Linen is a comfort fabric known for its strength, absorbency, elegance and, yes, for its tendency to wrinkle. It is the oldest recorded fiber used in the creation of textiles dating back at least 34,000 years BC. In ancient Egypt, linen was worn through all stages of life. Mummy wrappings show cloth produced with a thread count well over 300 threads per inch.
Linen is derived from the flax plant. Its woody stem is pulled up by the roots, soaked in water to soften and separate the fibers, then scrunched to expose the inner bast fibers. These fibers are then spun into thread to produce textiles.
The work in The Linen Collection was designed with an appreciation of the properties of the fiber. A transformation occurs after linen has been removed from the needles then washed and blocked. Linen (like cotton) garments alter during their first bath. It will soften significantly and shrink up a bit in length.
I wash on a gentle cycle in the machine (often in a washing garment bag) and partially dry in the machine without the bag. I use Eucalan products when I wash hand knits. If I choose to dry completely in the machine, I check on the garment from time to time to see how it is progressing. I lay the garment flat to block and dry. One of the beauties of linen is the fact that with each washing it becomes softer and more luxurious. Linen is also very durable and will last for years.
I recommend knitting a healthy sized swatch, approximately 10" square for your first linen gauge sample and carefully measure before and after you wash and block so that you may then begin a garment with the knowledge of the shrinkage that will occur. The sample below was a gauge swatch for the Beachcomber pattern where two strands were knit at one time.
Gauge Swatch Above (Prewash):
2 colors knit at one time (Beachcomber Pattern)
Size 8 US needles, 45 stitches, 49 rows
Measures:10" wide, 9 1/2" high
Gauge Swatch Above:
Washed in machine in a garment bag
Dried in machine (without bag)
Measures: 10" wide, 8 1/2" high
The gauge swatch above told me that using size 8 US needles, my work will knit up at 4 1/2 stitches to the inch, giving me the desired width for the pattern (Beachcomber). The gauge swatch shortened from 9 1/2 inches to a little over 8 1/2 inches in height. Your results may vary, so please create a gauge swatch and make your own calculations. If you want your work to measure to the pattern specifications (in this example) you would need to add a bit in length. Here is where decisions are made based on your personal measurements.
Note: If you have too many stitches per inch, you should increase your needle size. If you have too few stitches per inch, you should decrease your needle size.