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How to Sew with Birch Linen!

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Someone told us summer was coming to an end, but we’re having a hard time believing that, because it is WARM out here in California!  When the going gets hot, the hotties we know get all suited up in Birch linen, a superstar, super sustainable substrate!  

Let’s get to know this friendly flaxen fiber!  Linen is an all natural, plant-based fabric derived from the flax plant, which is good for the planet for so many reasons.  


First off, linen needs no artificial irrigation to grow, relying on only rainwater to prosper.  It also doesn’t require pesticides, and can grow on poor soil.  Producing organic cotton (the Birch standard of excellence!) requires more acreage, water, and soil amendments than linen to produce a comparable crop.  


Second, linen is one of the most biodegradable and durable fibers out there, meaning that, yay, your garment will last for a long time, and, when it’s finally time to say goodbye, it will return to the earth faster and more completely than most other fibers.  


Third, and coolest, production of linen uses the entire flax plant!  There’s very little waste, which means higher production for the same amount of crop yield. 

Beyond its fabulous green report card, Birch linen is also The Best to sew!  It’s generally pretty stable across the warp and weft, with a supple give on the bias. It’s pretty easy to true the grain, should you ever need to, because it responds to both the thread-pull and rip techniques.  


In terms of care, linen is definitely one of those fabrics where it’s important to begin as you intend to proceed.  A lot of sewists will swear by washing and drying it hot three times, to stop future shrinkage and set in a fabulously rumpled texture, but it doesn’t need to be that way if you don’t want to go that way!  It WILL shrink, so just make sure to pretreat it however you plan on laundering the final garment.  Linen is one of those great fabrics that gets softer, smoother, and generally better the more you wash it and wear it, so don’t be afraid to love your linen!


The naughtiest aspect to linen is also its most distinctive – it wrinkles like crazy.  You could fight it (it loves a hot iron, but careful not to go too hot, or you may get shiny patches), or just embrace the texture.  Think of it like a well-loved quilt – they look best when they’re crinkly!  

Let’s talk about how to stitch and finish your linen garments!  

First of all, a lot of linens have a looseish weave (due to the thicker nature of the natural fibers), so make some adjustments to your stitch settings.  You’ll probably want a slightly longer stitch length, especially when you’re topstitching – somewhere in the 2.5-3.5 range seems appropriate, and make sure you’re not RIGHT at the edge, or they may “fall off”. 

Second, make sure you’re finishing your edges, because linen is prone to a stringy type of fraying and unraveling.  If you’re serging seams, try to leave a scant 1/8th between the serged edge and the seam – you don’t want to accidentally trim off too much!  This gives you a little insurance.  


Linen likes flatfelling or bias-binding, too!

Finally, it’s SUPER IMPORTANT to press your stitches!  I know a lot of us like to wait, and press a bunch of seams all at once, but it’s really, really beneficial to press as you go, to ensure everything is neat and crisp.  I like using a tabletop ironing board, like this one from IKEA!  (but do yourself a favor and stitch a new cover it in a cutie Birch cotton!)

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