Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unusual 100% Linen Yarn, Explored

Update: photo of red swatch shows the same yarn worked as tightly as possible. Feels like a soft basket and I think it would hold up very well.

I've finally gotten around to doing a few serious swatches of elann.com's Linus . It's 100% linen, made in Italy, hand wash and dry flat. All linen yarns are distinctive and this one is particularly so.

I've come to expect a papery feeling from linen yarns, like crocheting softened slivers of corn husks (in a good way). But Linus doesn't have this papery feeling at all. It's hardly twisted and feels to me like I'm crocheting a hank of supple glossy hair! Very intriguing. Reminds me of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale in which flax (i.e. linen) is spun into gold. I can see how someone could be described as "flaxen-haired".

When people pick up these swatches they're intrigued and keep touching them, examining them in different kinds of light, etc. Out of the corner of my eye the stitches look kind of like raffia or rayon straw but it feels soft and drapes stylishly. It's an uncommon mix of qualities.

I love this yarn in Tunisian crochet and these photos just don't show how beautiful it is! Now I know why people complain about photographing black. The yarn and stitch took an instant liking to each other. I didn't like it as much in regular crochet until I went down to a tight gauge with a 4mm hook [red swatch photo to go here].

It sheds a tiny bit as you work it--like a bit of field dust or something. I didn't even notice it until one night I crocheted the black yarn over a white pillow. The label says to hand wash and dry flat so I machine washed and dried the black swatch just to see why I shouldn't (after all, linen is famous for improving with some machine washing and drying). This yarn shed quite a bit and did release some color. Machine drying made the surface fuzzy, so I'm thinking this yarn is made from the "tow" instead of the "line" fibers of the plant. (I'll blog about that.) Definitely do what the label says! This is not a yarn for kitchen accessories.

Like almost all linen yarns I own, Linus gives an authentic organic or earthy look and feel, even though there are no natural-colored fibery nubbies like linen content brings to a yarn sometimes. This is what I love about linen--it's an extremely ancient fiber and it shows in a 21st century yarn, even when it's boldly color-saturated or has a polished finish. The colors of Linus seem particularly saturated and the black looks lacquered! I would use it for a strikingly stylish wrap that won't need washing often, such as a ruana or cape. You can see the excellent drape in the last photo.

This post is part of a blogging mini-series I'm doing about my linen yarn stash. To see related posts, click on "Fiber Talk" in the right-hand column.