10 tips for knitting with linen yarn
Fancy a new cool summer top?
Then I guess linen can be one of the fibers of your mind!
In this post, I have gathered all the best tips I could get my hands on about knitting with linen.
The headers of this post:
- The characteristics of linen yarn
- Best tips for a successful linen project
- How to block and care for a knitted linen garment
- Linen yarn blends
- What can I knit in linen yarn? A list of patterns and suitable yarns
The characteristics of linen yarn
Linen yarn is a plant fiber spun out of the long, straight fibers from the stem of the flax plant.
The yarn has some really nice qualities that make it suitable for warm weather garments like summer tops and wraps.
Linen yarn is:
- Strong and durable
- Yield cool
- Easily wrinkled
- Machine washable and can be tumble-dried, as well as hand washed or dry cleaned
- Easy to dye
- Resistant to pilling and doesn’t get static
- An eco-friendly choice it’s a renewable source, almost chemical free and biodegradable
- Great stitch definition. The inelasticity keeps stitches crisp and nice.
Given all these different characteristics, which are quite the opposite from those of wool which most knitters are familiar with, knitting with linen can be a little different. Maybe even a little struggle if you try to do it exactly as you would have treated a woolen yarn.
So, let’s get to the tips!
Best tips for knitting with linen yarn
Make that swatch!
Make a swatch and wash it before measuring for gauge and taking any decision at all.
The gauge and appearance of linen can change dramatically when it’s washed and blocked.
Linen fiber stick to itself, if you pull the needle out off your knitting your stitches will stand where you left them. But, when washed a few times the fibers will become soft and drapey.
Change your needles
You will notice that the inelastic linen yarn won’t adjust to your needles like a wool yarn does, leading to larger stitches.
Don’t try to tension your yarn harder, it may not slip through your fingers at all as a more elastic yarn would. Make it easy on your hands and go down a needle size or two instead.
If you’re knitting with metal tips (as I do always and forever on my favorite knitting needles) you may want to change them for bamboo or wood as the texture of those materials will help even out your stitches.
Choose a technique for joining yarn wisely
Skip all types of knots and joining methods that rely on the sticky felt able characteristics of wool.
To join a new ball of linen yarn your best choices are to knit ten stitches with both yarns and then weave in the ends or something like the braided join.
Pull the yarn from outside the ball
Linen yarn has a tendency to stick to itself and center pull balls tend to fall apart, therefore it’s less messy to pull the yarn from the outside rather than inside a ball or cake of yarn.
To skip the mess, wind your yarn around something, a toilet paper roll will do just fine!
Don’t be afraid to rip and redo
Linen yarn is durable and won’t be damaged if you rip it back. Actually, it will become softer and easier to work with.
Use a long needle/cable
The stitches will take up more space than when knitting with for example wool. So to be on the safe side use a long needle/cable when knitting linen yarn flat to stop it from sliding off your needle when putting it down.
Skip the selvage stitches
Other yarns may need selvage stitches to make a tidy edge and their elasticity make them able to average to the rest of the knitting.
Linen yarn is so inelastic that a selvage stitch will make the edge shorter than the rest of the finished piece.
Feel free to use them or skip them, linen yarn makes a beautiful raw edge and you don’t need to add an edging if you don’t want to.
Be hard on your linen
Linen is perfect for garments that crave a lot of draping, like flowy summer tops, tunics, wraps, and shawls! Count on the linen fabric you crate to get softness and more drape with time and washing.
Garments knitted in linen are very durable and will only be softer, more draping and shinier the more you use and wash it. So don’t be afraid to use it!
Accept some wrinkles and other oddities
Linen has a life of its own, your stitches will look untidy when coming off the needles and the finished fabric is going to wrinkle.
But, this is what makes linen unique and along with the amazing drape and softness, it’s elegance.
Wash and block linen
Linen is machine washable and you can absolutely let it go in the dryer too, but, it will come out with messy lace and uneven stitches.
