It’s no secret that at Merchant & Mills, we love our linen. So when it comes to perfect linen cloth for your next sewing project, we’ll be the first to admit, we’ve got a wide range to choose from! It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities, which is why we’ve put together a guide of our core ranges. Plus, we’ve included our top tips for sewing with linen fabric, too.
Linen has many great qualities. To start, it’s naturally stain-resistant, anti-bacterial, and completely biodegradable. Linen cloth is also naturally absorbent, which means it requires less dye than cotton and scores high on the ecological chart.
Linen is made with flax, a plant native to northern Europe. There, the plant respects the land and surrounding wildlife; it protects soil and water resources as it needs no extra water (rain water alone is enough to grow it) and uses very little fertiliser or pesticides.
The hardy plant can grow in poor soil conditions and is an excellent “break crop”, actually improving the quality of the soil as it grows. The crop also serves as a carbon sink – a single hectare of flax can remove 3.7 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. In flax production, nothing is wasted. Every part of the plant is used to create linseed oil, paper, cattle feed or soap.
All of our linens are all Oeko-Tex certified, which means they are free from harmful chemicals, including those not yet regulated. They are also all of EU origin – as well as being processed in-house (which includes spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing).
At 4.7oz/160gsm, our Tumbled 160 range is our lightest weight linen. With a tight weave, the cloth is most similar to a handkerchief linen and has a soft slubby texture to it. The cloth is yarn dyed, which gives the fabric a real richness to the colours in this range.
Our 160 linen is perfect for tops, dresses, pyjamas and breezy curtains. As the cloth is slightly sheer, we’d recommend lining dresses, or sticking to patterns that have a slightly fuller and more gathered skirt. A few pattern ideas that come to mind would be The Edie and The Ellsworth.
We also recently used the 160 Linen Christensen to make our newest pattern, The Miller (and lined it with Hemp Black). You can see that the waistcoat is less structured and boxy, and has a more relaxed look to it.
You can view our entire 160 range here.
Elwen is wearing The Ellsworth in Tumbled Linen Mima 160
We don’t like to play favourites, but our 185 range is our go-to linen. It’s a light/medium weight linen that works with so many of our patterns. We use it all the time to sew up samples!
At 5.5oz or 185gsm, the cloth a slightly heavier weight than our 160 range – which means it’s not sheer (so you don’t need to line it), and it’s also a little more structured. It will sew up gathered dresses, skirts and shirts beautifully.
You can’t go wrong with either the 160 and 185 ranges for tops and dresses like The Swing Top or The Florence. However, the 185 linen is also better suited for loose trousers (like the 101 Trouser) and slightly more structured makes.
The 185 range comes in 26 colours, from the bright (Mr. Citrus & Cobalt) to the sludgy (Oxblood & Knapsack). We always have lots of stock in this range as it’s our bread & butter. You can view the entire range here.
Lorrell is wearing a headscarf in Ginger 185
At 260gsm, this mid-weight linen is made with a special tow yarn which gives the cloth an extra slubby look and feel. This cloth is great for homewares (cushions, curtains, covers) and light upholstery. It’s also a good weight for trousers and light-weight jackets: like The Strides and Haremere coat (which can both be found in our Workbook), or The September coat.
We have 6 colours in this range: Toast (a natural linen shade), Bashful (a soft chalky pink), Mellea (a light grey with a hint of lilac), Plainings (a dark grey), Newton (a deep inky blue), Montane (a greeny blue).
LAUNDERED UPHOLSTERY LINEN CLOTH
At 12.5oz/420gsm, this is our heaviest weight linen, making it ideal for home projects like curtains and cushions as well as upholstery.
Although it’s upholstery weight, the cloth is still soft and malleable and could be used to sew up jackets and coats like The Strand, The Foreman, The Haremere. It could even work for a sleeveless Trapeze dress, as the pattern is suitable for heavier weight cloth.
TIPS FOR SEWING WITH LINEN
If you’re new to working with linen (or new to sewing altogether), never fear – Katie & Elwen from our Sewing Team have put together a few tips and tricks to keep in mind before you start your next project.
What size needle should I use with linen?
This will entirely depend on the pattern that you’ve chosen, but as a general rule of thumb – we’d usually recommend using a size 10 needle for a pattern with relatively little bulk (like The Trapeze), whereas we might use a size 12 on The Miller as you need to work through multiple layers of linen.
How should I wash and care for linen cloth?
While laundered linen does not technically need to be pre-washed as it’s been washed at the mill, we are always in-favour of pre-washing your fabric how you intend to wash your finished garment.
For linen, we suggest you wash at 30 degrees with a non-bio detergent. Once washed, shake the cloth out and dry flat. Remember that linen will always seize up after washing, but as soon as you wear it the fibres will start to relax.
It’s also important to note, that other linens such as Irish linen will not be laundered at the mill and you would need to pre-wash. You should always refer to the washing instructions on the product pages for each cloth.
How should I prepare my cloth?
The key to a successful linen make starts with careful and considered preparation. Before you cut, always be sure to iron your linen as it wrinkles easily. Next, we recommend pulling a thread to enable you to set up the cloth square before you start pinning out the pattern pieces & cutting them out. If you’re unsure what we mean, we’ve put together a helpful video tutorial that’ll walk you through how to pull a thread and set up your cloth for success.
Be warned, linen is susceptible to drawing out when cut on the bias. For some projects it may be helpful to staystitch areas such as necklines and armholes.
And because sewing around curves can be tricky as the linen moves, we often mark our seam allowance on curved pattern pieces to help honour the seam allowance accurately.
How do I ensure I won’t lose my notches?
Notches are crucial when it comes to putting together our garments. Because some linen will fray as its being handled, we like to mark the notches with chalk as well as snipping into it the cloth by 5mm.
How do I cut perfect bias binding in linen?
You may notice that if you need to cut bias binding in linen, it quickly starts to distort and wiggle about which makes pressing your bias tape especially finnicky.
We recommend keeping your paper pattern piece, such as a neck binding pattern piece, with you when you’re ready to press up the seam allowance. Place the paper pattern piece directly above your cloth piece on the ironing board, and make sure your cloth is the same width as the paper piece before you begin pressing. This will ensure your fold lines or seam allowances are perfectly straight and equal.
Any tips on hemming with linen?
Linen will wiggle about when pressing up a hem so to sew a neat hem, we recommend that you first run a line of machine stitching along your garment at the ‘finished hem’ line. This will help you press up the allowance neatly, as the fabric will naturally want to fold along the stitched line. We’ve put together a video tutorial with this helpful trick that you can watch here.
How do I prevent my linen from fraying?
Linen will naturally fray as you work with it. To maintain your handmade garment, you will need to finish your seams with zigzag stitches, or with your overlocker. Alternatively raw edges can be protected with bias binding or a facing.