Boiled Linseed Oil

With winter fast approaching, I’m debating making myself a new jacket. One might argue silk is not the best fabric for winter wear. I would argue silk is a fantastic insulating fabric and provides decent weather protection, but it is hard to argue that silk is better than wool for weather resistance. Enter this post from Sew Historically. To be honest, this is the website offered by google when searching for Waterproofing silk, but the first 4 had to do with developing products and MIT studies. I was looking for practical application I could play around with immediately.

Historically, when reference to oilcloth is located, it’s referring to canvas or duck fabric that has been coated with boiled linseed oil. Historically, the oil was boiled with lead. Modern blends do NOT contain led and consequently, the results are not AS water proof as may have been in the past. But, here’s what I did.

before and after

before and after

Took one square-ish piece of scrap fabric, in this case Alabaster Silk Twill. I went with white so I could test for color. I was pretty sure the linseed oil would effect the color and it did, although not as much as I might have thought it would. Things I wasted time on were putting the scrap in a hoop to keep it off the surface. Using the plastic drop cloth was plenty, the hoop did nothing beyond put massive hoop ring in the fabric, which I’m scared to iron out, given how highly flammable boiled linseed oil is (HINT: The can advises that product has been known to spontaneously com-bust while drying.) So as a safety precaution, I had a fire extinguisher on hand while doing this experiment.

Additional safety tip: Boiled Linseed is considered a hazardous material and CANNOT just be dumped down the drain. So pour with extreme caution not only to avoid making a mess, but to avoid waste and an extra trip to the dump for hazardous waste disposal. I used a paper bowl for easy disposal.

water beads up

water beads up

The referenced blog post from Sew Historically called for two coats of boiled linseed, so after putting the first coat on, I let it dry a few hours and applied the second coat. Then I let it dry for a solid 24 hours before testing water proofing. And I found that while it was water resistant, and water did bead up at first, the more water sprinkled on the fabric, and finger pressure applied from behind caused the water to run through to the back.

So it would work as a temporary resistance, but if you’re going to be out in extended weather, I would not use boiled linseed oil. Also, the linseed oil did cause yellowing of the silk. Not hideous, it looks more like a slightly aged patina, but if keeping the color of your project is very important, than don’t use the boiled linseed.

Since the jacket I’m planning to make will be made of the Alabaster twill, and I LIKE the white color, I won’t be using boiled linseed. But I’ll keep experimenting. Or not wear the coat in rainy weather. Either option works. Until then, here’s the video: