Peerless, Tearless Linen


To my mind, linen has always been the queen of fibers. (Perhaps silk is the empress.) Growing up with a parent and grandparents fresh from “the old country,” I was taught to prize fine linens because no family occasion could happen without them.

As an adult, I also learned how much of my rural Norwegian ancestors’ time was devoted to producing linen for body and home. On my first trip to Scandinavia, before I even learned to weave, I was thrilled to buy a handwoven linen tablecloth for the holidays in Sweden, and I also marveled at linen bath towels in Finland. (Linen for towels! What a concept!)

My own early forays into weaving with linen were less sublime. Tensioning was problematic, warps sometimes frayed, and, not knowing that there’s more to wet-finishing than fulling, the resulting cloth didn’t look as I’d imagined. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about weaving with linen, much of it from Handwoven, and now we’ve put together a linen kit, to help you get more weaving satisfaction from your linen adventures. Here’s are just a few of the nuggets you’ll find in this kit, these from an article by Lynn Tedder on linen weaving without tears:

  • Linen fibers are more absorbent than cotton (which explains the Finnish towels)
  • Linen weaves best with high warp tension, so when advancing the warp, tighten both the warp and cloth beams.
  • Linen is stronger when wet, so it helps to wet the warp before weaving.
  • You can also wet the bobbin to help it unwind more evenly.
  • Linen weft is best beaten in on a closed shed.
  • You don’t need to drive over your handwoven linens with your car to soften them. (This one got my attention.)

Along with timeless wisdom and gorgeous projects, this kit includes the book Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth, to inspire you with stories of this peerless fiber plus a myriad of beautiful towels, linen and otherwise, and 12 incredible weaving projects that could grace your holiday table THIS YEAR!

So enjoy, and may the flax be with you. 

Anita Osterhaug

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