If you’ve been sewing with linen for some time, you’ve likely come across fabric listed as washed, laundered, and stonewashed as well as unwashed fabrics. If you see linen being sold that’s been laundered or washed in any way it’s very likely it’s been done in a commercial facility which has a different result than your washing machine at home. Depending on what you’re making, I’d give you a couple different recommendations for which to choose.
Many people frequently ask me “Is this linen washable?” and I often respond that “All linen is washable”. Linen shrinks roughly 10% after the first washing. When I personally buy linen garments off the rack, most of these fabrics are unwashed. I love the ease of care of washed linen but I know the garment is likely going to shrink so I’ll often buy up a size.
When you wash linen or cotton at home, if you wash it on hot it will shrink it’s maximum amount in the first washing. So if you’re doing a small project, like a dress, I would recommend buying unwashed linen and washing it yourself. Personally, I wash and tumble dry the fabric twice to confirm I’ve maximized the amount of shrinkage before I sew my project and to get rid of excess lint.
I source linen from Europe and have some of my fabrics washed in commercial washing facilities in the US. When these fabrics are commercially washed, they are washed, dried and framed which flattens them back out to return to their fabric roll. When the fabric is re-rolled, it stretches back out slightly as it’s wrapped around the roll. When the fabric is re-rolled the stretching causes it to regain a little bit of shrinkage for future washings. So after commercial washing, linen can still shrink up to 5%.
So that leads to why my recommendation is that for small projects under five yards, I recommend purchasing unwashed linen. For large projects, say curtains or upholstery work I recommend buying commercially washed linen. Hope that helps. Good luck on your next project!