The recommended yarn for the official OAL pattern Zinone is a fingering weight linen, which might not be a kind of yarn that many knitters have experience with. In the last five or six years, some amazing linen yarns have come onto the market, so it’s worth getting familiar with it. Here are six things you need to know about working with linen yarn before you get started on a linen project.

Linen_Tips_Core

1. Use the right techniques.

Because linen isn’t at all like wool, you’ll need to use different techniques than you would for wool. For example, a lot of joins rely on the sticky, feltable properties of wool. Those aren’t going to be a good choice for linen. To join a new ball of linen, you’re best choices are something like the Braided Join, or working a dozen stitches with both the old and new yarn held together. The latter is the method I used for the Zinone samples. If a technique relies on felting or animal fiber’s grippy properties, steer clear of it.

2. Wind around a core.

Linen is both slick and inelastic, so center pull balls tend to fall apart and turn into a tangled mess. To keep things tidy, wind your yarn around a core. Cardboard tubes from toilet paper can be popped over a ball winder or nostepinne to easily make a ball with a cardboard core.

Linen_Tips_Skeins

3. Frog without fear.

If you make an error in your knitting, you can rip back and redo the section as many times as you want without damaging your yarn. Linen isn’t delicate, and frogged linen is actually even easier to work with than fresh-off-the-ball linen. Your yarn will just get softer and easier to work with the more you redo a section, so rip back with confidence!

4. Beat it up.

Not only can linen handle a lot of abuse but it actually gets nicer the more it’s worn and washed. Agitation will give you a softer piece. You don’t need to worry about felting or pilling. I left a linen swatch in the bottom of my purse for over a month to see how it would wear, and it just got softer and shinier. To achieve that result without dragging your sweater around with you in a tote, send it through the wash a few times with your other loads of laundry.

Linen_Tips_Imperfect

5. Wet block it.

Linen is machine washable, and you can put it through the dryer without damaging it, but your project will come out with bunched up lace and uneven stitches. Instead, put it through the washing machine, lay it out flat, reshape it and open up any lace according to your schematic, and let it air dry. It will probably be crunchy when it’s dry, like line-dried jeans, but agitation is all it takes to soften the piece back up. You can send it through the dryer with no heat to air fluff it, which will get rid of the crispy feeling.

6. Let go of perfection.

Linen is wiggly, wrinkly, and wonderful. Your stitches are going to move around and look very sloppy when they’re fresh off your needle. Your finished sweater is going to wrinkle. Your stitches will never be as uniform as they might be when knit in wool. Just go with the flow and embrace it. All of these quirks are what makes linen so unique and gives it its casual elegance.

18 Comments

  • Thanks for this post, Andi! I’m very intrigued by the idea of working with linen. It’s super cool that you designed a sweater to use it. It’s lovely!

  • That cardboard tube suggestion is genius! I had a huge problem with tangeled center-pull linen balls and ended up putting them in closeable sandwich bags. That helped slightly but I’m definitely using a cardboard tube core next time.

  • Thank you so much for your timely post and sharing all the fantastic tips for using linen. I also will feel more confident and will consider a project using linen! I will share your post with my knitting group!

  • Thanks for those tips, articulately the joining method which I don’t think I used on my linen garment, although so far so good (fingers crossed). May I add another tip? Linen is BEAUTIFUL. It has a sheen and a texture like no other. Not as easy to knit as wool, maybe, but not all that bad either. And so worth it! Try a small item, even a washcloth, and see.

  • What recommendations for sewing in ends?
    I sewed in some in the usual way- duplicate stitch- but left the tails long and after washing and blocking it looks like the garment is fringed from all the unraveling
    I am worried about the sewn in edges unraveling and am almost tempted to knot the ends
    I loved using linen for this summer top

    • Hmmm… The joining methods I used don’t require you to weave in ends, so I only had the CO and BO edges to weave in, which can’t unravel back if they get loose.

      I think the best thing to do would be to separate the plies of your ends and weave them in individually using a method that basically splits the stitches using a sharp needle and sits on the surface of the back, like the one outlined here. The ends will be held more snugly because they’re splitting the yarn they’re going through so the twist will help hold them, and all of the plies will have to come loose in order for anything to unravel.

      • Thank you! I made a start on it yesterday and it feels safer than my usual.
        Even though it means twice as much sewing

        I also try to avoid extra ends but there were single row stripes that I was concerned about

  • I am starting a beautiful project using linen lace weight yarn. However, it’s been a week since I started, and I have yet to actually knit. I have spent the last week trying to untangle the hanks of yarn. Hey, I’m halfway through the second hank! Woo hoo! Only two more to go after this. Am I missing something? How the bleep are you expected to knit with a hank of tangled mess? I’ve put the hank around objects hoping to keep the loops from tangling. I had someone help me and wound around a card while I desperately tried to keep the loops from tangling. Nope. Didn’t work. Two people couldn’t get this stupid stuff wound around the cardboard. Help!

    • Hmmm… That’s not a problem I ran into. I used a swift when I wound mine, so I had even tension on the yarn and could spot any potential tangles in advance. No matter what kind of fiber the yarn is, tangle-prone skeins are always easier to work with when they’re on a swift.

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