Tag Archives: linen lawn

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

Glossary: Linen Fiber

Linen is a natural fiber which comes from a plant known as flax. A variety of fabrics are made from linen fabric, though far more were produced (with a far greater variety of names!) historically than are readily available today. Linens available today include handkerchief linen (which is actually a fine weight of lawn), linen lawn, and linen suiting, all of which are usually plain-woven, and thus, types of linen tabby.

“Flax is a bast fiber taken from the stalk of a plant called linum usitatissimum. Bast fibers comprise a large group–flax, ramie, jute, and hemp being the most common. Others are sunn, kenaf, and urena. All bast fibers are largely cellulosic. Both the yarn and the fabric produced from flax are called linen.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 63)

“Flax is a bast fiber, meaning that the fiber extends from the root up the stem to the tip of the plant. As a fabric, it is called ‘linen.’ The flax fiber is long, strong, and a good conductor of heat (which is why linen feels cool to the touch). It has low resiliency, which is why it creases so readily–and is so laborious to iron. Flax has a slight luster, which makes it particularly suitable for fancy weaves like damask, because the play of light on the lustrous yarns brings out the woven pattern.” (Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, page 15)

“One of the oldest textiles known. Beautiful, durable, and elegant; has a luster. Can be made naturally into sheer, medium, or even heavyweight fabrics. Used commonly for dresses, blouses, and suiting.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 50)

“Linen is made of flax fibers; fabric woven of hemp fibers is also termed ‘linen’. Hemp and flax can both be cultivated on otherwise marginal land, [are] durable, and can be blended with other natural fibers during spinning. Lower qualities, if not tightly woven of fine threads…can be prone to raveling along cut edges, and should have any open seams overcast or felled.
“Though prone to wrinkling, linen is cool and takes dye well. It will fade with sun exposure, particularly the darker colors. Linen has a good amount of body, and creases well for pleats.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

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 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.

Glossary Entries for Linen Fabrics:

Online Resources:

Print Resources: See the article Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials for a list of print resources.

Updated January 10, 2012