The sign of the unicorn. A fabric shop for 18th century reenactors and historians.

Basics | Solid Colors | Checks and Stripes

Flax Linen

Linen is made from the fiber of either the flax or hemp plant. Since today many consider hemp linen separate from flax linen and hemp tends to be more expensive, our hemp linens are included as a separate page. In the 18th century linen was the fabric most commonly worn close to the skin for shirts, shifts, caps, handkerchiefs etc. Much of the information on these pages is gathered from Swatches: A Guide to Choosing 21st Century Fabrics for 18th Century Clothing which has swatches you can feel and for a wider view of fabrics imported to the Americas try Textiles in America 1650-1870.

Below are just a few basic linens that we always keep in stock. We have many more linens in solids, checks and stripes that rotate through our stock as the fabric becomes available. Please email and let us know what project you are working on and the linen you would like to use including your snail mail address. We will send you swatches based on your interests.

Basics | Solid Colors | Checks and Stripes

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Basics

100% Natural White Linen Buckram

54" wide, $30.00/yd.
WLG 170

Buckram (aka taylors linen and interfacing) is used in the lining of garments to keep them stiff and hold their form. It is also used in the body of women's gowns. Most extant buckram is unbleached but this creamy buckram might be preferable in light colored garments. Being 54 inches (1 m 37 cm) wide a quarter yard is enough for most applications. Buckram is a very old fabric and has been used at least since the 17th century and probably well before. This linen made in Ireland is stiffened with gum and should be used along the button stand and button holes in men's coats, jackets, waistcoats and military regimentals. If interfacing is not used the front of the coat will flop and not hold it's shape especially if metal buttons are being used. In some extant 18th century garments several layers of interfacing is used.

For example in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London in 1742 during a murder trial it was recorded "this Handkerchief was as stiff as Buckram, with Sweat from the Heat of the Place." Hand sewing this fabric would work best using 35/2 off white linen thread.

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100% Unbleached Linen Buckram

24" wide, $16.50/yd.
WLG 171

Buckram (aka taylors linen and interfacing) is used in the lining of garments to keep them stiff and hold their form. It is also used in the body of women's gowns. Buckram is a very old fabric and has been used at least since the 17th century and probably well before. This linen made in Belgium is stiffened with gum and should be used along the button stand and button holes in men's coats, jackets, waistcoats and military regimentals. If interfacing is not used the front of the coat will flop and not hold it's shape especially if metal buttons are being used. In some extant 18th century garments sometimes several layers of interfacing is used.

For example in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London in 1742 during a murder trial it was recorded "this Handkerchief was as stiff as Buckram, with Sweat from the Heat of the Place." Hand sewing this fabric would work best using 35/2 unbleached linen thread.

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100% White Handkerchief Linen

2.8 oz., 60" wide, $22.00/yd.
WLG 113

This 2.8 oz. linen made in the Czech Republic is some of the finest commercially produced today. At 55 threads to the inch it is also tightly woven. Linen this fine was often called cambric in the 18th century and was used for neck and pocket handkerchiefs, caps, shift and sleeve ruffles for the ladies and for gentlemen's shirt ruffles, and neck cloths, stocks, and handkerchiefs. In The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London in 1778 a man was "indicted for stealing . . .  two pair of men's cambric ruffles, value 1 s." White linen thread 60/2 will work well for sewing on this fine linen. Even if machine sewing other parts of your clothing, people look most at your face so that hand sewing should at least be done around the caps and neck handkerchief. The picture shows a penny behind the linen to show how sheer it is.

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53% Linen/47% Cotton

~3.5 oz., 58" wide, $10.00/yd.
WLG 120

Fustian is the term many modern reenactors use but in the The Foundling Museum linen cotton blends were called simply "cotton". This linen blend has a proper salvedge edge and can save a lot of time in sewing since it does not have to be hemmed. It also has a fine tight weave but with the cotton content is a bit better for shirts, shifts and aprons. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls "Run away . . .  an English servant woman . . .  She took with her a cotton shift without wristbands" as is published in The Virginia Gazette of 1777. When hand sewing this linen try white or off white 60/2 linen thread to match the fabric.

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53% Linen/47% Cotton

~3.5 oz., 54-58" wide, $10.00/yd.
WLG 142

Fustian is the term many modern reenactors use but in the The Foundling Museum linen cotton blends were called simply "cotton". This linen blend has a proper salvedge edge and can save a lot of time in sewing since it does not have to be hemmed. It also has a fine tight weave but with the cotton content is a bit better for shirts, shifts and aprons. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls "Run away . . .  an English servant woman . . .  She took with her a cotton shift without wristbands" as is published in The Virginia Gazette of 1777. When hand sewing this linen try white or off white 60/2 linen thread to match the fabric.

