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Tales of linen Sally’s been dying to share

I have been writing about linen, trying to create a new love for a wrinkled subject.  Let’s iron out the problems with linen.  After processing and weaving linen, it needs to be dyed.  There are a number of methods of dyeing linen.  It can be yarn dyed, in which the yarn is dyed before weaving, or piece dyed, in which the woven fabric is dyed.  Linen is always opened to its full width during dyeing and finishing.

Jigg-dyeing is a method of dyeing in which a roll of fabric is mounted on a type of dyeing machine called a jigg. The fabric is then run through a dye bath and wound up onto a second roll.  The process is repeated with the fabric wound back and forth, until the proper depth of color is achieved.  (When you have a “jigg” and a “roll”, you have “rock and roll.”)  Now this is a great reason to love linen.

Union dyeing is a method of dyeing used with fabric that contains fibers with different dyeing affinities.  To produce a homogenous color, each fiber will require the use of a number of dyes.

Now we have processed, woven and dyed the linen.  Last but not least is treating the fabric and finishing the fabric.  Linen goes through a series of finishing treatments, resulting in fabrics that are more lustrous, softer, and crease resistant than ever before.  (yes, you heard it here).  Given its propensity of wrinkling, crease resistance has long been a goal of linen manufacturers, so resins are often baked onto fabrics, creating chemical bonds that make the fabric more resistant to wrinkling.  Among the new finishes are enzyme washes, applied to the yarn or the fabric, to give a softer hand and reduce wrinkling.  There are also new formaldehyde-free resins, applied for the same reason. (The good news is we wear linen, we don’t eat it).

When all is said and done, the linen should feel cool and smooth to the touch, the fabric should be lustrous, it should not feel brittle, and when held up to the ligh, the dye should be evenly distributed throughout the fabric.

I hope all this information helps you have a new appreciation for linen.


About Sally Cowan (51 Articles)
After Keeping You in Stitches for over 45 years, Sally enjoys her memories of events that happened on her way to retirement. Author of 6 books, lectures, teaching, and TV host on PBS and now has time for her many cats and Snuggles, the dog. She also loves playing trumpet in the Anastasia Baptist Church orchestra.

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