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Homespun linen table cloth with a netted fringe, c. 1790-1820. Pictured in Chase House, Strawbery Banke Museum. Bruce Alexander Photography.

This tablecloth, found at an estate sale in New Hampshire, is a good example of homespun linen. It was made from two narrow panels seamed down the middle, then trimmed with netting. Even to the naked eye, the thread has the sheen common to linen, but the tassels look somewhat different. Could they be cotton? In the period in which it was made, there was plenty of factory-spun thead around.

An examination by Prof. Margaret Ordonez of the University of Rhode Island leaves no doubt but what the tassels, like the rest of the cloth, were spun from flax.

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Up-close images kindly provided by Dr. Margaret Ordonez, University of Rhode Island.

The tablecloth is from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's personal collection.

These relics of a nineteenth-century exhibit on flax production are now at the Vermont Historical Society. From left to right, they include unbleached linen thread, bleached thread, thread wound on a "quill" or spool, and combed flax ready for spinning.

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Image kindly provided by the Vermont Historical Society.

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1. Eliza Philbrick's "Colonial Gown"

2. Bed rug

3. Tablecloth

4. Woodsplint basket

5. Amanda K. Winter's blankets

6. Purse

7. Hannah Barnard "table stone" Hadley, MA cemetery