Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lady Fern Scarf from Hill Country Weavers - Day 2

Learning to love linen (the infotainment edition)...

I need to learn to love linen.  That’s not going to happen by the current feel of it between my fingers—I find it scratchy and inelastic.  To educate--and hopefully alter--my snarky attitude, I went and did a little research on this fiber.  Here’s what I learned:

Despite the lack of elasticity I bemoaned above, linen has some admirable qualities.  It’s made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum (so you can see where the name comes from). Why is it a luxury fiber?  It’s laborious to manufacture, but highly absorbent—which is why we think of linen for hot weather wear, and why it's an excellent choice for Austin.  

Linen has a serious pedigree—it goes back thousands of years.  The earliest known examples—which were woven, not knitted—date back to prehistoric times.  The earliest known examples of knitted items come from ancient Egypt. Linen also shows up frequently in the Bible, including the resume of that impossibly perfect Proverbs 31 woman (talking about her clothing, unfortunately, not her knitting).  

Linen fabric is described as cool and smooth to the touch, gaining softness with multiple washings.  That smooth, lustrous texture is why you want knit stitches on the right side of this scarf rather than garter or purls. Ah, but this fiber's not just a pretty face: linen is three times stronger than cotton and second in strength only to silk.  I was intrigued to discover that linen is one of the few fibers that is stronger wet than dry.  Did you know Henry Ford’s Irish grandmother spun flax into linen fiber?

I have to admit, I’m starting to gain some respect for this crispy little fiber.  But enough education for now.  I’m chugging along on my several feet of trellis pattern, a little less than halfway through the first of two skeins.  If I keep knitting and researching, I might end up downright fond of linen by the end of this.  Hey, it could happen.

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