Irish People, Irish Linen

By Kathleen Curtis Wilson

“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

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, 1977–2001

Irish People, Irish Linen is a stunningly beautiful coffee table book…. Kathleen Curtis Wilson is to be congratulated on the brilliant organization of her material and the superb manner in which it is displayed.”


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 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 Curtis Wilson weaves personal narratives and the 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 linen industry.

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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Related Subjects

Textile Arts · Art · Irish History · Social History · Labor History · European History · History · Art History





Retail price: $49.95, S.
Release date: Sep. 2011
328 pages · 10 × 10 in.
Rights: World

Additional Praise for Irish People, Irish Linen

“(The) use of primary sources enhances several…chapters and offers a welcome, personal view of Ireland and linen production.”

Winterthur Portfolio

“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

“A never-forgotten piece of Irish history.”

Maggie Jackson, President/Designer, Maggiknits, Inc.

“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

“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, President and CEO, Turlough McConnell Communications

“An extraordinary book, well researched, beautifully written, stunningly illustrated.”

Robert C. Vaughan, President, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities