Knitting with Linen?


It is so hot and humid in Virginia these days! Good grief, I just can’t stand the humidity anymore.

For me, Heat + Humidity = No Handknits to Wear. Which is a bummer. I bought some Shibui Reed and also Shibui Linen (which is a really interesting construction!) last year, thinking I’d knit myself some summer handknits … someday.

That someday is now. This weather had me pulling the Reed out a few days ago, and swatching (this is the Ash colorway). And I started looking for patterns.

I love Elizabeth Doherty’s new pattern, Westbound, which calls for Shibui Reed. I bought it, and I’ll knit it someday. But, the yarn is held double throughout and this is problematic for two reasons: 1) I don’t have enough yarn and 2) I wanted a lightweight top.

Then I bought Linho, by Joji Locatelli. I also love this one, too, but it uses Quince & Co. Sparrow, which is lighter weight than Reed … and … I don’t have enough yardage for this one either.

THEN, I bought Cullum, which is designed in Quince & Co. Sparrow, but there are quite a few knit in Reed. I have enough yarn for this one. I think ;-).

So, I swatched, and I soaked and blocked my swatch. And by blocking, I mean that I laid it out and let it dry as it wanted – no pins, no stretching. Nada. (I did not, however, machine wash and dry it … perhaps I should?).

Cullum and Linho say to expect linen to relax by 10% and that this has been factored into the sizing. My swatch did not relax at all. 5″ x 6″ unblocked … pretty much 5″ x 6″ blocked. ARGH. What to do?!

What do you think? Should I figure my swatch is correct and move forward? Or should I factor in a 10% growth estimate for a full-sized garment and go with that? I mean, I know it doesn’t have the memory of wool, since there’s no crimp … but how much will it grow is my dilemna. I don’t want to end up with a humongous tent ;-).

All opinions and advice are welcome!

On another note: would anyone be interested in hand-dyed linen, or a linen-silk or other linen blend? I’ve been considering delving into dyeing plant fibers for the last year or so, because, truly, I’d like to have some handknits that don’t have wool in them. I don’t know if it’s me, or if the humidity and heat actually ARE worse, but I’ve definitely been more attracted to lighter weight yarns for most of my projects (dk is about as heavy as I personally want to go for most things these days). And there’s just no way I can wear wool in the summer anymore.

My entire dyeing career has been all about protein fibers, so I’ve never considered widening the scope to plant fibers.Β These days, I definitely am.

Anyone interested, or is it just me?


28 thoughts on “Knitting with Linen?

  1. Yes! I have knit a couple of Liesls and love the finished garments. Definitely would like to knit w/more linen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. part of it is the not enough weight for it to hang, another part of it is washing it in the washer and drying it in the dryer. I wash my linen sweater that way, it always shrinks, but then grows again when I wear it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I figured that was a big part of it … so swatching is hard, since the swatch will never be as big as the actual garment. πŸ˜€


  3. Hi Jennifer, maybe consider a top pattern for hemp fibers? I have made No Purling Allowed by Lana Hames (I am not smart enough to add the Ravelry link directly but here it is: Very clean and simple, not too much yardage if yardage is an issue.

    Personally, I am no fan of plant fibers as they are too unyielding for me; I prefer to stay with the forgiving spirit of my protein fibers. πŸ™‚ Cheers, Anna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’ll check that out πŸ˜€ I hear you on how unforgiving plant fibers are. I really want some warm weather knits but I’m not actually positive I can knit an entire garment in linen. Wow did my hands cramp up quickly! UGH.


      • Likewise, my hemp experience left my hands crippled for weeks. Never saw the slinky, silky drape in the fiber even after repeated washes so I gave away all of my hemp + linen stash to a lace-knitting coworker. Good luck with your project! Best, Anna

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, that’s a bummer! All that work and discomfort for nothing 😦 . Thanks! I’ll soldier on, but I’m going to be very careful. I definitely don’t want to end up in a place where I can’t knit (been there with tendonitis in my elbow from knitting a huge garter stitch project which shall remain unnamed πŸ˜‰ ).


  4. Yes to a linen or linen blend! I would live to knit a garment or accessory that I could wear next to my skin (not layered, as with wool) all year long!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome! Yes, I agree. Right now I’m wondering if I can even knit a whole garment in linen … my hands cramped up really quickly! Figuring that out will take some time – it is so different than knitting with the lovely protein fibers, with all their crimp and give.


  5. Given that I can’t wear wool, I would be beyond thrilled if you dyed some linen or even better, a linen blend! Definitely count me in!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I definitely think you should try linen blend. It seems like there would be a good deal of interest in it. The ” Cullum” pattern is so cute and I would have to agree that slightly bigger is better than slightly smaller. Thank you for this post, Jennifer, as it really helps to see that an expert like you does some of the same things I do; i.e. buy yarn on impulse and then realize later that you don’t have enough for the pattern you finally found for it!! And, will it be too big or too small? πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜† Stay cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahah! Yes, indeed! We’re all prone to that impulse buy – for me, it was two part: I really want some warm-weather handknits, and both of the bases I purchased were on sale at the time (although, I might have just purchased some Quince & Co. Sparrow yesterday ::cough:: probably not enough ::cough cough:: I’m concerned it will end up relaxing and be way too big. A little too big is fine, but I don’t want to end up with a tent ;-D


  7. Okay, for some reason I can no longer like or comment on the blog. That said, I’m all in for linen and (maybe even more) for linen with cotton or silk. I think it would be fun to see how differently they take up the dyes.

    Good luck. Too hot for me to work on my Brigantia wip and I promised myself I would not cast on anything until I finish this gift!

    Stay cool!


    Stephanie Bograd


    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment came through just fine; not sure what was going on but it’s here! Yes, linen / silk is definitely in my mind; thinking that might be a bit more forgiving than 100% linen. I’m not a fan of 100% cotton yarn, but perhaps a blend with linen might be okay. Or linen / hemp … so off I go to investigate. And yeah, I back burnered a pattern I’ve been working on because it’s so hot on my lap! Argh.


      • I sent that via email to you and it popped up here. Maybe I was linked to the old site somehow? I was surprised to see it here!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I would be beyond thrilled if you dyed a linen or linen blend! Summer started so early in Nashville this year and I have a feeling is going to be with us for a long time. No advice on your swatch I’m afraid except to say for summer knits something loose is better than something tight as far as I’m concerned!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Virginia! Yes … summer seems to come earlier and stay longer, alas! Definitely loose and breezy is what I’m going for, but I don’t want it to end up being humongous, ya know? πŸ˜€


  9. I would (figuratively) *kill* for a wider selection of dyed linen and linen blends. It does take dye very differently, but still… I’m right with you in wanting lighter plant fibers for wearing in nasty hot summer weather.

    Part of the reason linen grows is because there is no spring, like in wool. Your swatch won’t grow because there was no weight on it, but a full shirt would. My favorite linen knit tank does shrink to original gauge in the wash, but then relaxes pretty quickly once I start wearing it, soI’d keep that in mind. Hope that helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is what I was thinking … that the weight of a full garment would definitely behave differently than my swatch (no matter how big). That definitely helps, thanks! I have no experience knitting anything BIG with linen, so your info about relaxing after washing is what I was wondering about. Thanks! And I’ll definitely look into dyeing some – one of my suppliers has a few linen bases. Totally different method, but I’m up for experimenting! πŸ˜€


  10. I for one would be very interested in a linen-blend yarn if you dyed it! This hot weather leaves me wanting to make some lightweight tees myself. I’m off to consider Cullum to see if I could use a heathen linen blend in my stash…thanks for the idea!

    Liked by 1 person

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