Give Linen a Try!

About this time of year our minds turn to summer knitting and crocheting.  Knitters and crocheters will spend many hours outside whether it’s in backyards, at pools, sporting events.  We ponder what projects to make and what yarn to knit with. The warm weather brings some special considerations in yarn choice.

Our favorite yarn for summer knitting is linen!  The idea of knitting with linen tends to scare some people off.  They feel the crispness of linen and fear that it will be hard on their hands or difficult to knit with.  We are here today to encourage you to try this ancient fiber!

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One of the reasons linen is excellent for wearing the in the warm weather is that the structure of linen causes it to stay away from your skin, allowing better airflow.  It allows the body to breathe and heat to escape. Linen is also quick drying and antimicrobial!

Linen is lustrous, strong, casually elegant, and has gorgeous drape that develops the more the garment is worn.  In order to achieve the full drape and softness of linen fabric, it should be machine washed and dried. Over time it will become softer and softer.  We always suggest swatching and it’s even more important to swatch when knitting with linen! Washing and drying your swatch a few times will show you how it’s going to change.  Garter stitch especially changes when washed and dried. Be sure to go by your swatch stitch and row counts when creating your garment!

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If you’re making an item with open work such as lace or mesh, you can machine wash it and pin it out to dry.  Then put it in the dryer on the ‘air dry’ setting to soften it.

We strongly suggest that you use patterns designed for linen.  It has no elasticity which is why linen patterns are loose and flowy.  It will not wrap around your needles as closely as wool so the stitches are larger and looser.  You will almost definitely need to use smaller needles than you think. You’ll also need longer ones because the stitches don’t crowd together like wool.  

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Linen is terrifically slippery on metal needles so you might want to use wood or bamboo.  These tackier-surfaced needles will also help even out your stitches. Don’t be distressed over stitches that are a bit uneven because that is an idiosyncrasy of linen and is part of its appeal.

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It’s a good idea to pull linen yarn from the outside of the ball to avoid tangling.  When joining a new ball do it at an unnoticeable spot; sides or edges are good for this.  Knit the next stitch with the tail of the old ball and the beginning of the new ball together as this secures the yarn.  Then knit those two stitches as one when you come to them again.

There are over 11,000 patterns on Ravelry for linen; let us help you find one that you can’t resist!