Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Linen sewing thread

Good-quality linen thread makes sewing a much more pleasant experience, but linen often features slubs in the single threads. These slubs are not only a nuisance when working, they also mean a weak spot in the thread.

I have searched for nice, smooth, sturdy linen thread for quite some time, and I am happy to have found one finally with no or next to no slubs and imperfections in the thread. Each little spool holds 20 m of thread. If you sew much more with linen thread, larger quantities are possible - just contact me.The thread is a little thinner than the "Sternzwirn" often used by Germans and is plied from three singles in Z-direction. Three singles plied make a smoother thread than two singles, and almost all linen yarns nowadays are plied from three or even more singles. Unfortunately, finds from linen are very, very rare, so we don't know if two- or three-ply linen (or another configuration still) was most common.

The thread is either fully bleached or not fully bleached. White linen is often mentioned in medieval texts, stressing the whiteness, so fully bleached linen does fit into that picture. However, bleaching the fibre to this very light shade would mean a long time in preparing and bleaching, so if you like your sewing thread a little more low-key, you can take the not-quite-white shade.

While brown paper is not an authentic medieval packaging, I have chosen it because it is easy to handle, quite eco-friendly and cheap. The brown paper will at least not be blatantly modern-looking in a historical sewing kit; and if necessary, rewinding 20 m of thread onto a wooden spool will not take very long.

Linen thread is very strong (unless buried in soil, where the slightly acidic milieu dissolves vegetable fibres), but can be harmed by too much rubbing from the needle eye in one spot. So when using linen thread, make sure the eye of your needle has no sharp ridges, and move the needle further along the thread at regular intervals while sewing. Lightly waxing the linen thread with beeswax will significantly protect the linen yarn and also inhibit tangling of longer threads, so while I recommend waxing most sewing threads, it really is a "must do" with linen.


A Life Long Scholar said...

Darn--when at the Forum I was so focused on getting one of those needles, I forgot about the linen thread, which you've mentioned before, so I didn't get any. Yes, I saw them, but didn't think to touch or ask the fibre content... Oops.

a stitch in time said...

Yes, you really were very, very focused on that needle - I will never forget how quickly it found its new home : )
Actually, moments like these are why I so love selling textile tools and things - somebody comes, snatches up a piece and more or less says "Mine! Mine! No matter the price, it's MINE!"
And the linen thread... well, if you are in dire need, I can always send it in the mail. Though I think that maybe, since you embroider, you might want to wait a few weeks more... because of the next blog post.