Linen fiber absorbs moisture readily; it is, therefore, very suitable for towelings and for other materials that are used to remove moisture from suifaces. Huck, an uneven weave giving a good surface for the absorption of water, makes good towels, and, decorated with designs in damask weave, may be very handsome.
Many linens in plain weaves are available for clothing, or embroidery, while the coarse Russian crashes are becoming popular for decorative purposes. The texture of linen is such that the heavier kinds hang well in folds, lie flat on a table, and are very artistic for many purposes. The old test for identifying linen by moistening the finger and putting it under the cloth is not always a sure one, since the moisture will not come through a heavy linen, or one with much starch in it, and it will come through a sheer, tightly twisted cotton. A better test is to put a drop of olive oil on the cloth and press it between blotting papers. The linen becomes more transparent than the cotton. There is a peculiar leathery feeling about good table linen, which cotton will not give, and the luster is different, although this is difficult to describe.
It is more difficult to choose medium-priced linen wisely than to choose the finer and more expensive grades, because substitution for strong fiber and various finishes may be used to lower the price while they maintain the appearance. Shoppers for institutions as well as for the home are often lacking in ability to judge and consequently buy towels and table linen which will not give satisfactory wear. Without training, the only safe procedure is to keep strictly to reliable firms rather than to be attracted by what seem to be better values at lower prices elsewhere. Many housekeepers prefer to buy the unbleached tablecloths and bleach them for themselves. There is economy in this, because the chemical bleaching used almost exclusively for medium grades, weakens the fiber. The quality to be avoided is poorly spun, flat, rather thin yarn, heavily sized, the cloth loosely woven and light in weight, sized and beetled so that it looks substantial and glistening.*
* Cornell Reading-Course for the Farm Home, Bull. 45. Univ. of III., Bull. 15.
Characteristics and uses of some common linen fabrics.
Butcher's linen is a heavy, coarse weave. It is used for skirts, waists, and aprons.
Cambric is a fine, sheer material. It is used for dresses and handkerchiefs because of its sheer texture.
Damask is a fine satin weave with figured designs. It is used for tablecloths, napkins, and towels.
Huckaback is an uneven weave with much of the filling showing. It is used for toweling because of its rough surface which easily absorbs moisture and causes a glow to the skin.
Handkerchief linen is a firm, even weave but a sheer material. It is used for waists, handkerchiefs, and baby dresses.