Linsey-Woolsey, a book of intaglio prints on handmade Linen/Wool paper will be on display at The Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, Colorado from June 20 - September 13.

Linsey-Woolsey was chosen to be included in the juried show Forces Unseen as well as the upcoming show Interweavings at The Abecedarian Gallery

For the past eleven months, I have been experimenting with the blending of linen and wool fibers. As a yarn spinner, I began working with linen and wool by mixing the two raw fibers with wool hand cards and then spinning the blended fiber on my spinning wheel, producing Linsey-Woolsey yarn. I was fascinated with the idea of using one fiber from a plant and one from an animal. It produced such a strong and beautiful yarn, the fibers really seemed to compliment each other. I wondered why animal fibers were not more commonly used in papermaking. After questioning every papermaker I knew, I finally found someone who was also interested in this question. This paper is the product of a collaborative (Heidi Atwood - Might Could Press) experiment with linen rag and wool roving.

Intaglio Print on Linen/Wool Handmade Paper

Linum usitatissimum

After taking the fibers through several different mediums - spinning, papermaking, weaving - and representations - drawings, photographs, intaglio prints - and speaking to people as a living history demonstrator of spinning & weaving, I became very interested in the history and social use/interaction/reaction to these fibers. I was puzzled by the ideas that have been attached to the blending of these two fibers. Inspired by the varied facts and feelings associated with the blending of Linen and Wool, I set out to learn more about the social history of Linsey-Woolsey and to then blend these two disctinctly different stories together into book form.

Some of the elements of interest:

Linsey-Woolsey is a strong durable fabric made of two distinctly different fibers, one from a plant cellulose fiber and one from an animal protein fiber.

As a living history demonstrator, I found that children shared my fascination with spinning the plant and animal fibers together. The children loved touching the two raw fibers and feeling the differences in texture. They thought that the linen looked like human hair or horse hair and had a hard time believing that it came from the inside of a plant.

Twice, the Bible specifically prohibits fabric blended of linen and wool - Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11.

Colonial American quilts were typically backed with linsey-woolsey fabric. Many textile historians believe that "the linen and woolen quilts which we see today survived because the cloth was stronger than other weaves in use at the same time. " Dian Crayne Patches from the Past: Scraps of Fabric, Sewing & Quilting History

"The colonists were manufacturing serge, worsted, kersey, and linsey-woolsey fabrics and later woolen stockings. English industries suffering from the East India Company's import of cheap fabrics were not prepared to brook further competition from America. A flourishing ship building industry would enable the colonists to export manufactured woolen goods to Europe and other foreign markets to the detriment of English producers." Taxation in Colonial America: 1607-1775 by Alvin Rabushka

In Norman Yetman's Voices from Slavery: 100 Authentic Slave Narratives, James Lucas, age 104, describes the "clean rough clothes" that he wore "around at de Big House and to town". "I wore rough clothes. De pants was white Linsey-Woolsey... De womens wore linsey-woolsey dresses and long leggin's like de soldiers wear."

"I have a vivid recollection of the linsey-woolsey dress given to me every winter by Mrs. Flint. How I hated it! It was one of the badges of slavery." Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Autobiography by Harriet Jacobs

Linsey-Woolsey blends not only linen and wool fibers but also the social fabric of history and memory, fact and feelings.