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Conversational Threads

Soft Linen

user-180032 | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Hi to all,

This is the first time I have posted on a site but my desire for some information has brought me here.

I have been sewing more linen recently and love the feel of an old piece of linen that has softened with age. Is there any way to get that softened hand before I start sewing it?

Someone said you can with using dishwashing soap in the clothes washer. I thought that you couldn’t use dishwashing soap in a clothes washer as it foams too much.

If you can use dish soap, how much and what kind?

Thanks, Carol Anne


  1. mimi | | #1

    CarolAnne:  I know just what you mean about the soft hand of older linen!  I made a pair of pants with some linen I have been saving this past spring (at least 20 years old; I finally admitted to myself that I would never be a "suit" person).  Before I cut them out I washed them on delicate in cold water with some Orvus Paste.  They are the nicest pants I have ever made!


  2. mygaley | | #2

    If you wish to soften fabric and fade it and/or remove stains, use electric dishwashing detergent.  TEST first for color fade.  Galey

    1. user-180032 | | #3

      Do you use this in the clothes washer or by hand?

      How much do you use? Is one brand better than another?

      Thanks, Carol Anne

      1. mygaley | | #5

        I do this in the clothes washer with about 1/2 cup and the fullest water setting (less abrasion on your clothes).  Liquid would be my preference; I have no favorite brand (I either buy the yellow bottle or the green bottle lol).  Remember you are using this product because of the grit and bleach in it.  The safest way would be to wash on regular cycle with a gentle detergent 1-3 times and evaluate each time for results.  

        Has anyone seen the tip for adding vinegar to the rinse water to help remove lint and pet hairs?  As the owner of two long-haired white cats, I can say I think it helps.   I saw a tip for restoring woolen and other sweaters that had shrunk and stiffened by rinsing them in baby shampoo water and blocking them to dry with the shampoo still in them; the tip claimed it softened the fibers amazingly.  If it wasn't in Gatherings, probably it was on the Thriftyfun website.  BTW my birthday gift from my family was 3 linen outfits, six pieces in all.  Before I leave on vacation, I plan to experiment with baby shampoo.  Since I am old enough to remember when we ironed everything including pillowcases, underwear, you name it, I enjoy finding ways not to iron.  Galey

        1. user-167104 | | #7

          don't know about the tip for using vinegar, but I'm willing to try it. I have a 100 lb long haired german shepherd that thinks she's a lap dog. I am always dealing with dog hair.

          I do know that it is what you want to spray on pleats to keep them pressed and neat.

  3. woodruff | | #4

    Most discussions of sewing with linen suggest washing in hot water and machine-drying at least three times before cutting it out. This will soften it, remove some of the inevitable fuzz that will come out in the dryer, and somewhat reduce the tendency to wrinkle.

    Some sewists recommend 18 pre-washes, which seems a tad much to me. Some prefer the original blue "Dawn" dishwashing detergent, believing that it hastens the softening process.

    In any case, linen is very, very sturdy, and if you plan to wash your garment rather than dryclean it, you will find it virtually impossible to harm your linen by prewashing it however you like. Myself, I'd recommend at least three cycles, though. The stuff really does get softer and nicer with each wash.

  4. user-167104 | | #6

    You've gotten plenty of good advise. But I'm just going to add that I have used dishwashing soap in the washer in a pinch  or to add as stain remover. You can just not too much. Also, I have seen cheap (off brand) detergents that have practically NO suds. If you wanted to use that I am sure it would work.

    I love linen. It is nice AFTER its softened.

  5. clsosa | | #8

    I've never tried it, but I've heard/read that if you put your linen in the dryer with a towel, it will soften it up nicely.  I'm thinking the towel acts as an abrasive as it tumbles against the fabric.  Has anybody else heard of that? 

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