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52% Linen/48% Cotton

~3.5 oz., 59" wide, $9.00/yd.
WLG 145

Fustian is the term many modern reenactors use but in the The Foundling Museum linen cotton blends were called simply "cotton". This linen blend has a proper salvedge edge and can save a lot of time in sewing since it does not have to be hemmed. It also has a very fine loose weave. This would work well for very light cool summer neck handkerchiefs or for cross-stitch. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls "Run away . . .  two Irish servant women, the one . . .  had on . . .  a white linen handkerchief about her neck" as is published in The New York Journal of 1772. When hand sewing this linen try white or off white 60/2 linen thread to match the fabric.

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100% Handkerchief Linen

3.7 oz., 60" wide, $13.00/yd.
WLG 124 white or off white

This linen may be used to make neck and pocket handkerchiefs, linings, men's neck stocks, and cravats and lady's caps and aprons. Tending toward the wealthy but also worn by the poor, shirts and shifts were made of this fine white or off white linen. In The Virginia Gazette of 1775 "RUN away . . .  two indented SERVANTS, one a Scotchman . . .  by Trade a Gardener . . .  had on, and took with him . . .  one Shirt of brown Sheeting, several others of fine Linen". When hand sewing this linen try white or off white 60/2 linen thread to match the fabric.

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51% Linen 49% Cotton

3.7 oz., 60" wide, $11.50/yd.
WLG 123 handkerchief oatmeal

This smooth fine handkerchief weight linen cotton blend makes a sheer lining for cool summer garments but may also be used for shirts and shifts. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls "Run away . . .  a Dutch servant Woman, hath been about two years in the country . . .  had on . . .  a green worsted under jacket, lined with linen" was published in The Pennsylvania Gazette of 1776. When hand sewing this linen try 60/2 unbleached linen thread.

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100% Cream Coloured Shirt Linen

~4 oz., 56" wide, $11.00/yd.
WLG 107

Linen with a proper salvage edge is less common today. Save yourself some time by not hemming the salvage of this fine linen. Very fine 100% shirt linen is good for shirts and lady's shifts. In The Pennsylvania Gazette of 1779 "Was stolen last night from the subscriber living at the Unicorn tavern, on Lancaster road, 16 miles from Philadelphia, the following articles, viz. between nine and ten yards of half whitened linen of 1100, five cuts of brown thread, two fine shifts, one fine apron" which is included in The Brigade Dispatch XXXVI No. 1 Spring 2006. When hand sewing this linen try medium to fine white linen thread.

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100% Fine Oznebrig Linen

4.5 oz., 60" wide, $13.00/yd.
WLG 106

This smooth fine handkerchief weight linen with 51 threads per inch makes a sheer lining for cool summer garments but may also be used for shirts and shifts. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls "Run away . . .  an Irish servant girl . . .  had on, and took with her . . .  1 sheeting shift, and 1 fine ozenbrigs ditto, almost new" was published in The Pennsylvania Gazette of 1775. When hand sewing this linen try 60/2 unbleached linen thread.

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100% Fine Oyster Linen

4.5 oz., 59" wide, $10.00/yd.
WLG 114

This smooth fine linen makes a sheer lining for cool summer garments but may also be used for shirts and shifts. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls "Run away . . .  a likely mulatto girl . . .  had on when she went away . . .  1 or 2 white linen shifts" was published in The Virginia Gazette of 1775. When hand sewing this linen try 60/2 off white linen thread.

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100% Linen Cream Colour'd Sacking

66" wide, $9.00/yd.
WLG 141

Linen was specifically made of a fairly loose weave of slubby, coarse threads for use in sacking. The working "lower sort" such as servants and slaves often procured old sacks for the use of clothing. There are several references to men's "sacking aprons" in the mid century London and a Virginia runaway Irish convict had a pair of sacking trousers in 1775. This will also work for an inexpensive interfacing. Cited in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London in 1778 a highway robbery trial included, "I turned my head and saw the tail of the cart open; it was a tilted cart, with a sacking cover, and was tied behind with a strong hempen rope." When hand sewing this linen try golden bleached linen thread.

