using linen - weight, "softened", ?

Undies, everyone has to wear them.
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using linen - weight, "softened", ?

Postby blackie » Thu Jul 05, 2007 10:28 am

I am moving along quickly on my corset and will soon be making either combinations (TV105) or the chemise and drawers from LM100.

I think I'm going to try linen. I have only sewn with it once or twice. My question is, what weight to buy? What does "softened" mean? How can I get the right kind of weave?

fabrics-store.com was recommended here and I'm impressed with their selection!

I know I can order swatches for them but any advice is appreciated because i don't even know what swatches to pick!

Thanks,

K.
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Postby Heather » Thu Jul 05, 2007 10:53 am

Personally, I always use cotton for underwear. It washed well, and is soft against the skin. I understand the linen is not a durable as cotton, and even in Victorian times, cotton was often recomended over linen for this reason.

If using linen, I would go with something light and soft. Get the swatches, and see what you like.
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Postby valleyviolet » Thu Jul 05, 2007 11:29 am

You might consider looking at Denver Fabrics. They have a good selection of linens and will send you swatches very cheaply.

Here's their neutral colored linen page:

http://www.denverfabrics.com/Merchant2/ ... Code=LI-WN
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Postby Sara P » Thu Jul 05, 2007 3:43 pm

Weights for linen: 3 oz or so is about hankie weight. It's very light and semi-sheer. If you want very fine expensive, not so durable type undies, you could use this weight.

4.5 to 5 oz is a 'normal' weight. It's what blouses and slacks are generally made of. It makes nice faire shirts, can't really say as to Victorian undies :).

6 oz or higher is fairly heavy weight. I have some that's 7.2 oz, I think, and I made some bloomers out of it. They're lovely, sturdy, have lasted forever even with fairly rough wear (I wore them as a dancer doing 2 parades and 2 shows a day). I had to quit wearing them when they got too small. They're hands down better than the cotton bloomers I've had since. My cotton broadcloth bloomers barely lasted one season. I don't know that I'd recommend something this thick for wearing under a corset.
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Postby Erin » Fri Jul 06, 2007 6:46 am

I bought a linen/cotton blend at Jo-Ann's, called "tissue linen" for my combos, and I just love it. It's soft and light, but not at all flimsy. I loved it so much that I went back and bought more to make a modern summer dress from it. :)
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Postby nicolechip » Sat Jul 07, 2007 6:44 am

I bought the IL020 3.5 oz linen from Fabrics-store.com and love it. I've used it for a chemise and drawers and it is so very comfortable. To me it is more breathable than cotton and has a little more body to it. I plan to make a combination soon, and another set of chemise and drawers. If you have several projects, you can buy it by the 20 yard roll.
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Postby Alessandra » Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:20 pm

Heather said
I understand the linen is not a durable as cotton, and even in Victorian times, cotton was often recomended over linen for this reason.


I was under the impression that linen was much tougher than cotton -- it is, after all, preferred by museums over cotton for the best oil paintings. I thought the reason cotton was recommended was because the Industrial Revolution had made cotton far cheaper than linen, which to this day has a much more labor-intensive production than cotton. Perhaps it was also patriotic -- support home industry and all that (Even today the US government subsidizes cotton production).

But the very finest Victorian underwear was always handsewn -- and it was always made of linen.
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Postby Heather » Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:39 pm

Linen threads don't really hold up as well as cotton threads; the fibers don't bind to each other as well as cotton does. And to make it soft, you have to really break up the fibers with pounding and such. Which usally means that when wet, linen will fall apart easier on you with rough handling. And people I know who wear linen shirts have to replace them often. Nothing wears like cotton, which is why it is so popular/prefered today.

I had read an article in an 1880's magazine talking about the washing of linen. It stated that since everything was now being sent out to launder rather than being laundered at home, the fine linens just didn't hold up well. So they recommended cotton, and heavy croghet type laces that could withstand the wear and tear of every day life. If you didn't mind replacing your undies fairly often, linen was better, but for the middle classes, something more substantial was needed.

Historically, linen was easier to get than cotton: cotton was very, very labor intensive. (Which was the main reason behind the slavery issue). And linen is an ancient fabric readily available pretty much anywhere. Until the mid 1800's when they made advances in cotton harvesting and milling. (the good ol' cotton gin) Then cotton really took off.
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Postby Alessandra » Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:15 am

Well now, that makes sense. Linen is definitely more comfortable than cotton in hot weather, but if it's more fragile (and more expensive) it would be more of a luxury item.

Linen is also very labor intensive, and unlike cotton it has never had major manufacture improvements -- it's still made about the same way it was a thousand years ago. I had wrongly assumed that cotton won out because it had become cheaper (through industrial improvements) and was smoother and easier to deal with -- takes dye better, can be used in sewing machines, etc.

The only thing is, linen *is* preferred by artists and museum curators, and linen thread is preferred by bookbinders, and the first airplanes were made of linen canvas, even though cotton was available and much cheaper. What Heather says makes a lot of sense (and I bow to her superior experience), I'm just puzzled by these anomalies.
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Postby valleyviolet » Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:18 am

My guess would be that some of these "anomalies" are due to the expected conditions the fiber will be exposed to. A chemise is going to be a lot warmer/wetter and endure a lot more rubbing than the thread that is used to bind a book. I think it's entirely possible that there are conditions where linen will hold up better and perhaps be more ph balanced for things that need to have gentle conditions in the long term (just my guess on that second part).

