Tag Archives: linen tabby

Glossary: Linen Tabby

Tabby is the most common weave for fabrics made of linen, also known as flax, a natural fiber. For more information, see the entry Glossary: Linen Fiber. Linen lawn is also tabby weave, but for the sake of clarity I will use this entry to discuss medium and heavier weights of linen. See Glossery: Linen Lawn for information about lawn and “handkerchief” weight linens. In modern use, specific types of linen fabric are often not specified, being referred to only by weave, weight, and/or use, as in “lightweight linen suiting” or “linen twill suiting.”

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

The glossary entry for “linen” on page 178 states that “many types of strong and endurable fabrics [can be] made from the flax plant; they can be bleached pure white, have no elasticity.”

Entry for “Linen” on pages 277-278: “Cloth of many grades and weaves made from flax fibers.” Varieties listed include types of canvas, cambric, damask, diaper, lawn, Holland cloth, Irish cloth, twill, ticking, Osnaburg, and drilling.

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

Norse gored tunic of unbleached linen

Garment

Intro: 10th century Norsewoman’s clothes

While I was doing my undergraduate thesis project at Hampshire, a fellow Div III student, Freya, was putting together a museum exhibit of reproduction artifacts of 10th Century Scandinavian domestic life – Vikings at home, in other words. Toward that endeavor, I contributed clothing for Freya to display and then wear, based on archaeological evidence and various hypotheses about what the scraps of evidence might mean and how ancient many-centuries-old Scandinavian clothing would have been worn, looked, and functioned. Only scraps of fabric, beads, and ornaments remain, along with a few vague images of people and references in epic poetry. Researching and experimenting with clothing of a period with so little information presented a new and interesting challenge!

Sadly, this project is still waiting on a proper write up, but eventually I’ll get some pictures from Freya and get back here with my notes and research to detail all of it!

Updated – such as it is – August 7, 2012.