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Softening Linen Before you Knit

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Linen is my all time favorite fiber for warm weather. I love the way it feels against the skin and how I never get warm when wearing it. It takes dye uniquely so colors look interesting with a faded/sheen look to it. It's a strong fiber that lasts for decades. It's machine washable and you can put it in the dryer. It gets softer over time....... but here's the thing. It's not soft on day one.

When you open a hank of linen (or flax), it may feel stiff. When you start knitting, it can be rough on your hands. If you have sensitive skin, by the time you're finished a garment, your hands have had a workout. I'm a huge fan of knitting linen with small needles and taking on a looser than normal tension, and this helps, but the feel of the actual linen moving through your fingers isn't the best.

The good news is that you can soften your linen yarn easily before casting on. It will delay your knitting by a day, until the yarn dries, but the amount of time and energy on your part is minimal.

1. Fill a basin with tepid water.

2. Add 1 part baking soda with 2 parts white vinegar. I've used 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar.

3. Swirl the water until all is mixed. The baking soda dissolves quickly.

​4. Open the hank of yarn but leave the ties in place. Lay the yarn on top of the water and let it be.

5. Once the yarn has sunk to the bottom of the sink, you know the fibers are saturated.

6. Drain the water and hang the yarn to dry overnight.

This gentle method does not tangle the yarn, and you'll be able to wind the yarn just as you could when first taking off the ball band. The only difference is that now your linen will be softer and the knitting process more enjoyable.

If you're short on time, start knitting with your first hank right away, and soften up the remaining hanks using the above steps, then return to your knitting while the yarn dries. Then see if you can tell the difference in each one.

I hope you enjoy knitting with linen as much as I do!

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