Linen Vs Silk : Similarities and Differences

A detailed comparison of linen and silk fabrics, highlighting the similarities and distinctions between these two luxurious and natural textiles, including the unique properties, characteristics, and applications of linen and silk fabrics.

Both linen and silk are as old as the humans who wanted pretty clothes.

Linen is considered to be the oldest natural fiber of them all but silk is not far behind. Just like Linen has a long history dating back thousands of years, history of silk fabric have been documented as far back as the Neolithic period in China.

Both linen and silk are natural fibers but linen is a plant fiber and silk is an animal fiber. Linen is obtained from the stalks of the flax plant and silk is obtained from the cocoons of silkworms (Caterpillars). Other than this, there are lots of similarities and differences between these beautiful fabrics.

Fiber SourceSilkworm cocoons
Flax plant fibers

Production Origin
ChinaMaybe the Linear B tablets of Pylos, Greece
Fiber Characteristics
Prism shaped fiber. Fine, smooth, and lustrous
Coarse, textured, and matte

TextureSoft and luxurious
Crisp and slightly rough

StrengthStrong and durableStrong and durable
ComfortBreathable, comfortableBreathable and cool
Insulation PropertiesWarm in winterCool in hot weather
Moisture AbsorptionGood absorbtionVery good absorbtion
Wrinkle ResistanceWrinklesWrinkles
Care and MaintenanceDelicate, often dry cleanEasy to clean; Gets softer with washing
Skin friendlinessHypoallergenicNot so much
CostExpensiveNot as costly as silk
Best useFor special occassion clothingFor summer clothes
Comparison chart for silk and linen

Silk Vs Linen – Properties

Hand, looks and feel of the fabrics

Both linen and silk are long textile fibers though silk fibers are longer than linen. Because of this, both the fabrics are flowy and supple.

Silk fibers have better elasticity than linen fabric. Silk is supposed to stretch about 1/5 of its length before breaking. Because of this it has good shape retention and this is a good property when making fitting clothes. 

Silk fabric is softer than linen. The smooth feel of soft silk makes it a favourite for making lingerie and lounge wear and luxury bed linen. Linen is considered a more elegant crispier option. It is slightly stiff when you first buy it but with a lot of washes it becomes softer. Most silk fabrics are supple and drapey straight from the bolt

Silk is more lustrous than linen because of its prism-shaped fiber. Linen has a more subtle luster than silk.

Silk is very receptive to dyes – because of this the fabric is available in a lot of bright colors than linen. 

Stength and durability

Both linen and silk are very strong fibers. Both can withstand a lot of heat and also a lot of wear and tear. Silk is the strongest when dry. Silk is weaker when wet, whereas Linen fibers get stronger when they are wet. 

Both linen and silk are durable, but linen is more durable than silk and improves with each wash. Silk can get damaged in the wash. Sunlight and perspiration damages silk faster. Linen wear well, even in most adverse conditions

Silk and Linen are resistant to mildew, molds, and rots that attack fibers. 


Both silk and linen are breathable fabrics, but linen is more breathable than silk.

Silk is considered an insulating material. Silk keeps heat to itself – doesnot conduct heat. So it is a fabric that keeps the body warm. Linen is considered a summer-friendly fabric that keeps the body warm. 

The silk is highly moisture retentive and has low moisture-wicking properties. Therefore it is not great with perspiration. The linen on the other hand has high water wicking properties. It absorbs moisture and dries quickly.

Both linen and silk are hypoallergenic. The silk is also anti-microbial and anti-bacterial

Maintenance and care

Care and maintenance of silk are higher than that of linen. The linen can be machine washed casually in cold water or warm water. But a lot of silks are marked dry wash only.

Silk cannot be tumbled dry – this is not a problem with linen.

When you wash a lot of silk fabrics (there are many; check out this post on the different types of silks) can shrink and pucker because of the weave and weak fiber (when wet) and because of wrong handling. Most silk should only be hand washed in cold water.

Silk is prone to stain, and linen is notable for its resistance to stains.

Linen is best ironed with a steam setting. But when ironing silk, the steam setting is discouraged. Silk can get water spots. 

Linen as a fabric is highly prone to wrinkles. Silk does not wrinkle as much as linen. (Crisp silks like raw silk wrinkles a lot)

Both silk and linen are expensive fabrics mainly due to their complex manufacturing process. But most of the silk fabrics are more expensive than linen.

Sewing Silk vs Linen

When sewing silk, you may want to change the regular sewing needle to one that is finer like a universal or microtex needle with a smaller size (e.g., 60/8 or 70/10). Linen is comparatively easier to sew.

When buying linen, you do not have a lot of choice – yes, there are variations of linen but not as much as silk. And Silk has so many imitations that you have to be very careful when buying silk that you are getting the real one.

Related posts: Silk vs Satin; Silk vs Rayon

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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