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Tips for Sewing Linen

Linen is classic and comes in a variety of fresh colors. It is cool and comfortable and can be dressy or casual. Handkerchief linen is easy for beginners to sew; heavier weights are easy once you have developed a little skill. Linen has a tendency to ravel and so your seams must be finished. It also wrinkles easily. Despite these drawbacks, linen is great for spring clothes.

Follow these steps when working with linen:

  • If you are going to wash your garment, pre-wash the fabric and dry it before you cut it out. If you plan on having the garment dry-cleaned, then pre-treat the fabric by having it dry-cleaned or by steam pressing it.
  • Use a machine needle between size 10 and size 14, depending on the weight of the linen.
  • Set the machine stitch length at 2.5-3mm. Lightly balance the tension. Test stitch length and tension on a scrape of linen before beginning.
  • Use lightweight or all purpose thread.
  • Use safety pins to mark the right side of your fabric when laying it out.
  • Do not use erasable pens to mark linen; it can be easily damaged by these and by colored chalk and wax. White chalk, pins, and clipping the fabric are good ways to mark linen.
  • Finish seams by pinking the edges or binding them. Pinking is easiest for beginners. It is less time consuming than most methods and it is a classic finish. You can also serge linen seams, which is a quick method for casual garments if you are used to using the serger.
  • Linen is not easy to ease, so choose a pattern that requires little easing. Shrink and shape the sleeve caps by steam pressing before setting the sleeves into the garment.
  • Topstitching works well on linen. Linen is also great for machine embroidery.

Useful Links

Ready to try it out? Find a variety of linen here.


Q & A

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the top of my finished flat linen valance is bowed upward or crested in the middle. How does this happen? Is it hard to cut linen straight?
A shopper on May 13, 2019
BEST ANSWER: Sometimes ironing can shrink or stretch the fabric. You could try ironing the fabric up and down in the places it is bowed to stretch it more.

A tip for getting a straight line: pull out the horizontal threads until you get to one continuous thread that runs across the whole width. Then cut off the vertical threads where you have pulled out threads. (This might not always work if the fabric is not woven totally straight!)