Had a question this morning about yarns listed in a very old booklet with projects for weavers. The yarns given are no longer 'common' and the question was, what could they use if they can't find the yarns listed?
One of the yarns was linen, so I rooted around looking for a substitute, but it's a bit hard to find things that have gone out of 'fashion' and are not now available, so I offered some suggestions.
But, I also just finished weaving with linen as weft and thought it might be a good idea to review working with linen, when you live in an arid environment.
(If you want to read my original blog post, that's here.)
Sourcing yarns can be a huge challenge when trying to replicate an 'old' project and sometimes the best you can do is come close.
I just cut my cotton warp/linen weft tea towels off the loom yesterday and so far I'm pleased. Of course they are enormously stiff in loom state - a factor of using a singles 12 linen for weft. Brassard still sells that quality of linen yarn, and I've used it previously (obviously, since I have/had it in my stash!). I wish I could find finer linen singles, but they are not commonly available, so I make do.
Linen is more expensive than cotton, so I tend to use it as weft only. (No loom waste.) Not to mention that right now the relative humidity in my house is running around 30% - on a good day. During the cold snap last month it went down to 20%.
Linen becomes very brittle when the environment is arid and if using it for warp, expect breakages. There is a reason linen is woven in humid environments - it just behaves so much better.
When it is starved for humidity, it becomes very unruly, and as mentioned, brittle, tending to break when used as warp.
But all yarns need a little humidity, even cotton. Wool and silk will also develop static electricity when warp winding, bobbin winding, or even in the loom.
A further challenge to sourcing linen is that so many linen yarns are now 'cottonized' which means the long staple length has been cut into about 2" lengths. Finding actual 'line' linen is difficult and when you do find it, it will be expensive.
I did, however, stumble upon a listing in Etsy:
They may possibly still be spinning line linen and offering larger cones, not tiny spools. I would have to do further digging to find out if their yarn is line linen and what kind of pricing they are asking.
Since I'm in Canada, I try to purchase from Canadian suppliers. Brassard does still carry some linen yarns, but it would depend if what they carry is suitable for your project.
Yesterday I did a Zoom presentation called A Good Yarn. The lecture is about yarn characteristics and I was happy to answer questions. Weavers really do need to know at least a little bit about how yarns are sourced for their fibre and prepared for and spun into yarn in order to understand how they will behave - in weaving, yes, but also after wet finishing.
I did some very short run booklets on this topic back in the early days of this century (gawd I feel old when I say that, but it's true!). If I can find the files on one of those old CDs I kept, who knows, I might even offer the text as a pdf again.
Or book me for a Zoom?