A Post About Robert Kaufman's Essex Linen
Linen is quickly becoming a staple "solid" for quilts and other sewing projects! I approve of this trend! For those of you who still have some questions about linen, I'm going to do a few posts this week about linen, using it in projects and why you should!
First of all, what is linen? Typically, linen is made using the Flax plant instead of Cotton. Okay, that's cool. Why do I care? Linen can be absorbent without feeling damp. This is why you see linen clothing. It also breathes better than cotton to keep the wearer cooler. This is why you see all those amazing linen suits in Miami, right? The absorbency is also good when you are using linen for things like napkins or dish towels (it is also resistant to dirt and stains, good for kitchen stuff...or maybe kids clothes?). Linen also gets softer the more you wash it. Fun huh? I think so.
You can see a lot of linen in the Zakka Style projects that have been seen around the blog-o-sphere. Rashida Coleman-Hale has an adorable book Zakka Style: 24 Projects Stitched with Ease to Give, Use & Enjoy which is a nice introduction to Zakka and the projects are fun and quick. I've heard Zakka to mean things that improve your home. It's literal translation from Japanese is, "many things". Now, this term has been picked up to mean a certain style. I have seen linen go hand in hand with this Zakka style.
Wow! Linen is amazing! It is. The bad news is it wrinkles easily and frays more than cotton on the edges. Lucky for us, there are some excellent fabrics out now that are cotton/linen blends! This gives you the look and feel of linen and less of the wrinkles (still more than cotton) and fraying (good for quilting). One blend in specific I will tell you about today is the Essex Linen and Essex Linen Yarn Dyed from Robert Kaufman. These are made with a 55% linen(the flax linen)/45% cotton blend (5.6 oz weight/square yard). Both have a nice hand and work well for sewing projects. The yarn dyed Essex linen is much softer and stretchy than the plain Essex (I say plain but it now comes in some awesome colors!). You can still use either in your quilting but I recommend using starch (like Mary Ellen's Best Press) when piecing blocks in the yarn dyed so they don't distort. Wanna see some stuff made with Essex Linen??
Here's an adorable Table Topper made by Debbie of Esch House Quilts
(Pattern available in Stitch Summer 2012).
She will also be teaching this bias applique method at QuiltCon!!
Here is an amazing Essex Linen and Improv Patchwork pillow by Faith from Fresh Lemons Quilts.
Convinced?? I knew you would be. A few more questions you might have:
Can I use Essex Linen with regular quilting cotton? YES!
How does Essex Linen shrink when washed and should I pre-wash before using it? The Yarn Dyed shrank 2 inches for 1 yard and the Essex shrank 1 inch for 1 yard. I did prewash mine when making the napkins just in case but I do know some people don't pre-wash the Essex and use it with quilting cotton and it works out just fine (I have not done this yet, but my sources are reliable). I say, go with your comfort level on this.
Please let me know if you have any more questions and I will try to answer them! Hope you all try out some of the Robert Kaufman Essex Linen!