A guide to linen bunches – 2018

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This is the second in our series presenting all the cloth bunches currently available for bespoke, summarising what they contain and picking out our favourites.

The summaries should help determine which bunches readers need to see, or request. And the favourites selection should hopefully help with some final decisions.

The first of these was a guide to the current seasonal Spring/Summer bunches, largely from the Italian mills.

The second, below, looks at all the bunches available for pure linen.

There are at least 15 bunches from various mills and merchants offering linen. But they can be categorised fairly easily.

The first and most important distinction is between the heavier, largely Irish linens and the lighter, largely Italian ones. Almost all the Irish linens range from around 10oz to 13oz, while the Italians go from 7oz to 10oz (usually expressed by them in grams - 200g to 280g).

The advantages and disadvantages of both types were discussed in this separate post on linen, part of our Guide to Cloth series.

That series gives advice on what types of cloth to use, what colours, weights and styles, and how to browse them. This series purely assesses the range currently available.  

 

Irish linens

The heavier Irish linens are carried in the following bunches, all English:

- W Bill, Fine Irish Linens and Pure Cottons

- Harrison’s, Mersolair

- Dugdale Bros, Lisburn

- Dugdale Bros, Crommelin

- Dugdale Bros, Natural Elements

- Huddersfield Fine Worsteds, Cotton & Linen

- Holland & Sherry, South Pacific Linens

 

Classic plain weave

The majority of these are 10-13oz, in a plain weave, and with an obvious starch (which often comes out after cleaning). This is the classic Irish linen, as seen on my tobacco suit from Dege & Skinner above.

Those linens don’t vary much between the bunches, and have a lot of overlap in colours.

However, Holland & Sherry has the biggest range of colours among the merchants (as it often does) with 32 compared to 9 to 13 in other bunches. So if you’re after an unusual colour, look for the South Pacific Linens bunch. 

Perhaps nicest among the bright colours is 204012, below, while 204022 is a subtle shade of olive.

204012
204022

If you can find them, the bunches from the couple of Irish mills that supply the various merchants actually have the largest range of colours - Ulster Weavers for example. But they tend to be all plain weaves, in these heavier weights.

 

Twills and herringbones

The next sub-category is weave. While the majority of the Irish pure linens are plain weave, some bunches carry a few herringbones and twills.

Herringbone can be nice if you want a little pattern to your linen. Three bunches carry herringbones, but Lisburn has the biggest range of colours, with 19 (the others have 4-8).

It’s also worth highlighting that South Pacific Linens has narrower herringbones than the others, such as the navy 204204, below.

204204

Twill is denser than a plain weave, and therefore usually won’t breathe as well, but holds its shape better. Good for a sharper pair of trousers, perhaps.

Mersolair is the only bunch with twills - 3 in 10.5oz, 3 in a heavy 17.6oz. Below is the biscuit-coloured 28146. There are also some softer plain colours in the bunch that are a little over 12oz, but unstarched and a slightly more open weave than most of the traditional Irish options.

28146 linen twill from Mersolair

Patterns

The final way these English merchants vary is with patterns, and there are a few unusual ones tucked into the various bunches, often with only one or two options.

Dugdale’s are the best here. Lisburn has some interesting patterns, with differently coloured warp and weft, and some looser, more open-weave variants. Crommelin is the king for patterns though, with windowpane checks, gun-club checks and others - such as windowpane 7207 below.

7207

Crommelin also has some stripes, as does South Pacific Linens. The other good bunch for patterns is Mersolair though, which has some glen checks, nailheads, fibre mixes (mohair/linen and cotton/linen) and even two Madras checks.

The nicest of those is the madras 28105 and glen check 28104.

28105
28104

 

Italian/European linens

There is generally less variation among the Italian and European pure linens than the heavy Irish ones. Although there is the occasional 200g (7oz), the vast majority are 250g-280g, which is not a difference you’re likely to notice.

These bunches also all carry some normal linens and some washed ones - a ‘delavé’ effect. Whether you like this look is a matter of taste, but personally I would only use it in the most casual, unstructured jackets (not trousers).

