Colonial American linsey-woolsey
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]


Mentions of a linsey-woolsey appear in late medieval sources in the Netherlands, as well as in other north-western European areas in the proceeding couple hundred years. In French, it went by "tiretaine", Danish "thirumtej", and by other names in other languages. These names were anglicised as "turtein" or "tartan" (not to be confused with tartan patterns).[4] Hemp would also have been used together with the linen in warp yarns at this time.

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[5] 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[6] 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.[7]

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

Cultural references

See also


  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. ^ Kerridge, Eric (1985). Textile manufactures in early modern England. Internet Archive. Manchester, UK ; Dover, N.H. : Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-1767-4.
  5. ^ See Linsey-Woolsey at, retrieved 22 June 2007
  6. ^ See for example Historic Textile Research & Articles Archived 2007-07-26 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 22 June 2007
  7. ^ Linsey-woolsey compared to glazed fabrics in antique quits Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Random House Dictionary, via [2] retrieved 25 June 2007

Further reading