Saturday, November 22, 2008

Irish Linen

Irish Linen is made from flax, an annual flowering plant and the process is very labor intensive and quite interesting. The plant had to be cultivated and then pulled from the ground or carefully cut near the root. The plants then went through a process called retting where plant bundles were soaked in a pond or stream. When the plants were deemed to be at just the right stage of rot the fibers needed to be separated from the rest of the plant by scutching or braking (beating the plants to separate out the fibers.) Then the fibers can be combed and spun. Rachael Kinnison at the Lady's Repository Museum has a very detailed and thorough article, Homespun, about the process with wonderful pictures of the tools used.

A very good but brief history of linen in Ireland see: A History of Irish Linen. From humble beginnings to to an industry fought over in the British Parliament. The growing of flax and it's rotation in fields with potatoes saved the northern part of Ireland from the worst of the potato famine that devastated the rest of the country.

Irish linen was used for more than clothing and table linens. When we take to skies these days we do so in great behemoths made of metal but once the wings of planes were covered with Irish Linen!
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Yankee Ingenuity in the War By Frank Parker Stockbridge

The full page ad below appeared in magazines during the early 1920's.
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Scribner's Magazine ... By Edward Livermore Burlingame, Robert Bridges, Alfred Dashiell, Harlan Logan

To me Irish Linen is synonymous with high quality and is my first choice for cross stitch projects. My first project worked on linen was appropriately my favorite Irish blessing.

May love and laughter light your days
and warm your heart and home
May good and faithful friends be yours
wherever you may roam
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures
May all life's passing seasons bring
the best to you and yours

This was written for the anniversary edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture to be hosted by Lisa at Small-leaved Shamrock on Monday, November 24th. Be sure to check out all the articles written "For the love of Ireland."

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