The bunches here are:

- Scabal, Pure Linen

- Caccioppoli, Cotton & Linen

- Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna, Cotton & Linen Summer

- Solbiati, Nobel

- Solbiati, Tolomeo

- Solbiati, Quarantalino

 

The distinctive thing about Pure Linen is that it carries a few very light linens (7oz) and that the non-delavé ones are Irish, but lightweight.

I’d stress, however, that the biggest difference between the Irish and Italian linens in general is their weight, and you’re unlikely to notice much difference between the two in the same weight.

Cotton & Linen from Caccioppoli has the usual split of normal and delavé, and most of these colours overlap with the others too.

The only difference is five slightly heavier, slightly rougher linens (350g, 12.5oz) that might be likened to a linen canvas. Nice for more casual trousers perhaps. We like 380502, below. 

380502

Zegna’s bunches are quite seasonal, and we covered in the Italian seasonal bunches feature.

Solbiati, now part of the Loro Piana group, has by far the biggest range of linens from the Italians. They divide their plain and delavé linens into two different bunches - Quarantalino and Tolomeo respectively.

The offering in these two bunches is similar to the other Italians, except for the volume: 30+ of each type, as opposed to a dozen from the others. So if you want the full spectrum of options, or something more unusual, worth seeking out these two.

S04012 is a nice delavé option, or the indigo-like S04027 (below)

S04027
S04012

Nobel we covered in our seasonal piece and therefore won’t be available for as long as the other two bunches. But this is where all the variants are - stripes, checks, twills, herringbones etc. Find it only if you want pattern - eg S09021 below.

S09021

I hope you find this a useful guide to all the linen options out there. The plan is to revise it every time enough bunches have been changed, so it remains a contemporary guide.

If you have any suggestions on things you’d like to see in this series, please let us know.

(I say ‘us’, by the way, because James Girdwood did much of the legwork for this piece, and deserves a lot of the credit.)

Note: In general, English mills quote weights per square metre, while Europeans quote per metre of cloth. This means that the Europeans are even lighter than indicated. We have kept the weights quoted on the bunches, however, to avoid confusion.

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A.

Hi Simon,
I have exactly Caccioppoli 380502 and 501 (the off white one). They are quiet heavy. I’ve made 2 casual trousers for “weekend relax”. Very nice fabric. At the beginning I ordered them online thinking they were tighter/stronger, close to an irish linen, but when they arrived I immediately realized that you can’t do anything with them apart from very casual trousers. Probably even a SC will result too spongy.

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Dear A., may i ask you where did you order the cloth from? Thanks!

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Dear A., may I ask you where did you order Caccioppoli linen from? thanks!

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Dear A., may I ask where did you order Caccioppoli fabric from? Thanks!

A.

Actually I called Caccioppoli and my grandfather went to collect them (back in early March).

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Thanks! So there’s no chance of getting in online. My apologies for asking the same question three times. It’s obviously a mistake.

Stephen

Dear Simon,

May I ask your take on Baird McNutt’s linen bunches? Thanks.

Néstor

Really useful piece, Simon.

btw, what do you think about canapa as alternative to linen? I know some italian mills produce cloth from this material but I don’t know about its performance. I’ve seen some jackets made of it by the neapolitans, I’d like to try but don’t know about a reliable source.

I also would like to order a jacket reproducing the famous jacket with action back that Vincenzo Attolini made for Rubinacci back in the ’30, do you happen to know which material it is made of?

Thanks in advance!

Néstor

Paddy

I’ve tried to Canapa jackets – one a pure canapa and one a cotton blend. The cotton blend was excellent; enough cotton to have some ‘stand’ but I think the canapa helped a lot in allowing the jacket to breathe. The pure canapa was lovely, quite similar to linen but a bit softer to the touch. I also found the wrinkles less distinctive, softer and not as pronounced. In general, it is very similar to linen though. In future, I’d probably still choose linen — there just aren’t enough canapa options out there to make it a viable option to really fill the wardrobe with.

