Quiet Friday: Linen Upholstery Fabric

Do you dream of making upholstery fabric? I do. There are four chair seats at our Texas hill country home that I want to re-cover. Now I have custom upholstery fabric!

Linen on the cloth beam.

Linen upholstery fabric on the loom.

Cutting off never loses its excitement! I have one long piece of yardage, with no separations or divisions.

Cutting off! Linen upholstery fabric.

Cutting off! Linen.

New linen fabric.

Light through the linen fabric. Cutting off!

Tie-on bar as linen fabric is unrolled.

Just off the loom, the hefty linen fabric (8/2 linen, warp and weft) is stiff and unyielding. Will this window-screen material make suitable upholstery that’s soft enough to sit on? Yet, even in this state, the linen beckons and intrigues.

Unwashed new linen fabric.

First, the edges are serged. I check for weaving errors, finding none. There are spliced warp ends in five places, which are trimmed.

Unwashed new linen fabric.

I make a large tube by basting the two ends of the yardage together, to reduce twisting in the wash. The washing machine (top loader) works as a soaking tub first. The linen slowly soaks up water in the tub, relaxing there for an hour or two. Then it’s time to wash and dry. The first time, I omit the spin cycle and remove it from the dryer while still damp, to prevent permanent creasing.

New handwoven linen fabric just washed.

New handwoven linen fabric just washed.

And then, I wash and dry the yardage again.

New handwoven fabric after second wash.

Custom handwoven linen upholstery fabric!

Talk about softening up! Oh, I wish you could be here to handle it with me! This is dreamy linen fabric, perfect for sitting.

Just woven custom linen upholstery fabric.

May your fabric dreams come true.

Happy weaving,
Karen

24 Comments

  • Betsy says:

    What a great project! What sett did you use and how much shrinkage did you get with washing and drying. I have some dining room chairs that I want to recover. Your project may be the “kick” that I need to go from dreaming to doing.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, So I’m not the only one who thinks of weaving fabric to recover chairs…
      The sett is 15 epi. I haven’t done the final measuring yet. I’ll report back later today with the shrinkage after I’ve done that.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

    • Karen says:

      Betsy, I have the shrinkage figures for you.

      I had 12% shrinkage in width and about 15% shrinkage in length. The fabric was washed in warm water and dried on a medium setting.

      Karen

      • Betsy says:

        Karen
        Thank you for the info. That will help in my planning. I was just looking at a book by Ann Sutton called Color and Weave Design that has handreds of designs. They are all in black and white yarn and the book is arranged like pages of gamps.

        Betsy

        • Karen says:

          Betsy, Sounds like a fascinating book. I’ll have to look that up.

          Send me a picture (Karen @ warpedforgood . com) when you get something going. I’d enjoy seeing what you come up with.

          Karen

          • Betsy says:

            Karen
            My current project is to make a jacket to through on on summer evenings. I’ve just wound a warp with 3/2 cotton for sampling. I’ll move on to upholstery fabric after I finish the jacket.
            Betsy

  • Shari says:

    Absolutely lovely! It looks like two colors. What colors did you use. Looks like grey or brown. What’s the weave structure? 4 or 8? Absolutely lovely!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shari, This is 8/2 line linen, unbleached and golden bleached. The look of natural linen is pleasing! Four shaft plain weave, with color and weave effect. Only two treadles! This was relatively fast and easy weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Bev says:

    Love linen (having learned to spin on it decades ago) I really need to get my looms going. Thanks to your examples and encouragement.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bev, I admire anyone who can spin, especially linen! I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling prompted to get weaving looms going. That makes me smile!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Kathryn says:

    This is so beautiful Karen! I have a padded piano bench that was my mothers that I have been wanting to recover and this is the inspiration that I needed to get going.

    I’ll take any opportunity to work with linen and I just love the combination of unbleached and golden. I’m wondering if a shadow and weave pattern would also work with this color combination of linen. The pattern might be more subtle, but could be interesting!

    Kathryn

    • Karen says:

      Kathryn, How lovely to weave fabric for your piano bench! I think this weight linen will work well for seat and piano bench covers.
      The unbleached and golden linen give only a subtle pattern, so if you want the pattern to be more noticeable, you’d want higher contrast in the colors. I don’t have experience with shadow weave, so I’m probably not the best one to ask about that.

      I’d love to see what you come up with!

      And, yay!, another weaving upholstery dreamer…

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Janet H says:

    Karen,
    Your fabric came out beautifully (LOVE it)–I do so want to touch it! Do you have to do any special handling while weaving with linen (I have no experience with linen)? And how do you handle the fabric from the washer without using the spin cycle? Isn’t it heavy and dripping with water?

    • Karen says:

      Janet, Linen works best with a little extra care, but I find it a special pleasure to weave with linen. I have a sidebar with tips for linen in my Dice Weave Pillows project in Jan/Feb 2016 Handwoven.

      Generally, you want good, even tension across the warp as you beam the warp. Avoid abrasion as much as possible, for which a temple is helpful. And, sometimes a little moisture will help if you have warp ends breaking.

      Near the end of the rinse cycle I stand at the washing machine and listen for the water to drain out. When it sounds like the last little bit has drained and the spin has started, I stop the machine. If there is still too much water in the fabric at that point, I even out the yardage, untwisting and unfolding it as much as possible and then turn it on and let it just barely spin. That gets enough water out so it’s not dripping wet, and I can to move it to the dryer.

      For smaller pieces, like towels, I don’t mind if they are wet and dripping. I roll them in dry towels to remove moisture before putting them in the dryer, or laying them flat to dry.

      By the way, this piece of linen yardage is heavy even when dry. When I first pulled it out of the washer it was really heavy!

      Thanks for asking,
      Karen

  • Libby says:

    Hi Karen,
    This is just beautiful! What a good idea to cover your chairs, I’ve done that many times over the years, but yours will be so nice. I can’t wait to see them done!!
    Libby

  • Hi Karen,
    In 1991 my mother-in-law was going through her attic and handed me some yardage that her mother wove on a loom made by her father. It was of pearl cotton with one in a birds eye weave of red and cream. I put them away because the fabrics had no purpose in my house hold with young children

    When we put together a weekend home I used one of the pieces to cover second hand dining room chairs. The result proves the rule to use beautiful things.

    Your beautiful newly covered chairs will give you years of enjoyment.
    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Oh how wonderful! Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s great that you were able to put that special fabric to good use.

      I look forward to putting these chair seats together and sharing my enjoyment of them with my family and friends. It’s a great way to be able to see and feel the handwoven fabric in daily living.

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement,
      Karen

  • Doris says:

    Hi Karen
    You have woven a very wonderful fabric, that certainly gives great chairs
    Kind regards
    Doris

  • Elisabeth says:

    This fabric is gorgeous! Such a pleasant weight linen and the beautiful suble texture and pattern really adds to its beauty!
    I strongly believe that surrounding ourselves with things made with passion and love, and out of quality materials do something to us. I am convinced that the qualities put into it by the maker follow the item and is sensed by the user. It is so satisfying to touch, use, and take care of things like these. And they age so beautifully 🙂
    Thank you for so generously sharing your passion!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, You have a way with words. I enjoy hearing your thoughts—so rich and insightful. I agree, it is immensely satisfying to surround ourselves with beautiful things that are made by hand, with love mixed in.

      Happy weaving, friend,
      Karen

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