How to Sew Linen – 23 Tips for Sewing Linen

Sewing with linen is not as easy as sewing with cotton or polyester, but once you get the hang of it and find the right linen sewing pattern for your fabric, it can become one of your most rewarding sewing experiences. 

Because linen has a reputation for being difficult to work with, many people assume that it’s much harder to sew than another natural fiber like cotton or wool as it wrinkles easily, tends to not fray well, and has to be treated differently compared to other fabrics when sewing.

Does Linen Shrink in the Wash

 Here are some tips to help you prepare linen for sewing.

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Tips for Sewing Linen

The first thing you need to know about sewing with linen is how you are going to care for it. Loose fibers will not behave nicely when needle-turned, especially if you just want to sew a regular seam. Linen will make mincemeat of your needles and twist your threads into knots. For that reason, you may want to think about using a woven or knit lining instead.

1. Treat it like a bias-cut fabric

Linen can stretch out of shape on the bias, especially when you’re working with large pieces of fabric. 

To avoid this, make sure to stabilize the edges of your pattern pieces with interfacing or stay tape before cutting out your garment. 

Also, be sure to stabilize any seams in your garment that will be on the bias as well (such as necklines and armholes). 

2. Reinforce stress points 

Linen is prone to tearing along stress points such as where pockets are sewn in, buttonholes, and zipper ends or closures. 

You can easily reinforce these areas by adding a line of lightweight fusible interfacing or stay tape on the wrong side of the garment so that it’s sandwiched between two layers of fabric when it’s sewn. 

3. Choose the right weight

Linen comes in three weights: light, medium, and heavy. Lightweight linen is great for summer clothing like sundresses, while medium-weight linen is perfect for suits and textiles. Heavyweight linen is ideal for upholstery.

4. Don’t overstretch 

Because linen is so lightweight and drapes easily, it’s tempting to stretch it while sewing, especially while fitting around curves like an armhole opening.

5.Use the correct needle 

Sewing with linen can be a bit tricky. It’s important to use the correct needle and thread, otherwise, your beautiful fabric can unravel. 

The best type of needles for sewing with linen are metallic needles because they make a better hole through the linen fabric. 

You can even use big eye needles but watch out because it might create too much space and make the fabric rip. 

6. Use a polyester thread

When sewing with linen, you should also use polyester thread or any other strong thread so that it doesn’t break while you’re sewing. 

7. Pre-wash the linen fabric

Pre-washing your linen is a good idea because it tends to shrink on the first wash. If you buy the linen from a retailer that hasn’t pre-washed it, be sure to wash it through on a warm setting before you start using it.

8. You a presser foot

You should also use a presser foot, otherwise, the needle will go through too fast and make holes in the fabric, which will show when you’re wearing the garment

To see if linen will shrink in the wash, cut out a piece of fabric from the washable linen and put it through a complete wash cycle. 

9. Iron the fabric

In the meantime, try ironing the fabric in preparation for sewing. This will ensure that the edges of the outfit are sewn before the fabric frays and become too bulky to sew. However, be careful not to over-press your fabric while ironing.

10. Use a walking foot

Use a walking foot on your sewing machine when sewing with linen. A walking foot has an extra set of feed dogs (the part that grabs the fabric) in the center of the foot that helps the fabric feed evenly through the machine without stretching or puckering. 

This is especially important when you’re sewing with heavier fabrics like linen that can stretch or move around on your fabric as you sew.

11. When cutting out your pattern pieces

Cut through both layers of fabric at once to prevent stretching. 

12. Spraying your thread

To prevent loose threads on the right side of your fabrics before hemming, try spraying your thread with press-and-sew (also known as seam sealant). 

This will help to keep them from coming undone while you stitch.

13. Change the needle frequently

Be sure to change your machine needle frequently when sewing with linen so you don’t have problems with skipped stitches or skipped layers of fabric. 

14. Stitch slowly

Stitch slowly and remove each layer of the project from under the presser foot as you go along to help prevent skipped stitches. 

15. Choose your favorite colors

Selecting your favorite colors for your project is the first step to sewing with linen. Linen comes in many colors so you can be creative and have fun.

16. Prevent from fraying

Linen is easy to cut, but hard to sew. It tends to fray when you’re cutting it, and fraying fabrics can easily get caught up in the machine needle or feed dogs. 

To prevent this problem, use a sharp pair of scissors and trim off all loose threads before sewing. 

Also, make sure you don’t allow the fabric to touch itself while you’re cutting it — that will cause it to fray as well.

17. You can also glue basting

Use glue basting instead of pins when working with light-colored linens, as it will not leave any marks on the fabric.

18. Test scraps before stitching

Test your stitching on scraps of fabric first before sewing into a final piece using matching thread.

19. Use a press cloth

If you are going to press your linen, use a press cloth between the iron and the fabric.

20. Mark notches

When cutting out a pattern piece, mark notches versus pinning them as they will fray less if pinned.

21. Iron inside out

Iron on the wrong side of the fabric first. Use steam to keep it from slipping while ironing and pressing.

22. Lay the linen on a flat surface

Before cutting, lay the linen out on a flat surface for better results. To cut the fabric, lay the fabric with the selvage’s correct side up and cut on the side of the fabric with the selvage. 

Always cut on the straight of grain and with a sharp, dressmaker’s shears, and don’t cut too lightly.

23. Measure linen after washing

After the linen has finished washing, check to see if it has shrunk in length and width by measuring both before and after washing.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is linen fabric difficult to sew?

Linen fabric is not difficult to sew, but it can be very challenging. Linen is a fabric that shrinks and frays easily, so it should be taken care of meticulously from start to finish.

From choosing Linen as a fabric to cutting the correct size for your project, ironing it carefully, and finally edging the seams using a specialist tool.

Should I wash linen before sewing?

It is generally recommended to pre-wash linen fabric before sewing to help prevent shrinkage because natural fibers shrink easily.

Can you use linen thread in a sewing machine?

It is not recommended to use linen thread in a sewing machine as it may cause problems. So better avoid it.

What tension should I use for linen?

For this type of fabric, you should use a 4 or 5 tension for medium to medium-heavy fabrics.

Can I sew linen and cotton together?

Definitely yes! Cotton and linen can be sewn together

How do you tell right from the wrong side of linen?

How to cut linen fabric

How to prewash linen for sewing

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