How to Cut Linen Fabric in a Straight Line

Updated on April 18, 2017

Cutting Linen by the Thread

If you've ever cut linen, you know how important (and difficult) it is to cut straight lines. Linen's visible weave make not straight lines very easy to identify. The next time you cut linen, cut it "by the thread" and achieve a perfectly straight cut, every time.

It is always important to make sure your fabric is straight before cutting out pieces for anything, and this is especially true of linen because of the distinct, visible weave. Cutting by the thread is ideal if you need to make a historic reproduction women's petticoat, apron or shift. It also works well for men's shirts and anything else made from linen - curtains, tablecloths, napkins and whatever else you want to make. Pulling threads is also an important step in a type of embellishment, frequently called pulled thread embroidery, that is popular on fancy table linens and alter cloths.

Prepare Linen for Cutting

First, you need your piece of linen. I chose this ratty looking piece to show you it is possible with pretty much any linen, no matter how hopeless it may seem. This is part of an old shirt, so it is well worn, but if you have new linen, always make sure to wash it before starting any project. As a side note, you should also make sure to wash any trims or tapes you plan on using.

How to Pull Linen Threads to Cut in a Straight Line

Decide where you want your cut to be and isolate a single strand of thread from the fabric. It should be a strand that runs perpendicular to the raw end facing you. Grasp it firmly and pull forcefully, but smoothly and gently - yanking or tugging is a sure way to snap the thread.

You will notice the fabric begin to bunch up. I like to ease this fabric toward the far edge because it helps me get further along before the thread snaps. Most likely, the thread will snap at some point. Because of the way linen is manufactured, the thread sometimes changes in diameter and there are occasionally thick parts that tend to stick and cause the thread to snap. In these cases, there is pretty much nothing you can do to prevent the breakage. Also, if you are pulling into the selvage edge, this can cause the thread to break frequently. If I am working in to the selvage edge, I find where my pulled thread meets the edge and make a little snip with my scissors to allow the thread to break free.

When the thread breaks, simply pull your fabric taught so you can see how much progress you've made. Then, use the tip of a pin to pull the thread back out of the fabric. Pulling the thread back out is the most annoying part of this process. It really helps to have good light so you can find where the thread picks back up again.

Pulled linen threads
Pulled linen threads

I pulled out a couple of threads so the result would be visible in a picture, but this is generally what your fabric will look like after you have pulled the thread. It creates an easily visible across the length of the cloth.

Cut Linen in a Perfectly Straight Line

Now you are ready to get your scissors and cut along the line created by the missing thread. As long as you are careful to cut only on this line, you will end up with a completely straight edge. Do this on each side of the fabric to create a perfect square or rectangle that simply is not possible with a paper pattern due to slipping and pulling.

And there you have it! A piece of linen cut in perfectly straight lines.

You can use this technique to cut squares (or rectangles) for virtually any project. You may also use this technique to decorate tablecloths, handkerchiefs, alter clothes, and more. If you want to pull thread for decorative purposes, just remember not to cut along the line.

I hope you found this tutorial easy to follow and please don't hesitate to ask me questions about the process. Enjoy!


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    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Awesome! I'm very glad it worked well for you. Your comment made my morning =)

    • profile image

      JC 5 years ago

      Oh my word!! I have just tried this tip- it works fantastically. I wish I'd 'googled' this'd for curtain number 1, I'm now on curtain number 5 and thought there must be a way of cutting linen straight. It's is such a great tip-thanks!!!!

    • profile image

      Ritika 5 years ago

      This kind of presentation is needed to make an informative post.I am a Linen lover & use to buy linen fabrics from Linen Club.It is a brand by Aditya Birla Group.Your post will help me a lot.Now I know how to cut this fabrics in a straightline.:)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I agree! Most natural fibers are better 'cut' without a pair of scissors. Cutting across a bolt of cotton, silk, or linen usually results in an annoying crooked piece of cloth.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Nice work. When I worked in a high brow fabric shop years ago, I also learned that you tear silk and many other natural fabrics. I always cringe when I go to the fabric shop and they cut cotton. What you get at the end of the bolt is crooked.

    • Christina Preston profile image

      Christina Preston 6 years ago

      This is extrememly useful! I'm going to have to try it.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I always use this technique when working with batiste. On sturdier fabrics I just clip and tear, although then I have to press the torn edge back into shape.

    • Shuting Star profile image

      Shuting Star 6 years ago from lslamabad,Pakistan

      very interesting and unique info.Thanks.very nice hub indeed.

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Very useful! Thanks for sharing:)

    • David Legg 7 profile image

      David Legg 7 6 years ago from Trout Paradise, Colorado

      That is a great hub. My wife finished a linen tablecloth for our church communion table by pulling threads to create parallel stripes near the edges of each side of the tablecloth. It looks beautiful, and is custom sized to the table.

      Thank you for sharing!