Thankfully in addition to the artefacts being preserved in museums, there are one or two individual collectors who are doing a great job of saving important linen-related materials and machinery, which might otherwise be discarded or destroyed.
One such collector is a gentleman near Gilford in Co. Down, who has amassed a huge collection. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit him and be shown some fascinating memorabilia, machinery and documents. At last I stood in front of the type of machine that would have been used by my great aunt, when she worked as a linen yarn winder in 1901 in Belfast.
Her job involved transferring the linen yarn from the large spools to the smaller pirns or bobbins, which were then inserted into the shuttles and passed to the weavers. She would have worked from 6am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 6am to 12.30 on a Saturday! Long hard hours, for sure.
I have talked about point charts before; but I had never seen ones of the size in this collection!
Below the chart you can see the salesmen's cards showing the style of the tablecloth designs, each one with its design name and pattern number printed to the top.
And then there were pattern books full of beautiful damask cloths and napkins. Each design was stamped with the pattern number and the size. I thought perhaps these too were salesmen's samples, but apparently it was more likely that they were archive records. The quality of the weaving was just stunning and there were 100s of designs!
So there I was in a huge barn in the middle of a field in the heart of Co. Down (an unlikely place for me, as anyone who knows me will tell you!) and I couldn't believe what a great time I had. So many new facts learned and so many stories recounted. I think I need to go back for another visit sometime soon!