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100% Off White Linen Shirting

5.5 oz., 60" wide, 10.00/yd.
WLG 115

Linen shirting like this has a finer thread and fewer slubs than WLG 110. Linen shirting was primarily used to make men's shirts and women's shifts. Although more expensive than unbleached, this fabric is appropriate for all economic levels in the 18th century. Shirting was also used to make men's trousers, caps, hat linings, and jackets, and women's gowns, jackets, petticoats, pockets, and aprons. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls The Virginia Gazette of 1772 "a servant woman . . .  had on, and took with her . . .  a white linen ditto [gown], white apron". Hand sewing this fabric would be best done in 35/2 off white linen thread.

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100% Off White Linen Shirting

5.5 oz., 58" wide, 10.00/yd.
WLG 144

Linen shirting like this has been prewashed so that it is not as stiff as WLG 110 and has shrunk to a narrower width. Linen shirting was primarily used to make men's shirts and women's shifts. Although more expensive than unbleached, this fabric is appropriate for all economic levels in the 18th century. Shirting was also used to make men's trousers, caps, hat linings, and jackets, and women's gowns, jackets, petticoats, pockets, and aprons. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls The Virginia Gazette of 1772 "a servant woman . . .  had on, and took with her . . .  a white linen ditto [gown], white apron". Hand sewing this fabric would be best done in 35/2 off white linen thread.

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100% Off White Linen Shirting

5.5 oz., 60" wide, 11.00/yd.
WLG 110

Linen shirting was primarily used to make men's shirts and women's shifts. Although more expensive than unbleached, this fabric is appropriate for all economic levels in the 18th century. Shirting was also used to make men's trousers, caps, hat linings, and jackets, and women's gowns, jackets, petticoats, pockets, and aprons. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls The Virginia Gazette of 1772 "a servant woman . . .  had on, and took with her . . .  a white linen ditto [gown], white apron". Hand sewing this fabric would be best done in 35/2 off white linen thread. This fabric has a thread count of 36 threads per inch in the warp and 45 in the weft.

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100% Shirt Linen

5.75 oz., 60" wide, $21.00/yd.
WLG 111

This exceptionally fine 100% shirt linen 5.75 oz. is ideal for officer's shirts and fine shifts. This linen is some of the finest available today having less slubs and more threads (45) to the inch. In The Virginia Gazette of 1774 "RUN away . . .  in Maryland, an indented servant man named JOHN WHITE . . .  professes gardening and farming, and had on, and took with him . . .  a fine linen shirt and neckcloth, marked I.K." When hand sewing this linen try 35/2 or 60/2 white linen thread.

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100% Unbleached Linen

6.5 oz., 60" wide, $14.00/yd.
WLG 100

Oznabrig (with many spellings) was first named after the German city that first produced considerable amounts of it. Later in the 19th century, as with many fabrics, oznabrig began to be made of cotton. At 28 threads to the inch this is an inexpensive linen. Oznabrig is a cheap unbleached fabric related to brown linen, tow and rolls and was often used to make men's shirts, hunting frocks, trousers, and overalls and women's shifts, gowns, petticoats, aprons, and pockets.

For example in The Virginia Gazette in 1745 "a Servant Woman . . .  her Speech is the North of England Dialect, and says she was born in Lincolnshire: she had on, when she went away, a Oznabrig Shift" and again in 1775 "a convict servant, a Scotchman . . .  Had on and took with him . . .  one oznabrig [waistcoat] . . .  two oznabrig shirts, two pair of oznabrig trowsers". Other articles like market wallets, bags, bed sheets, bed ticks, and haversacks may be made of this fabric as well. Although unbleached, this fabric will slowly fade to a creamy white with washings and time in the sun. Hand sewing this fabric would work best using 35/2 unbleached linen thread.

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100% Linen

~7 oz. Unbleached Drilling, 61" wide, $20.00/yd.
WLG 162

newA new sturdy twill!

Drilling or drill is a stout twilled unbleached linen used to make military and men's civilian clothing, usually breeches and trousers, but occasionally coats, waistcoats and jackets. For example in The Virginia Gazette in 1775 "RUN away . . .  a Convict . . .  a Barber by Trade . . .  had on, and took with him . . .  one Pair of new Drilling Breeches". Hand sewing this project would work well using 35/2 unbleached linen thread.

In the military, drill was used in summer-weight clothing in the French & Indian War, by New-York's Provincial Congress, who bought drilling for the waistcoats and breeches of its four 1775 regiments, and by some British and loyalist regiments in America after 1778 and made by the regimental tailors into breeches, waistcoats, and overalls. If this fabric is not exactly what you are looking for you might consider the similar but heavier hemp linen ticking or Russia drill.

