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why not linen?
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shannon stoney
why not linen? on 01/10/2006 19:01:13 MST Print View

I have been thinking about the resurgence of wool as a fiber for outdoor clothes, and the fact that people seem to be using silk for a number of uses. I am wondering if linen might be due for a revival. I read up on it today, and I found out that it is structurally quite different from cotton, although both are cellulose fibers. Linen, however, is a bast fiber, and it is made of long continuous hollow tubes, basically. It behaves differently from cotton in a number of ways: it attracts moisture more quickly and it releases it more quickly. In other words, it is WICKING!

However, it may not be very warm when wet. Perhaps it is not as bad for you as wet cotton, however. Linen is rarely knitted into tee shirts; it's almost always woven. So you don't have the wet tee shirt that will never dry, as with cotton tee shirts. Lightweight woven linen seems to dry pretty fast, and I suspect that the fibers don't collapse when wet as cotton fibers do, since they are more rigid.

It seems to be highly anti-microbial. I wear the same linen shirt for days and it doesn't smell bad.

In European cultures, it seems to have been the original base layer, under wool. Perhaps more northern people also wore a soft wool undershirt under their linen shirt or chemise.

Linen fabric can be quite light, although I don't have any exact figures for weight per square yard. I think it could be as light as silk, though, as in handkerchief linen.

Just wondering if anybody knows why it is not favored by manufacturers for outdoor clothing. Of course, there's nothing stopping us home sewers from making some base layers out of linen.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: why not linen? on 01/10/2006 19:36:04 MST Print View

Go for it. I'd like to know how it works out and if you find good sources. If you do, put them in the 'materials sourcing' thread under 'make your own gear.'

shannon stoney
sources for linen on 01/11/2006 07:18:44 MST Print View

I haven't tried their linen yet, but Silk Road Fabrics in Austin, TX, has different weights of linen, including handkerchief linen, for a good price. They have a website and I will find the link and post it.

Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
what ever happened to the linen question? on 04/24/2008 16:44:16 MDT Print View


Joy Menze
(catamountain) - M
Not a good idea on 04/26/2008 22:39:14 MDT Print View

Search and rescue people frown on many natural fiber garments, especially cotton. If wet, they take too long to dry. If something goes wrong during the outing, wet garments can risk your life - hypothermia related stuff. That's why jeans are a bid no-no. Cotton-poly aren't as risky. Nylon and other synthetics dry much faster.

In many respects, my linen clothes behave similar to the cotton ones.

Mike Hinsley

Locale: England, UK
why not linen? on 04/27/2008 02:49:22 MDT Print View

Strangely this week I've been looking at linen for summer wear.

A local department store is stocking linen/silk mix casual trousers very cheaply. That would be an excellent summer combination.

I've also been looking at making a sun hood based on a medieval hood based on linen and polycotton.

Wet linen is still comfortable-ish against the skin.

COmmercially there tends to be two weights of linen available - suit-weight and shirt-weight.

The shirt-weight stuff makes it into shirts and very light trousers or shorts. Suit-weight stuff is about 2-3 times the weight but would be better for longer hiking trousers.

Linen is not however going to be ultralight.

For warm weather I'm currently rather sold on poly/cotton kilts/skirts but I'm also tempted to look at linen.

My current combination for most weather is to have a poly-cotton kiltish thing for warmer weather and a pair of zip-offs in cordura for cold-weather and bushwhacking.

The current kilt weighs in at over 200g - about half the weight of the trousers and comparable to shorts but the extra comfort justifies the extra weight.

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
"why not linen?" on 07/21/2008 14:29:17 MDT Print View

Having read this thread, I decided to wear some breezy linen pants and a linen shirt on a day hike. It was very hot (75 to 80 F)and steep (Blanca Lake trail, WA--2700 foot elevation gain in 3 miles and basically shaded by trees the entire way). Not long after we started (the first mile of roadwalk to the trailhead--road is closed due to washouts) we soaked out shirts in an ice cold stream and put them on. My shirt dried quite fast with body heat, the button plackets, cuffs and collar taking longer than the single layer body. Later on a break, the otherwise dry shirt was drenched with perspiration under the straps and on the back, under the pack. It was more or less dry after 10-15 minutes with the pack off (in the warm shade). Since I'm a sun nerd and like to stay covered (usually with an overly heavy ventilated nylon sun-shirt), I would consider a linen shirt on sunny hikes although it offers no wind resistance and is otherwise non multitasking just because it is such a delight to wear although I'd worry about UV exposure with the thinnest weights. The weight of the shirt was comparable to my nylon shirt (although both are too heavy at 7 ounces), but a custom shirt could perhaps be made lighter by eliminating double layer cuffs, etc. The pants, while comfortable where just too heavy although I might feel differently in an extremely hot sunny climate.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: "why not linen?" on 07/21/2008 16:02:43 MDT Print View

Why not indeed? I just scored some very nice light linen trousers from a charity shop which are very pleasant for summer walking. Before that I was using cotton twill prana climbing trousers, which I ripped the a*se out of on some thorns in Sardinia.

Nylon? oh yes, they make overtrousers outy of that don't they. :-)

In winter, it's wool tights and merino shirt with Paramo's on top.

Poly base layers? Poooh!

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
"why not linen?" on 07/21/2008 16:57:29 MDT Print View

Let me add that while it was nice to wear, a sunshirt and long pants were not the best clothes for this dayhike because the majority of it was shaded so no sun protection was needed--a point driven home the next day when I repeated the hike (lighter and fast to collect my carelessly clipped pocketknife!) in my (handmade 1 ounce) hiking skirt and my bra and this evaporative cooling was better on the hot shaded trail.