Legacy Linen Twill - New Product


 Legacy Linen Twill

The story of this newest offering starts more than 30 years ago, when I was a college student that loved to embroider.  Every Friday night, a group of my friends would get together to do needlework and watch old movies on the local television station.  Our favorite movies were anything with Clark Gable or Cary Grant.  (This was before the invention of the VCR, Blockbuster, or DVD’s but I digress.) Having purchased, stitched and given away several wool embroidery kit designs as gifts, I did not understand at the time this was crewelwork embroidery.  After buying my first Elsa Williams kit, a Jacobean bell pull on linen twill, and then discovering the Erica Wilson's Crewel Embroidery Book, I learned what the distinction was.

Crewel Embroidery Kit

Access Commodities has always sold Appletons Crewel yarn and for a brief time in the early 1990’s we also sold linen twill for crewelwork embroidery.  In those days, I began to notice a difference in the quality of the goods we were receiving from the manufacturer.  The fabric weave seemed more loose and lacked the firm hand and drape that it had previously.

I took my unfinished Elsa Williams’ Jacobean bell pull kit on a visit to the manufacturer’s representative in New York.  In the meeting, I showed him the quality of twill that was in my then 15 year old kit and a swatch of the linen twill I had recently received from him in the last shipment.

He sighed as he fingered the twill on my bell pull.  “Yes, Madame.   I understand what you want.  What we have to sell is garment quality and what you are looking for is a furnishing quality.  We no longer make this.  But, if you are willing to buy 1,000 to 2,000 meters I will see what I could do.”

I swallowed deeply and thought to myself, “A thousand meters, would take a financial commitment I had neither the means nor the market to move that much merchandise.”

After thanking him for his time, I left his office and made a decision that since Access Commodities could no longer obtain linen twill that would be a similar quality, we would discontinue selling it.  

Nevertheless, this did not mean that we ever abandoned the idea of having a linen twill fabric that would meet our standards.  As time passed we continued to look and ask for what we knew would be a type of weaving that would be sufficient to making crewelwork embroidery that would be of heirloom quality.  At the beginning of 2009,  we considered the following questions:

  • Did Access Commodities have a market at this time for a furnishing quality type of linen twill?
  • Did the weaver of Legacy Linen have the right yarn? 
  • Is this the right time to take business risk of this magnitude?

he answer, to all of these questions was “yes”.  Legacy Linen Twill has a firmly woven hand and smooth finish, that one purchaser has described as "luscious."

Pictured below is a sample swatch of what was sent to us to make a selection on the thread count from the manufacturer.  Keep in mind that what you are seeing has not been “finished” but a raw sample from the loom.

Linen Twill Swatch
Here is some context about the selection, production and use of linen twill and American crewelwork embroidery.

-Linen Twill or “tweel” is a type of weaving that produces a diagonal ribbed effect on the cloth.1 “The direction of diagonals on one face (of the fabric) is always the reverse of that on the opposite face.”

-Most early American crewel embroidery that can be identified as such is not done on a 100% linen twill, usually it is a plain weave ground like our Strathaven linen, or an even heavier tabby weave.

-Some of the traditional uses for crewel embroidery described in household inventories of the 17th and 18th century are bed curtains, valances, cushions, clothing (such as petticoats), work bags, blankets, fire screens, bible covers and even potholders. Clearly, putting a piece of embroidery in a frame to put on a wall was not part of the aesthetic of crewelwork at this time.

Here are some additional questions I am looking into about linen twill, or other fabric grounds for crewelwork:

1) If most crewelwork embroidery made in the colonial period was not done on linen twill, what was used and what was it called?

2) If this is true, why do most American crewelwork teachers insist on using linen twill?

3) Where was the fabric made that was used in early American crewel embroidery? Was it made in the U. S., or was it imported from England or….? What about the linen that has been used during the crewelwork revival that coincided with the Colonial Revival?

4) How has the crewelwork done during Colonial Revival period after World War II affected us as embroiderers doing crewelwork embroidery now?

5) Aside from crewelwork embroidery, are there other uses for a furnishing weight linen twill?

I would appreciate any comments from readers of this blog. Please specify the question to which you are responding.

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