Linen yarn by nature requires a little more care while weaving but the finished results are so rewarding! This is especially true if you are using a rigid heddle loom, as the heddle applies more friction to linen warps. For rigid heddle weavers, we recommend trying Duet Cotton/Linen, which is suitable for all loom types and is strong enough to be used as a warp. If you are weaving on a multi-harness loom, you can also try Italian Cotton/Linen or 18/3 Linen
Mixing yarns in the warp can be a fun experiment to see how different fibers take-up and shrink. I wove a sample of alternating Duet and Mallo warp and weft stripes to see how they would work together. Linen has a lower shrinkage rate than cotton and blending them together actually kept the cotton from shrinking as much as it normally would!
Linen, while having one of the highest tensile strengths of all fibers, can abrade easily. The motion of the rigid heddle reed against the fibers can create weak spots and eventual warp breakage. Advancing your warp more often (say every 1-2”) will help distribute any wearing along the fibers and make for a smoother weaving experience.
The benefit of advancing your warp often means you have the ability to find the “sweet spot” of how much tension the yarn needs to weave easily. In my personal experience, linen blend yarns like Duet do well with a steady tension that is not overly tight. My trick is to tighten the tension to where I would normally weave, then back off one “click” on the tensioning knob, so the warp threads are not quite taut and not quite slack.
Put the heddle in the down shed, insert a pick-up stick behind the reed between the slot and hole threads, and rest it on the back beam while weaving. This can give you just a little extra tension on the warp. If your rigid heddle loom does not have a back beam, rest the pick-up stick on the warp beam.
Some weavers find that misting the linen warp with water, or weaving in a room with a humidifier can help with tension issues and breakage.
Sometimes despite our best efforts, some threads just want to be slackers. Try hanging warp thread weights off the threads behind your loom to restore even tension to your warp.
If you're ready to give linen a try, here are some yarns we recommend.
A versatile yarn, Duet is strong enough for warp, soft enough for garments, and hardy enough for kitchen towels. Made from 55% European tow linen and 45% USA-grown cotton.
Soft and textured, this fine slub yarn is designed for weaving both home textiles and next-to-skin apparel. 50% cotton, 50% linen.
In addition to being GIST's Operations Manager and Wholesale Director, Christine is a weaver and exhibiting fiber artist. She scampered down the rabbit hole of rigid heddle weaving several years ago as a way to use up her knitting stash and never looked back. In addition to very practical cloth woven to adorn home and body (tea towels are her favorite home linen projects to weave), Christine also weaves conceptual works that explore themes of mood and memory, strength and fragility, and often reflect on the current political and ecological landscape. Her work is held in private collections across the country and is shown regionally in New England galleries. To see more of Christine's work, check out her Instagram.