Does Linen Stretch

  • Even though most people adore linen and pay attention mainly to its advantages, this type of fabric has several cons. For example, linen garments and other linen items are prone to wrinkles. Try to accept wrinkled linen and stop worrying about ironing! Some people believe wrinkles are part of linen’s natural charm.
  • Another potential drawback of using linen fabrics is its challenging maintenance. Luckily, as soon as you know all the rules, dealing with linen becomes as easy as pie.  
  • Clothes made from linen need a dash of special attention with maintenance. Does linen shrink or stretch, and in what situations does it happen? Keep reading to find out!

Basics of linen fabric

Linen is one of the world’s oldest textiles. Linen is a durable natural fiber that comes from the flax plant. 

Linen and cotton are both natural fabrics. Yet, linen fibers are heavier than cotton and approximately 30% stronger—no wonder the ancient Egyptians used linen for mummification practices. 

Important: The US uses linen fibers blended with cotton for dollar bills. Don’t try this at home!

Linen is a natural fabric that is chic, lightweight, timeless, and comfortable. 

A natural slub variation in the fiber refinement process gives the classic textured cozy, lived-in vibe to this fabric.

Linen is a bit more expensive than cotton, and it needs us to pay more attention to its proper maintenance. 

From ironing to washing or drying linen, shrink or stretch, fibers of linen fabric need us to be attentive and loving towards them!

Linen clothes are sensitive to temperatures. When washed in hot water, your linen may get damaged. So remember always to pick  

  • cool water, 
  • a gentle cycle in the washing machine, and 
  • a mild detergent;

Linen is a breathable fabric that is suitable for use and wearing during cold winters and hot summers. While both linen and cotton will do a great job of keeping you warm, unlike cotton, linen will also keep you cool when it’s hot.  

Linen fabrics absorb very well, which makes this material invincible for high summer temperatures. 

On the other hand, get used to constantly dealing with wrinkles appearing all over the place.

So, do the advantages of linen fabric outweigh its disadvantages?

Despite being relatively hard to handle with maintenance, the durability and versatility of your linen clothing or bedding will pay off.

When linen blends with other fibers, it transforms and gains some extra features: 

  1. Linen with rayon creates a substantially softer fabric. You’ll notice a more fluid drape and a subtle sheen.
  2. In linen with cotton, cotton softens linen and reduces wrinkles. It also keeps the fullness and a crisp look typical for linen fabric.
  3. With polyester, linen washes better, wrinkles less, and keeps color-fastness. Polyester softens the feel of linen synthetically.

Linen uses

The linen may feel crisper than cotton when you first get it in your hands. 

Yet, with time, when you wash linen and use it repeatedly, this plant-made natural fabric becomes supple to the touch.

Its natural qualities make linen ideal for an array of uses. 

If you like to wear linen clothing, you know how pleasurable it feels to the skin. Add some fancy fabric softeners when you wash linen, and you’ll genuinely glow with a relaxing vibe in your linen pants, dress, or other linen clothing!

Linen fiber is very versatile, so we can use it for sewing, quilting, and making:

  1. home décor items, such as 
  • bath and cleaning fabrics: tablecloths, bath towels, dish towels,
  • furnishing: wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments, bedsheets, soft furnishings, curtains;
  1. linen clothes and apparel: suits, handkerchiefs, summer blouses and dresses, skirts, shirts;
  2. industrial products: luggage, canvases, strong sewing thread;
  3. embroidery on women’s clothes and household items; 

Does linen shrink or stretch?

Does linen stretch? 

Pure linen fibers don’t stretch. Don’t stretch linen because you can damage it. 

Flax plant fibers are very rigid and have such a low elasticity that linen fabric can break or severely deteriorate if you

  • sharp fold it in the same place every time, 
  • bent, 
  • crease, and 
  • start pressing linen; 

Linen is one of the few fabrics that gets stronger when it’s wet—tells us Mulberry’s Cleaners.