Robert

Canapa is hemp. Let’s not start new fads for foreign words.

AMS

I too have a canapa/hemp jacket, in blue herringbone. My experience is like Paddy’s above. Have not found any in current cut-length offerings, so I’m going with linens for the future.

A.

Néstor are you referring to the white DB one? It is in silk. Take a look to the Dupioni by H&S bunch.

Anonymous

Simon

Thanks for an interesting article.

One thought on timing. Please think about seasons, lead times etc. It would be better to publish eg linen in January to give your readers time to choose and have garments made up ready for the warm weather. Equally, articles on tweeds in April will set things up nicely for delivery at the beginning of autumn.

Nicholas

Hi Simon,
Need help I am 21 about to enter the professional world. Due to this I want to commison my first MTM suit, single breasted in navy. Any guidance on the weight of fabric? Since it’s my first proper suit, I want to it to be versatile over the whole year and not season specific.

Thank you in advance.

Anonymous

I actually commissioned something from the H&S South Pacific linens, and not seeing “Origin” info on their website, e-mailed the company, and was told it is from Chile, not Ireland!

Max

Hi Simon,
Thanks for the post, very informative.
But I miss the London Lounge linen books.
You are lamenting heavyweight linen, I don’t think you can get a better heavyweight linen than from the London Lounge.

Cheers,

Malcolm

All LL cloths are made to Michael’s own specification, using mills and merchants he has developed close co-operation with over the years the Club has been running. His objective is always to create the “best” available cloth in its category; thus, his Brisa walks tall over any other fresco for example. A lot comes from Lovat, some from Fox. Simon try and get your hands on the LL linen book. It’s wonderful stuff.

Max

Hi Simon,

That maybe true.
But Michael has a lot of expertise in designing cloth.
He designs old world cloth that is indeed heavy but doesn’t wear out after some years of heavy wear. Plus the way the cloth is woven guarantees that it is breathable, so it wears cooler considering it’s weight (just like old-stock heavy cloth).
The experience can’t be put in words. Just oder yourself a suit and see for yourself.

Bois Kostas

Dear Max , what’s the weight of London Lounge Linen ? Thanks

Hamish

Dear Simon,
Another very interesting post! In relation to your tobacco suit from Dege & Skinner (very beautiful); May I please inquire the cloth number from W Bill? – I looked at previous posts relating to the commission but could not find the no. Cheers!

LL

Hi Simon,

I would like to share some my experience here. Dugdale Lisburn is a great linen book, it has the plain(12oz) and herringbones (10oz), I have two pants made in herringbones one which I think more suitable for sub tropical weather. it is lighter in weight but meanwhile it still holds the shape well not crazily wrinkle.
Comparing W Bill and Huddersfield, I think they are quite similar in weight and body, however, W Bill is a bit smoother and more comfortable to wear.

H Wong

Hi Simon,
What’s your opinion on Portofino wool linen silk blend? I’ve recently commissioned a jacket with the 320792. I love the colour very much.

Adam

Can you order direct from Ulster Weavers or is the only way to get access to them through a tailor or shirtmaker? Thanks

Herve

Salut Simon!

Lin is a good cloth for the warm weather but the colour is of course important.

At Paris the more subtile colours of dark blues, olives and so are better in estivale, but to the cote, azur, provence and so the more bright is better.
In these, rose, lavender and so make a good palette. and also in Sicile and others, like Amalfi, they are more full of the sunshine.

Cordialement

J

Thank you Simon. It seems Solbiati also sells heavyweight linen in the 350g range. Do you know how it compares to Irish linens?

Néstor

Thanks Paddy and A. for the answers regarding the canapa (hemp in English) and the Attolini jacket.

Indeed there are no bunches with pure hemp cloth to be purchased from the usual merchants. Delfino has some blends but I’m looking for pure hemp in natural colour. I’ll have to ask the tailor!

