The yin and yang of the knitting world, linen and lace go together like sea salt sprinkled on caramel or a chocolate latte stirred with cayenne pepper. Its the unexpected pairing of opposites that create such a harmonious balance, linen for its rawness and wirelike structure, the embodiment of Old World rugged strength and lace for its exquisite complexity of delicate twists and turns winding itself into open spaces. The contrast between the two works like magic to highlight each other’s charm.
History’s first plant-based fibre, linen is spun from the flax plant, a tall, spindly stalk topped off with a sky-blue flower. Linen has become the quintessential summer yarn, for its ability to stay cool and dry. It has an incredibly long staple and not surprisingly is three times stronger than cotton.
Squash it, crumple it into a ball, or trample on it, you will never hurt its feelings. Papery-crisp pure linen just gets softer and lovelier the more it is handled, washed and worn. The beauty is in its nature, it has a will all its own. So when it comes to close-fitting styles or patterns with ribbing, forget it, this yarn is just too relaxed for that.
If you are uncertain about knitting with linen, this drapey vintage-inspired cowl is a great place to start. It is worked in the round with a straightforward pattern repeat combining cables and openwork. Our pure linen version requires two 50g balls of Katia Lino and is shortened to a measurement of 20 cm/8 ins. Wear it long and loose or double wrap it to closely fill in a neckline. Fourteen shades are available this season including this week’s pick, Silver Grey (shown above).