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100% Off White Linen

7.5 oz., 57-59" wide, $10.00/yd.
WLG 116

Linen of a slightly heavier weight may be used for men's "summer suits" often made of white linen consisting of jacket and breeches or coat and breeches. Women commonly wore white linen gowns, jackets and petticoats. Cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls The Virginia Gazette of 1772 "a servant woman . . .  had on, and took with her . . .  a white linen ditto [gown], white apron". Hand sewing this fabric would be best done in off white linen thread. We have several bolts of this linen some is prewashed and some is not. Variations exist between the bolts.

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100% Linen

8.2 oz., 60" wide, $14.00/yd.
WLG 102

Linen with a warp thread of unbleached and weft thread of half-bleached creates an oatmeal color. Coarse linen like this was commonly used to make hunting frocks, trousers, sailor's trousers (sometimes called slops), haversacks, kettle bags, market wallets, chair seats, linings, and work aprons. Less often slave's shirts and shifts (ouch!), breeches, jackets, waistcoats, and coats. For example in The Virginia Gazette in 1776 "RUN away . . .  a small outlandish Negro Fellow . . .  He carried away with him . . .  2 Virginia Linen Shirts, one of them very coarse". Linen thread for this would be best hand sewing using 16/2 or 35/2 unbleached.

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57% Linen/ 43% Cotton

8.2 oz., 57" wide, $10.00/yd.
WLG 118

Fustian is the term many modern reenactors use but in the The Foundling Museum linen cotton blends were called simply "cotton". Coarse linen blends like this were used to make hunting frocks, trousers, sailor's trousers (sometimes called slops), haversacks, kettle bags, market wallets, chair seats, linings, and work aprons. Men's breeches, jackets, waistcoats, and coats can also be made of this. For example in The Boston Evening-Post in 1774 "Ran away . . .  a Negro Boy . . .  had on when he went away, a . . .  white Linen Breeches" (thanks to the work of Mike Barbieri). A heavy linen thread would be good for hand sewing.

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100% Linen

~9 oz. Oatmeal Drilling, 57" wide, $22.00/yd.
WLG 163

newA new sturdy twill!

Drilling or drill is a stout twilled unbleached linen used to make military and men's civilian clothing, usually breeches and trousers, but occasionally coats, waistcoats and jackets. For example the hard work of Mike Barbieriin brings us this ad from 1776 in The Connecticut Courant "Run away . . .  a prisoner . . .  Had on when he went away . . .  a pair drilling breeches." Hand sewing this project would work well using 35/2 unbleached linen thread.

In the military, drill was used in summer-weight clothing in the French & Indian War, by New-York's Provincial Congress, who bought drilling for the waistcoats and breeches of its four 1775 regiments, and by some British and loyalist regiments in America after 1778 and made by the regimental tailors into breeches, waistcoats, and overalls. If this fabric is not exactly what you are looking for you might consider the similar but heavier hemp linen ticking or Russia drill.

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57% Linen/ 43% Cotton

~9 oz., 57" wide, $10.00/yd.
WLG 117

Fustian is the term many modern reenactors use but in the The Foundling Museum linen cotton blends were called simply "cotton". Coarse linen like this was commonly used to make hunting frocks, trousers, sailor's trousers (sometimes called slops), haversacks, kettle bags, market wallets, chair seats, linings, and work aprons. Men's breeches, jackets, waistcoats, and coats can also be made of this. For example in The Boston Evening-Post in 1774 "Ran away . . .  a Negro Boy . . .  had on when he went away, a . . .  white Linen Breeches" (thanks to the work of Mike Barbieri). Linen thread for this would be best hand sewing using 16/2 or 35/2 white.

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100% Linen

14 oz., 60" wide, $21.00/yd.
WLG 101

Coarse natural unbleached tightly woven linen like this was commonly used to make hunting frocks, trousers, sailor's trousers (sometimes called slops), overalls, haversacks, kettle bags, market wallets, chair seats, linings, and work aprons. Less often breeches, jackets, waistcoats, and coats can be made of this. For example in The Virginia Gazette an ad reported "The person who stole the horse . . .  had on a . . .  coarse linen jacket and trousers" in 1776. Linen thread for this would be best hand sewing using 16/2 or 35/2 unbleached. If this fabric is not exactly what you are looking for you might consider the similar 16 oz. Russia sheeting.

Basics | Solid Colors | Checks and Stripes

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