Regarding the Attolini jacket, I meant the SB one with action back. It looks that is made of linen, but I’d like to confirm. The DB is amazing as well but too flamboyant for me. If ordering something made of pure silk, it would be a jacket like the brown dupioni silk Goerge Wang from Brio has been wearing during Pitti. If I’m not mistaken, the H&S bunch includes two weights, a very plain lightweight unlikely to be made as a jacket and another one which seems to be hopsack.

Alfred

Very informative, thanks Simon. Could you perhaps offer some thoughts (even if highly subjective) in what you would make up with the different bunches, and how you might wear them?

Niko

I would like to know the fabric in the first picture with your tobacco linen suit? It looks great?!

Max

Great piece! Love the W Bill bunch. Would love to see something similar for – flannels and autumn winter styles.
Another one I would highly appriciate would be suggestions for cloth bunches and colors for building a timeless wardrobe (the basics) ie. the recommended bunches for that 4season navy blazer etc.

Dante

Hi Simon,
Have you tried something from BatemanOgden’s linen bunch yet?
I would like to hear your thoughts about it. Thanks!

Lujac

Hi Simon,

How would you go about ordering Solbiati Linen for sewing my own garments? Their website is basically worthless… just a brief description of the history and there is no link to a contact. Would I go through someone such as Caccioppoli Napoli to order by the meter? Thanks so much.

Ovlov

Hi Simon,

Excellent article. I want to get a summer suit made up that I can wear on the weekends, but also will be passable around the office. I was thinking the best option would be something like the W Bill suit you had made by Dege & Skinner. I want something that does wrinkle too much so heavy linen seem like the go to option. Do you think this would work? Or would you suggest something like a wool/linen/silk blend? My tailor suggested Irish linen would wear too hot for a summer suit, but I would not have though it would be much issue in a dry Aussie summer since the open weave should help right?
Also I will need to get my cloth ordered online as my tailor doesn’t stock many samples. Is there much difference in price/finish between W Bill and Dugdale’s offerings?

Elliott

Hi Simon,

Can I inquire on your thoughts on Harrison’s, Mersolair? They seem to wrinkle very easily (100% linen), so wanted to get your thoughts on getting made as trousers.

Bernie

Hi Simon,

Are there any comparable linen fabrics that are densely woven and heavy like W Bill linen? Looking to make odd linen trousers and have seen great examples of W Bill trousers exhibiting nice drape & a strong crease. I looked at Harrison’s Mersolair and the Dugsdale Bros linen collections, but am wondering how they perform against W Bill.

Bernie

Upon closer reading, yes I see now. Thanks for your explanation.

Jack

Hi Simon,

How do you go about buying Loro Piana fabrics if you are starting your own small line clothing?
Even though they now own Solbiati and experts in wool, wow would you rate their linen and cottons ?

Thank you so kindly.

Many Thanks!

Lindsay Eric McKee

This is a great and timely post on linen bunches, and a great help to me and others!!!
Would be great to expand, as your time permits, on the many and varied bunch comparisons possible on say silk bunches, cotton bunches, escoriel bunches, trouser bunches, and well as say mid-weight travel suit bunches, winter suit bunches, fresco, mock -lino, ( how and where can this be used?) I received sample swatches of Finmeresco from Harrisons!! Would their 4-ply 13oz frescos make a great all-seasons jacket/ blazer fabric? It is pretty open weave, but a durable and heavier mid-weight fabric.
The list goes on …and on.
Super post .
Lindsay McKee

Kostas Bois

Dear Simon ,

I am searching for heavy linen bunches . I have used in the past linen from Huddersfield Fine Worsteds of 350 g (i think per linear meter) , but the color’s options are limited . By my research now W Bill linen are 380 g per linear meter and 4-5 times more expensive , Ulster Weavers at 255 gr per square meter and J.Hanna Glenariff at 270 gr per square meter . As i could notice most merchants quote their weights per linear meters instead of square meters. As i understand 255 gr per square meter are about 370 gr per linear meter and 270 gr per square meter are about 390 gr per linear meter ? Any other suggestions for heavy linen bunches ? Thanks.