Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Red Plaid Underdress--Calendering the Linen (Part 1)

Fabric, dry rubbed, mostly on the left side.
Today's photograph shows the results of my first attempt to "calender" my linen.  Calendering is the technical name for any process used to make a fabric smooth and to give it special properties, such as shininess.

On an industrial scale, calendering is done by running otherwise completed fabric through large rollers, and applying lots of pressure.  I have no idea how much rubbing the Viking women applied to their linen; a certain amount of trial and error will be required here.

The first photograph shows the fabric after it had been rubbed for about a minute with the glass stone; again, click the photograph to see it bigger and with more detail.  The result was a pronounced smoothing of the fabric, but only a faint increase in shininess that doesn't show up very well in the photograph.

At that point, I started looking for more information about the process.  Phiala's String Page states that linen can only be cold pressed (i.e., without heat) so long as it is damp, and I have seen similar comments on other educational sites.  That suggests that damp rubbing appears to be the way to go--particularly given my lack of obvious results from dry rubbing.  But how damp?  Slightly, or just short of dripping?  And for how long?  I suspect that if linen needs to be damp in order to be modified this way, the rubbing probably needs to continue until the linen is dry.

Thank heaven I only have two yards of linen to handle. 

There will be more on this subject after I have had time to experiment with damp rubbing.

EDIT:  To correct my spelling error:  Rubbing fabric to smooth it and give it a nice finish is called "calendering," not "calendaring".  


  1. The calendering has made the fabric visibly smoother, and I think (though perhaps this is just the photo) it has made the pattern a little more obvious. It'll be interesting to see how the process goes with damp fabric.

    1. It *has* made the pattern more obvious, and has affected the color somewhat on the rubbed areas. But I'm still looking for an increase in shininess.

  2. I get my linen wet, and then wring it out and blot with a towel... I hope that makes sense. The shine is really hard to photograph, I have found. It is also more striking on twill weaves than tabby.

    1. Thanks for the information! I will try that when I get back to this project.