Glossary: Linen Lawn

Lawn is a fabric made from linen, also known as flax, a natural fiber. For more information, see the entry Glossary: Linen Fiber. Fine, lightweight, semi-sheer or sheer linen lawn is often known as handkerchief weight (sometimes, cottons of a similar weight and sheerness, such as voile and batiste, are also referred to as “handkerchief weight”). Cambric is a similar linen fabric, in 18th and 19th century terminology, but slightly thicker and more opaque. However, with the increasing replacement of linen goods with cotton over the early 19th century, by the mid 19th century, “cambric” was more likely to refer to cotton goods than linen. Also, the French for cambric is “batiste,” which typically refers to cotton goods.

Definitions from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

Lawn is defined as “very fine linen or cotton fabric with a somewhat open texture, used for the sleeves of Church of England bishops, and for dresses” on page 178.

Entry for “Lawn” on page 275: “A delicate linen used for shirts, handkerchiefs, ruffles, and aprons.” Also: “In the nineteenth century, ‘Lawn closely resembles cambric, only thinner and finer. There are various cloths called Lawns, which are really muslins made of cotton, such as French Lawn and Victoria Lawn, which is a thick make of book muslin, in black and white, used for dress linings’ (Caulfeild and Saward). Bishop lawn is ‘a soft, sheer cotton fabric, similar to Swiss muslin, but finer and closer, and has a bluish tint’ (Brown and Gates, p. 2)” (For further information, please see the book, page 275)

Entry for “Cambric,” which it states is “batiste” in French, on page 187: “A fine white linen cloth in plain weave.” (See also cotton batiste)

Online Resources:

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post like this one, which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Updated January 10, 2012

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