Linsey Woolsey

This is a bit of a departure from my usual spinning and knitting blogs. However, when you come down to it, this was really the whole reason I learned to spin to begin with!

Way back when, I was a theatre costumer. Then I was a living history reenactor and made historic clothing. Then I learned to weave. Somewhere along the line, I got the bright idea, “Wouldn’t it be cool to sew historic clothing with fabric I spun and wove myself?”

Cool, yes, but who knew the learning curve was so large?

It took some doing, but I finally reached the point where I was weaving cloth but then stopped to learn to knit and was completely sidetracked. However, one project I did finish was an-about-three-yard-long piece of linsey-woolsey.


The yarn was spun from a Romney fleece from “Silver,” a ewe owned by Sandy Morris in Cold Water, Michigan. I warped my Schacht rigid heddle with a linen warp and used the Romney singles for the weft. I should have either spun the singles a tad thicker, or else used a 12-dent reed, but for a first try, it was pretty good. I fulled the piece by throwing it into the washer and monitoring it to the point just before it felted.

For several years, I carted around my length of linsey woolsey to all my reenactments and demonstrations. I don’t believe half the people who saw it remotely understood what it was all about. However, I did find one believer.

My friend Glen May is the education director for the Monmouth County Historical Society. For the past few years, John and I have been presenting our spinning demonstration at the MCHA’s Holmes-Hendrickson House site in Holmdel, New Jersey. We do the Wool Days in April (this year, April 24 and 25), along with isolated other appearances.

Glen coveted my handspun, handwoven linsey-woolsey. Slight of build, he kept holding up the 15-inch-wide width and saying it was perfect for a waistcoat. Finally, Glen scored a real double-header:  he got me to agree to make completely from scratch a pair of black wool Colonial stockings, to go along with his new linsey-woolsey waistcoat. How could I turn down that challenge?

I will do another post about finding the perfect fleece for the stockings. The waistcoat was a bit easier, having already made the fabric. And, the joys of having a fully stocked sewing room on premises – here is the linsey woolsey to the left, a length of natural color heavy linen for the waistcoat back to the center, and a lighter lining weight linen on the right:


I am using the J.P. Ryan Men’s Waistcoat Pattern. I had to position this several times to make sure I had it right. No “do over’s” with handwoven.


The fabric width was just short of the pattern piece and will require piecing for the lower side flaps.


The pockets sewed up quickly:

My chiropractor has me on a knitting hiatus for a week or so, so expect more on the linsey-woolsey waistcoat!

One Response to Linsey Woolsey

  1. Allegra Raff says:

    Hi Kat,
    I Love this post. I can’t find a date on it, so I’m not sure when it’s from, but I just found it in 10/2017 when I typed in a search for “linsey-woolsey.” I am an independent clothing designer with a long interest in historical materials and production practices (though no formal training in historical textiles).
    I began my search already knowing what linsey woolsey was, but I was trying to find someone out there who produces it. Not so easy to find!! I admire that you produced it yourself.

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