Essex Linen from Robert Kaufman stands out from the smooth solids and busy prints as a simple woven fabric, offering a change of pace and a wide range of potential uses. Playing with texture can add interest and dimension to even simple quilts, and Essex Linen offers several different varieties to choose from. To help us understand this soft, versatile substrate, we turned to our go-to person on all things Robert Kaufman: Elisabeth (Woo) Hardy!
Elisabeth: Essex Linen is piece dyed – the yarns are first woven into fabric, then bleached and dyed into colors. This is the most basic of the processes.
Essex Yarn Dyed – the yarns are first dyed, then woven into fabrics (this gives a heathered look)
Essex Yarn Dyed Metallic – these are like Essex Yarn Dyed, except they are specially woven with the addition of the = metallic yarns
Essex Yarn Dyed Homespun – these are yarn dyes (yarns dyed, then woven into fabric) with a newly designed weaving pattern.
PCF: What is the difference between the regular Essex Linen and the new Essex Linen Canvas?
E: Both Essex Linen and Essex Canvas are 55% linen, 45% cotton – but Essex Linen weighs only 5.6 oz per square yard, while Essex Canvas weighs 6.5 oz per square yard. Essex Canvas is made using heavier yarns.
PCF: What percentage of each Essex Linen variety is cotton, and what percentage is linen?
E: All varieties are 55% linen, 45% cotton – with the exception of Essex Yarn Dyed Metallic, which is 50% linen, 40% cotton and 10% lurex (these are the metallic yarns).
PCF: What’s the best way to wash and care for Essex Linen?
E: In general, as Essex is a woven fabric – the “best” practice is to hand wash/hang dry your fabrics or finished projects. That being said, many have machine washed in cold water with success. When machine washing or otherwise, there are 3 main things to pay attention to when it comes to washing/caring for these fabrics:
1) Color fastness
In terms of color fastness, you can wash Essex Linen as you would wash your regular cotton fabrics. If pre-washing, take care to wash dark colors separately. Using color catchers is always a great way to ensure no bleeding occurs if you have concerns about this.
Essex shrinks more than cotton sheeting. This is something to consider if you plan on washing your finished product. To make sure you get the final look you really want, it might be smart to pre-wash your fabrics.
Essex tends to ravel, due to the nature of the fabric. If pre-washing, we recommend buying slightly more fabric than you might need. Some people even stitch along the outside edges of their fabric to prevent raveling too far.
A last note is that Essex does tend to wrinkle when washed. Prepare to iron your fabrics!
E: Of course! It adds a variety in texture that’s very appealing. Most Elizabeth Hartman quilts utilize Essex as their background fabric (which is a great example of Kona and Essex playing nicely together!)
Thank you to Elisabeth Hardy for helping us learn about Essex Linen. Click here to view all the different varieties and colors of this versatile woven fabric.