A lovely needlepoint thread, linen is one of my favorite fibers, whether for clothing or for stitching. Made from the stems of the flax plant, linen is one of our oldest kinds of cloths, there have been examples of linen cloth found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Linen can be spun and woven into many different weights of fabric and has a crispness (when pressed) which is unique. All linen thread (whether in cloth or as thread) has some variation in thickness. In needlepoint, this characteristic automatically makes stitches done with linen thread have lots of texture.
Because of this variation in thickness, linen usually doesn’t shine in Tent Stitch. Textured stitches work better. because most linen threads are tightly twisted, they don’t work well for turkey work either. French knots when done in linen will be more uneven in size.
Most linen threads, including Rainbow Linen from Rainbow Gallery, have a number associated with it. This number is your key to using linen threads. Rainbow Linen, for example, is a 16/2 thread. The 2 refers to the number of plies in a strand. 16 is a general indication of weight. Rainbow Linen works with light coverage on 14 mesh and thicker coverage on 18 mesh. It works in Tent Stitch on both mesh sizes. If you know the number associated with a linen thread which works on any particular canvas, you can buy other linen threads in a similar weight (first number) and they will be the same size thread (like the numbers for pearl cotton).
Besides Rainbow Linen, other common linen threads are Flax n’Colors and Oriental Linen (a linen/silk blend) from The Thread Gatherer, and Londonderry Linen from Access Commodities.
Most linen thread cannot be separated into plies, you need to use the thread as it comes off the card.
I find it easier on my hands when I use a needle one size bigger than I would use for cotton. This makes the holes a little wider and lets the thread slip through more easily.
Linen works well when you need a smooth needlepoint thread but want something less shiny than cotton. It is a great mixer.