Irish People, Irish Linen

Overview

 The story of Irish linen is a story of the Irish people. Many thousands of men and women 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 sail cloth of incredible strength and durability for world exploration; 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 covered the bodies of men, women, and children

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Overview

 The story of Irish linen is a story of the Irish people. Many thousands of men and women 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 sail cloth of incredible strength and durability for world exploration; 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 covered the bodies of men, women, and children from birth to death—the rich and powerful, poor and pitiful alike.

 Into this cultural history, Kathleen Curtis Wilson weaves personal narratives, giving the story a voice: words and songs of individual spinners, factory workers, and out-workers 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.

 Lavishly illustrated and engagingly written, each chapter tells of art, social and economic history, design, architecture, technology, and cultural traditions that celebrate the industry of making linen, a highly useful and desirable commodity that helped transport Irish people across the Atlantic to influence the settling of North America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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. Together, they were part of the "Irish diaspora." Used as tough sails for ships, as watertight containers for firemen, and as clothing for both royalty and working class, linen was the "fabric of Irish society." 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

 "Irish People, Irish Linen is an extraordinary book, well researched, beautifully written, stunningly illustrated. As told by Kathleen Wilson, the story is compelling: a story about people and circumstances, about technology and textiles interwoven over five centuries. Wilson illustrates the narrative with some 175 gorgeous images that bring texture and immediacy to a fascinating history, a history that is more extensive and diverse than generally known. If you’re interested in the Irish people, or in technology or textiles, or in a wonderful story, beautifully illustrated, you, too, will be inspired. Irish People, Irish Linen will capture your imagination."
— Robert C. Vaughan, President, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Charlottesville, Virginia 

“A lively social history replete with fine photographs, this book will be of interest to many readers far beyond the pool of Irish textile fanciers.”
— Library Journal

“Rather than simply summarizing the history of the craft and industry, Wilson makes a strong and eloquent case for the close connection between Irish emigration and Irish linen. . . . Beautifully compiled with nearly 200 stunning color photographs of threaded looms, flax stalks and gorgeous patterns, Irish People, Irish Linen presents a little-known segment of history well worth acquainting oneself with.”
— Irish America

“This is a handsomely produced book with an abundance of fine illustrations to complement the words.”
— Irish Arts Review

“A grade-A recommendation.”
The Midwest Book Review

Library Journal
The warp threads of this book are linen, but the weft of the story is the sociology and history of the people who devoted their lives to transforming the fibers of the flax plant into a product known around the world for its quality, Irish linen. Wilson (Textile Art from Southern Appalachia), an authority on the textile arts of Appalachia, has completely integrated her appreciation of linen and lace as art into a much larger story of colonial politics, religion, climate, trade history, and moving personal stories. Beginning with the immigration of Scots to Ireland and the emigration of Irish, Wilson follows the extensive trade with the American Colonies to the replacement of hand spinning and weaving by steam-powered mills to the gradual diminution of the present-day linen industry by competition from China and changing popular fashion. VERDICT A lively social history replete with fine photographs, this book will be of interest to many readers far beyond the pool of Irish textile fanciers.—David McClelland, Andover, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821419717
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 10/11/2011
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 1,004,837
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

 Kathleen Curtis Wilson is the author of Uplifting the South—Mary Mildred Sullivan’s Legacy for Appalachia and Textile Art from Southern Appalachia: the quiet work of women. She guest curated a multivenue international exhibition by the same name. A renowned authority on Appalachian crafts, Wilson was craft section editor for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia. She lives in Alameda, California.

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