Instead, skip the dryer and lay it out flat to dry. This way you can reshape it and open up lace sections as you wish and let it air dry.
The newly washed linen will feel stiff but if you put it on it will soften up pretty quickly, like a pair of jeans.
You could also let it go through the dryer on a cold setting to soften it.
What can you knit in linen?
Perfect Yarn and Pattern matches!
Lotus Yarns Natural Linen
Lotus Yarns Natural Linen is a 100% linen yarn in lace weight available in some really beautiful jewel-like colors.
This yarn would look (and feel) fabulous in accessories and summer tops as well as a light sweater!
Some pattern suggestions:
- Dress Spikelets, This is a gorgeous girl-dress, perfect for the little princess in your life!
- Begonia Swirl, this shawl with a beautiful row of flowers along the edge would look stunning in this yarn.
- Ombre Tank Redux, is a tank top in a simple design. This top can be an everyday favorite or an elegant evening top, it all depends on the choice of yarn and styling!
- Teardrops of fall, is a beautiful lace shawl that would be perfect for this yarn!
Linen dishcloth or Spa cloth pattern
If it’s your first time knitting with linen yarn and you don’t want to take on a big project a cloth is perfect to start out with. It’s small and fast to knit and doesn’t require much yarn.
You will get to know this new fiber and get instant gratification as the project gets done fast!
I really like the Pretty Purls Spa cloth pattern from the blog A Journey Beyond Boredom. It makes up a cute cloth and is easy to make.
The Darn Good Yarn 2 ply linen, available on Amazon, is suitable for knitting this pattern. This yarn is made out of 100% linen, it’s sport weight and comes in a beautiful silver grey as well as some pale pastels.
I’m sure this yarn would knit up wonderful in an elegant and drapey summer tunic or top as well!
Quince & Co. Sparrow Organic Linen Yarn
Sparrow is available in a wide range of soft solid pastel colors as well as some variegated ones.
This yarn is perfect for knitting summer tops and tunics as well as thin wraps and light cardigans. A mentioned before, Quince & Co. have a collection of stunning patterns suitable for their yarns on the site, click here to see all patterns for Sparrow!
Quince & Co. Kestrel Organic Linen Yarn
It’s a heavy worsted weight yarn that gives about 4 stitches per inch with US 8 / 5mm needles.
Kestrel is a new take on linen yarn, it’s spun in a ribbon structure and knits up quickly.
The way it’s spun creates a slightly textured surface to a piece of fabric in stockinette stitch.
This thicker and more structured linen yarn is available in a range of pretty colors and would look beautiful in cool sweaters for summer as well as a table runner or a durable basket to store your ongoing knitting projects in.
Quince & Co has an amazing collection of patterns for each of their yarns. These patterns are just as stunning as the yarns they are made to match. Have a look at all the patterns suitable for Kestrel here!
Ready for a linen blend?
Linen is a fantastic fiber to knit on its own, but when mixed with other fibers you get to enjoy their good qualities as well.
This linen, silk, and, merino blend is the perfect sweater yarn!
The merino gives warmth and elastic, the silk contributes with shine and resistance to wrinkles and the linen with durability and beautiful drape.
Living Dreams Yarns Flax Botanica is a blend of 50% Merino, 25% linen and 25% tussah silk. It’s a responsibly sourced yarn, Oeko-Tex standard 100 certified and produced in the U.S.
This DK weight yarn is available in nine beautiful soft colors on Amazon. It knits up beautifully and works well for sweaters and cardigans to wear alone during the warmer season and layered in cooler weather.
I haven’t found any patterns written for this yarn, but I have found some beautiful patterns that will fit this yarn like a glove!
Don’t be afraid to try something new, be sure to try some of these amazing linen yarns!
There are so many advantages of linen yarn, it’s eco-friendly, beautiful, comfortable to wear and lasts a long time. What is there not to like?
So what do you say, fellow knitters? Do you like knitting with linen yarn? Do you have any favorite linen yarns or patterns? Please share in the comments down below!