For more than a hundred years, a worldwide audience has associated the phrase Irish linen with the island of Ireland as closely as it has the Great Famine, leprechauns, Irish whiskey, limericks, green hills, and stonewalls. How and why the small island of Ireland became so identified with this plain white cloth, criticized for its wrinkles and revered for its durability, is a story of emigration, politics, industry, and marketing initiatives. Ireland’s first wave of migration to the American colonies and Ireland’s prominence as a center for shipbuilding and machine production can be traced directly to the demands of the linen industry.
Lavishly illustrated with 185 color photographs and engagingly written, each chapter tells of art, social and economic history, design, fashion, architecture, technology, and cultural traditions that celebrate the linen industry.
The story of Irish linen is a story of the Irish men and women who made Irish linen a global product and an international brand. It is also a story of innovation and opportunity.
Irish linen has served its makers as sailcloth of incredible strength and durability for world exploration and trade; it has functioned as watertight containers for farmers and firemen; it has soothed the brows of royalty and absorbed the sweat of the working class. As outerwear and underwear, linen has clothed men, women, and children from birth to death—the rich and powerful, poor and pitiful alike.
Into this cultural history Kathleen weaves personal narratives and the words and songs of individual spinners, factory workers, and outworkers like Sarah McCabe, who created fabulous linen lace; Sarah Leech, who wrote poetry as she spun fine thread; the three Patterson women, who worked in Mossley Mill for a total of one hundred years; and the Herdman brothers, who settled in county Tyrone to build a mill and a utopian community.
It is nearly impossible to tell any story, let alone the history of Irish linen, without using textile terms in the descriptive narrative. As an example, the following phrases are used in everyday speech but with little regard to the original connotation of their textile relevance: let’s follow the thread of her argument and weave together a story about your adventures; the fabric of the community is made up of a few close-knit families who share good times and bad; it is a tightly woven group of friends. Many of these words, separated from the text as sidebar comments, are sprinkled throughout each chapter of the book.
An extraordinary book, well researched, beautifully written, stunningly illustrated. —Robert C. Vaughan, President, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Irish People, Irish Linen is a magnificent history of the Irish people and their association with linen, a tie that dates back to the eighth century. As 10 million Irish moved from their homeland during the past four centuries, they carried their love for Irish linen with them. Kathleen Curtis Wilson eloquently describes this saga in her beautifully illustrated book on linen, the queen of fabrics. —William R. Ferris, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1997– 2001
Kathleen Wilson is a deeply observant historian whose examination of the Irish textile industry connects the fine details to stunning effect. With supreme intelligence and wit, she tells the riveting story of Irish linen, the elegant craft practiced by a proud people for centuries. This is art history at its artistic best. —Turlough McConnell, Special Features Director, Irish America magazine
The exceptional images in this book state the case for using photo documentation as an integral aspect of textile and costume preservation. —Patricia Ewer, coauthor of Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice
A never-forgotten piece of Irish history. —Maggie Jackson, President/Designer, Maggiknits, Inc.
Published in hardcover only.
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More information about Irish Linen from Wikipedia
Irish People – Irish Linen by Kathleen Curtis Wilson