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Colonial American linsey-woolsey

Linsey-woolsey (less often, woolsey-linsey or in Scots, wincey) is a coarse twill or plain-woven fabric woven with a linen warp and a woollen weft. Similar fabrics woven with a cotton warp and woollen weft in Colonial America were also called linsey-woolsey or wincey.[1][2] The name derives from a combination of lin (an archaic word for flax, whence "linen") and wool. This textile has been known since ancient times; known as shatnez (שַׁעַטְנֵז) in Hebrew, the Torah and hence Jewish law explicitly forbid wearing it.[3]


The coarse fabric called stuff woven at Kidderminster from the 17th century, originally a wool fabric, may have been of linsey-woolsey construction later on. Linsey-woolsey was an important fabric in the Colonial America due to the relative scarcity of wool in the colonies.[2] Many sources[4] say it was used for whole-cloth quilts, and when parts of the quilt wore out the remains would be cut up and pieced into patchwork quilts. Some sources dispute this[5] and say that the material was too rough and would have been used instead for clothing and occasionally for light blankets. It was also used as a ground fabric for needlepoint.

Linsey-woolsey was valued for its warmth, durability, and cheapness, but not for its looks.

Linsey-woolsey is also sometimes used to refer to 18th century woven coverlets or bed coverings made with a linen warp and woollen weft. The term is sometimes incorrectly applied to glazed textiles.[6]

Linsey-woolsey continues to be woven today in small quantities for historical recreation and Colonial period decorating uses.

Cultural references[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, cited at, retrieved 22 June 2007, and Random House Dictionary, via [1] retrieved 25 June 2007
  2. ^ a b Baumgarten, Linda: What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, Yale University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-300-09580-5, page 96
  3. ^ "A garment of a Shaatnez mixture shall not come upon you" (Leviticus 19:19); "Do not wear Shaatnez — wool and linen together" (Deuteronomy 22:11).
  4. ^ See Linsey-Woolsey at, retrieved 22 June 2007
  5. ^ See for example Historic Textile Research & Articles Archived 2007-07-26 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 22 June 2007
  6. ^ Linsey-woolsey compared to glazed fabrics in antique quits Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Random House Dictionary, via [2] retrieved 25 June 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • Tozer, Jane and Sarah Levitt, Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870, Laura Ashley Press, ISBN 0-9508913-0-4

External links[edit]