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Linen vs Cotton

Fabric choice is a difficult part of sewing. It’s all too easy to want the entire pattern in one fabric, but it might not be right for your project. Many people make compromises when choosing their fabrics that can result in garments that are less than perfect or just don’t fit quite right. Just about every person has experienced this at least once before, so don’t feel bad if you have!

So what are your options? Let’s take a look at some different types of fabrics and see which ones may be best for each pattern piece.

Linen – what is it?

Linen is a fabric made from flax (a type of plant), and it’s known for its durability, breathability, and wrinkle resistance. Linens are generally woven in plain or twill weave. It has an almost scratchy feel to the hand before washing but gets softer with repeated washing.

Pros and cons of linen

As mentioned above, linen is very durable and breathable; however, it’s also naturally absorbent, which means that it will get stiff fairly easily if your garment gets wet. This is especially noticeable on collars! Linens are generally fairly lightweight (between 5-7 oz), but some linens (like half-linen or whole-cloth) can be heavier or lighter than this range.

Linen is not the easiest fabric to sew with – because of its weaving process, there may be some unevenness in the fabric after washing even though you used pre-shrunk material. It does shrink more than cotton fabrics do, so you need to take that into account when choosing your size and cutting out your pieces.

Linen wrinkles very easily, so it’s best to avoid using pins while you’re wearing the garment. However, if the wrinkles bother you, keep in mind that linen wrinkles are nearly impossible to get out once they’ve set! You can try brushing off the wrinkles with a clothes steamer or hang your project in an extremely humid environment for a few days – but this may not always work.

Cotton – what is it?

Cotton has been one of the most popular fabrics for clothing since its introduction because of how well-suited it is for making comfortable clothes that look good. The fibers used to make cotton are very strong by nature so they come out of the loom evenly stretched which gives them a very smooth and even-looking surface.

The slickness makes it easy for cotton to be sewn, pressed (ironed), and laundered without much trouble; the result is that cotton garments generally look well made. Cotton fabrics can be woven or knit into all different types of weaves: voile, gingham, sateen, poplin, broadcloth, denim, and more!

Pros and cons of cotton

Cotton is the best choice if you want a breathable fabric that will wick away any sweat or moisture that your skin may produce. The fibers are able to absorb water quickly and efficiently, which makes cotton fabrics especially suitable for athletic activities. Since cotton is very strong but still lightweight, it’s ideal for making everyday garments like pants, shirts/T-shirts, skirts, dresses, etc.

If you choose to make your garments out of 100% cotton (like broadcloth or gingham), they can be worn during all seasons because cotton has good ventilation properties; however, these particular kinds of cotton are less durable than linen – so keep in mind that they might not last as long as other fabrics! Because of this trait, cotton is not recommended to be used for making tailored garments like jackets or fitted dresses.

Cotton fabrics may wrinkle fairly easily, but this can usually be prevented by slightly under-ironing them before cutting your pieces out – sewists typically iron embroidery lines flat while the fabric is still on the bolt (the coil of cloth that it comes wrapped around), and then cut right along these markings!

Some cotton fabrics include an extra feature called “pre-washing” which might need to be done in order to get rid of any finishes that manufacturers put into their fabrics. The result is that after washing, your finished garment will shrink down just a bit – just enough so that the seams stay straight and there is no puckering in your front or back piece when the garment is worn.

Be careful! Cotton fabrics are often made with heavy-duty stitching or serging so it’s important to check your pattern’s instructions before you cut out your pieces. Many ready-to-wear styles with cotton fabrics require paper underlining, but some do not.

Paper underlining adds an extra layer of fabric that will keep the stitches from showing through on your final garment – if there is no additional fabric needed for your project, go ahead and skip this step! If you do decide to use a paper lining, make sure you only iron the paper side – never press directly onto the cotton fabric because this can cause visible marks in certain kinds of cotton.

What is half-linen?

Half-linen is usually 100% linen on one side and 50/50 cotton/linen blend on the other side. This fabric has all of the pros and cons of regular linen, except half-linen doesn’t shrink as much when washed. This makes it easier to use for collars and cuffs on shirts, but it’s still best to use half-linen for linings rather than outerwear.


Linen and cotton have a different look and feel. Because linen is made from flax, it’s very smooth to the touch, but also has a rougher surface texture which produces a lot of lint. You can see this on your clothesline or shower rod after hanging up a garment that was made from linen.