There are also artists who use cotton canvas because it is easier to get. I can buy ungessoed painters canvas in cotton from my local fabric store, but there is no linen canvas in sight. Even if the "Art" establishment prefers not to use cotton, that doesn't mean that all artists agree.
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Postby Heather » Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:31 am

Well, I'm only guessing, but I can think why linen canvas may be better. Absorbtion rates. Cotton is highly aborbing, and if the paints are absorbed into the canvas, the cemimcals may damage the fibers and/or cause colors to bleed slightly. As for the plane skins, that might be a weight issue. I think linen is lighter than cotton? As for book binder, who knows... Unless it is more traditional and when rebinding ancient book, tradition beats out?

I don't really know, either. I don't have much personal experience with linen. The stuff I can find is usually too thick or heavy for my tastes, or if I do find lawn weight, it cost to much to buy. Plus I hate ironing, and linen is the worst for wrinkles.

I guess if you lived in a zone with high humidity, the absorbtion properties of the cotton would be a problem. Here the south west, though, the super dry heat makes the dampness a plus, with the evapotraspiration cooling properties. One of the reasons I actually like flannel undies is the summer.

Maybe I should make up a set of unides in linen and just see how I like them. And until then keep my mouth shut.
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Postby Patricia T » Wed Jul 18, 2007 12:02 pm

Heather wrote:Well, I'm only guessing, but I can think why linen canvas may be better. Absorbtion rates. Cotton is highly aborbing, and if the paints are absorbed into the canvas, the cemimcals may damage the fibers and/or cause colors to bleed slightly.


Artists prepare their canvases by using gesso to seal the fabric so that it doesn't absorb the paints. Gesso is a sort of a white wash and I believe originally had animal glue in it. Today artists who use acrylic paint often gesso their canvas with a watered down white acrylic paint. I even used to mix Elmers white glue in with it. When it dries, the stretched canvas tightens up and has a nice even, non-absorbent surface to paint on.

As for linen - JoAnn's is having a sale and yesterday I bought 4 yards of 100% linen in black. I have no idea what I'll do with it but I love linen pants! It's a heavier weight so probably wouldn't be very good for a chemise though.

And Heather, I just end up looking wrinkled - with no apologies! :lol: I hate ironing it as well! Wouldn't a mangle iron be useful if you had a lot of linen!!
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Postby Erin » Wed Jul 18, 2007 12:39 pm

What's a mangle iron?
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Postby Patricia T » Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:15 pm

Erin wrote:What's a mangle iron?

It's a huge old ironing "machine" that I believe is still used to press clothes at a dry cleaners.

http://www.albanyinstitute.org/collections/objects/mangle.htm
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Postby Alessandra » Wed Jul 18, 2007 4:36 pm

Painters' canvas is sealed so the paint is not absorbed, but the rate of absorption of moisture by the canvas is still important because over time moisture (and heating) changes make the entire substrate expand and contract, which can weaken the paint film's adhesion in the long term. So I guess that's why linen works better than cotton for painting.

valleyviolet makes a good point about "expected conditions". Nobody is ever going to scrub a Georgia O'Keefe painting with hot water and soap.

(I'm a professional artist and materials geek, that's why I'm interested.)
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Postby Amontillada » Wed Jul 18, 2007 5:49 pm

Patricia T wrote:As for linen - JoAnn's is having a sale and yesterday I bought 4 yards of 100% linen in black. I have no idea what I'll do with it but I love linen pants!


Victorian mourning dress springs to my mind! Think of a widow planning what to wear in summer.

...Then again, I'd better stop thinking of ideas like these...or start sewing! :lol:
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Postby m d b » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:44 am

Linen is hardy but sadly modern machinery can't deal with the very long fibres so they get chopped up and we get a very very weak fabric, probably due to the non gripping nature Heather aluded to which is more important in short stapled fibres than long. Hand woven linen though doesn't have that issue and we even still have linen existing from the time of the Pharoahs! I have many antique linen pieces all of which were used for hardwearing items (a pillowcase for one) and they have all stood the test of time. Something I have noticed, and I believe it's something conservators have mentioned is that very very fine linen dries out and you can get breakage. I've seen it myself but only on some drawn thread worked very sheer linen. It may have been cotton but I suspect linen.

I have found one or two very fine linens and they tend to be much better woven than mid and heavy weighted linen. I've also had more cotton rip on my when wet than linen. Tabby woven or piled.

Sorry, quick edit:
as to what weight for undies... I keep hearing about people using "hanky" weight, but that means very little to me as I tend to use tissues;) However it's probably best to think of between summer sheet and lawn weight, somewhere in the middle. All the combinations and other underwear I'ves seen and felt in person feel about that weight. The weave is very dense but very light. If you can get to an antique store and find an antique hanky that's probably close to what you want.
I've seen a few edged with frills of very sheer linen as well:) Usually a lot more open weave and heavir threads.

Linen softens with boiling, which is great as it is a very handy way to clean the items after. No idea what methods the manufacturers use but it's probably not terribly gentle!
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Postby SarahS » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:31 pm

You might also consider hemp (from the famous weed) as it is similar to linen. It resists wrinkles better and it is strong (think hemp rope). It softens after washing.

I found some here:
http://www.dharmatrading.com/fabric/hemp/hemp.html
(I have not ordered from this company).
A bit more expensive than linen.
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Postby Patricia T » Mon Jul 23, 2007 7:42 pm

SarahS wrote:You might also consider hemp (from the famous weed) as it is similar to linen. It resists wrinkles better and it is strong (think hemp rope). It softens after washing.


But beware, hemp can be a bit scratchy. Get samples first! Dharma will sell you some I believe.
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Postby Heather » Mon Jul 23, 2007 10:14 pm

I believe hemp is a type of linen, and no, it's not related to the other thing.

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