!

  4. And I’m about to cut into some linen from the op shop to make the skirt of a dress…I hope this stuff is the real thing, after reading the other comments.

    I never imagined that natural fibre fabric would be so cheap as to fall apart so easily and quickly. Nasty.

    All the best if you try linen again…

  5. I thought linen was the strongest plant fiber. Wonder why yours is giving you so much trouble. Maybe find some from a different source?

  6. I made my boyfriend some PJ pants from a super nice red linen (or so I thought) and they developed tears randomly (not on the seams) within a few days. šŸ˜¦ Must have been cheap stuff, but it sure seemed nice (and I’m sure it was linen).

  7. My black linen pants (made from quality Italian linen) met the same fate. My cheap linen pants live on. But I am still totally in love with all things linen. Your dress is beautiful. Add a little salt to wash to keep it colour fast.

  8. I think that if you come across a piece of heavier linen, either undyed or in a softer colorway, you’ll be much happier with it. I agree with Linen Queen StephC that you seem to have been landed with a piece of linen that was at best cheaply slapped together, and at worst already rotten by the time you sewed it up. And, yes, some dyes do eat away fabrics, especially those made from metallic bases. That’s why we used always to be warned not to use green thread to baste seams: the chromium or copper used to make the green dye caused the thread to disintegrate rapidly, and to leave green stains on the garment. My favorite black linen slacks have evolved into my favorite pajama pants, now that they’ve faded too much for public wear — but it was good Italian fabric, and I’ll probably rot before the linen fabric rots.

  9. Hiya, my tuppence worth of advice (and many metric tonnes of sympathy!!) is to be VEWWY careful what you wash your linen in. Any detergent with enzymes in it will happily nomnomnom your linen fibres. Not good!

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