Linen wrinkles easily and doesn’t hold shape as well as cotton does, but it drapes beautifully. The linen feels crisp but softens with each wash. It’s considered an especially breathable fabric due to its thick fibers; however, many people think it feels scratchy before they’ve washed it (which will make you want to wash the clothes before wearing them).

Cotton is what comes to mind when we think of clothing. It’s generally smooth and soft (but not satiny). If the cotton is lightweight, it can be clingy; if it’s a thicker weight, it hangs beautifully. Cotton doesn’t wrinkle as easily as linen does and will hold its shape better, but there are times when you may want to use a starch after laundering (especially if you’re making an unlined garment and want to make sure it keeps its shape over time).


Linen has traditionally been used for summer clothes such as dresses, skirts, blouses, pants, and even ties because of how well-suited it is for warm weather. The fibers tend to be thick so they can absorb more than their cotton counterparts. Linens tend to be more drapey, so they drape beautifully and are very airy which can be great for hot climates.

Linen comes in many different weights (thicknesses) so there’s more versatility than with cotton. You can use it to make heavier garments like winter coats or jackets, but you need to exercise care by wearing the proper undergarments if the fabric is thin. If you wear an unlined linen garment during the summer months, just be sure to wear sunscreen on your exposed skin!

Cotton is also versatile enough that it can be used for year-round clothes. It’s often used for blouses, dresses, skirts, bathrobes, pajamas, swimwear, etc… because of its comfort level and breathability. You can also use it to make heavier garments like winter coats, jackets, and even suits (just be sure to wear the proper undergarments if the fabric is thin).

Durability and quality

Linen is much more durable than cotton! Because linen fibers are longer and stronger (and because less cotton is used in the thread), it’s 11 times stronger than cotton.

Linen, like most woven fabrics, will unravel if you cut into it with scissors. This means that hemming or easily repairing small tears isn’t possible, so be careful not to put sharp objects (like keys) in your pockets.

Cotton can be strong enough to reuse for other projects, but it can feel thin and weak when compared with other fabrics like silk or wool. If you’re using a low-quality fabric made from 100% cotton, then it will also shrink and look wrinkly (especially after washing). But if you use a high-quality 100% cotton, then you can expect to have a nice-looking piece that will last for years.


Cotton is much cheaper to use than linen. Because it’s less durable, it isn’t as expensive to produce and buy.

If the price sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!


Linen is more eco-conscious than cotton. The flax plant that it comes from is one of the oldest plants known to man, and it requires very little in the way of pesticides or herbicides.

Cotton is also considered an eco-friendly fabric because you can grow cotton without using many chemicals, but when you use toxic fertilizers and pesticides on cotton crops, these harmful substances can seep into groundwater where people drink. Cotton farming has been linked to some serious health problems, including cancer. It also produces a lot of wastewater with higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus which are often found in fertilizer runoff.


Linen doesn’t harbor as many irritants as cotton does. People who are allergic to cotton often find that linen is more comfortable and less irritating. But if you’re unsure, it’s always best to do a test swatch before using either fabric on your next project!

Home design

Where should I use linen?

Linen is great for more formal upholstery projects like drapes, bedding, and chair cushions. It’s also a good fabric for tablecloths and napkins because it doesn’t wrinkle as easily, so you can reuse them after a meal.

Linen is best used where you need something smooth, comfortable, breathable, which drapes well, and has a soft hand. It’s also suitable for more relaxed window treatments like roman shades, cornices, and valances.

Where should I use cotton?

Cotton is great for less formal upholstery projects like curtains and decorative pillows. It’s also the preferred choice for casual clothing since its structure allows it to follow the contours of your body more naturally than other fabrics. And because it tends to be plainer looking (especially if it isn’t dyed), it can be versatile enough to match lots of different decor styles! Cotton will hold its shape better than linen when used in more relaxed window treatments like tailored roman shades, roller, and cellular blinds.


Linen is a great fabric for formal upholstery projects like drapes and bedding. It’s also highly versatile and can be used for casual decors like curtains and decorative pillows. However, it isn’t best suited for windows that need to hold their shape (like tailored roman shades ) because cotton will hold its shape much better.

Cotton is a popular choice for casual clothing because of its comfort level and durability. But it can also be used in less formal upholstery projects like cushions, tablecloths, and napkins because it has a soft hand with fewer wrinkles than linen. Just be wary of shrinking or staining when you wash it.

And remember, even though linen has a few advantages over cotton, both fabrics are good options for people who want an eco-friendly, allergy-free option!

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