Linen fabrics are also resistant to abrasion.

Linen doesn’t stretch well unless we blend it with other fabrics like lycra, elastane, or spandex. This blend of linen and other fabric is called stretch linen, and we use it for:

  • athletic, 
  • summer wear, 
  • dresses, and 
  • swim coverups;

It’s mutually beneficial: linen is breathable, and lycra, elastane, and spandex wick from the moisture. 

Does linen shrink? 

It’s common that linen shrinks. If you are wondering about “How to undo the shrinking?”, we’ve published the article “Does Linen Shrink” on House Rituals, where you can learn about linen shrinkage.

The first time you wash linen, it can shrink even 10%, especially if the water temperature is too hot. 

To reduce the chances that your linen will shrink when washed, ensure you’ve set the temperature right and use only warm or cold water for washing linen

Tip: It’s also a good idea to buy pre-washed linen. However, even pre-washed linen (and therefore, pre-shrunk) isn’t entirely resistant to further shrinkage.

We mentioned that pure linen fibers are resistant to abrasion, but you can damage your linen pants and other linen garments mechanically while or after the wash. 

Pay attention to linen collars and hems—this part of linen clothes will show wear and tear at the earliest and can even break prematurely. 

Important: Since forcing the stretch causes the linen fibers to break, we suggest avoiding wringing linen fabrics. 

Clothing and other items made of linen are not stretchy fabrics—and this feature makes them prone to wrinkles—linen fabric doesn’t spring back readily. It’s even quite unnatural to iron linen.

The linen gets stronger when it’s damp. To protect linen strands, sprinkle your linen fabric with water moisture and iron it before it gets dry.    

Tip: Another way to prevent linen wrinkles is to remove linen clothing from the dryer while still damp. Then, hang it out and let your clothing air dry.

So, now you know that pure linen doesn’t stretch but can spontaneously shrink. 

Wearing linen is fantastic if only your garment is the right size.

Now, since shrinking and stretching are two sides of the same process—how about using what we know to reverse them? Meaning: if your linen clothes were accidentally exposed to shrinking, you could work on getting them back to their previous form by stretching them.

  1. Fill a washtub with lukewarm water. 
  2. Add a cupful of gentle soap or conditioner.
  3. Soak the linen clothing in the water for around 20-30 minutes to let the linen loosen.
  4. When the linen is soaked well, gently squeeze the water out, but don’t wring out your linen delicate natural fibers not to damage them.
  5. Lay the fabric on a dry flat towel. 
  6. Roll the towel up to help squeeze out any excess water. The fabric should remain damp but not wet.
  7. Remove the fabric from the damp flat towel. 
  8. Now, lay the fabric again on a dry flat towel.
  9. Pull the fabric gently in all directions to stretch it out.
  10. Hang the fabric up to let your clothing air dry.
  11. Now you can start wearing linen!

Important: You may not get the fabric 100% back to its original size and shape with this process. But you’ll stretch it out at least a bit!

The linen gets stronger when it’s damp, so use this information wisely!  

Drape the fabric over your ironing board and heat your iron up to medium heat. Then, press from the center of the clothing towards the edges without scrunching or twisting. Repeat pressing outwards to stretch it back.

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Frequently Asked Questions

We are used to starching linen items, such as bedsheets, tablecloths, and napkins, and it's ok to do so. It's a traditional method to keep them crisp and wrinkle-free. However, keep in mind to spray starch sparingly when you apply it during ironing—it can change your item into too crisp. If you use powdered or liquid starch, add it to the wash in the last rinse cycle.
You can wash 100% linen in the washing machine as long as you consider the precautions—too hot or too cold water temperature shocks or damages fibers of linen fabric, causing linen shrink. With cold water, linen won't shrink when washed as much as with hot water, but it will still shrink. So the best option is to use lukewarm water when washing your linen garment in the washing machine.
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