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The press release comes with half a dozen pictures, from the NAMES Memorial Quilt filling the entirety of the Mall in Washington DC in when it was seen by 14 million people , to the sumptuously coloured sewn story cloths of south-western China. Translation as Conversation: Turning Together. Spirit and Spice. Time for the Dead by Lin Anderson. Translation as Conversation: Alastair Reid. Happy Birthday Edinburgh University Press! Peter May is a novelist, originally from Glasgow but now living and working in France.

He started out as a journalist, studying at the Edinburgh College of Commerce, and winning the Fraser Award aged just 21 for his writing. Kessock Books, based in Inverness, publish an entertaining, informative and eclectic range of books on and about the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Subscription Notification. We have noticed that there is an issue with your subscription billing details. Please update your billing details here.

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Please update your billing information. The subscription details associated with this account need to be updated. Please update your billing details here to continue enjoying your subscription. Your subscription will end shortly. Please update your billing details here to continue enjoying your access to the most informative and considered journalism in the UK. Click here to see more Tap here to see more Tap here to see more. The flax plant grew with a single slender stem approx 1m high. In harvesting, stems were pulled from the ground, not cut, in order to preserve the full length of fibres.

Small bundles were laid out in fields to dry and the seeds removed, for the next crop of flax or for cattle food. The retting process depended on bacteria working between the fibres, loosening them.

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More recently developed chemical agents have allowed better control of this process. Retted plants were dried in fields again before scutching - beating them to further loosen individual fibres and remove debris.

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Scutching was a dusty job, done often by hand in confined spaces. Scutch mills, powered by an adjacent river, provided a mechanical process of beating which was faster, but dangerous — clothing or limbs could be caught by the blades and the mills often caught fire, ferociously, fed by abundant dry fibres. Flax seeds were usually sown by men, with women weeding the growing plants. Everyone, including children, was involved in the harvesting. Young children wound scutched fibres loosely into bundles, older children spun more refined fibres and women spun finished fine quality threads.

Fathers and older boys worked looms and took products to the market. Extended families and local communities worked together, sharing resources. At times good seeds could be hard to find and especially so in Northern Ireland during the first World War. Involvement in the linen industry engendered a sense of loyalty and mutual support within families and communities. These were dusty processes but nothing was wasted. Woody stems were used for chipboard, short fibres were spun into a heavy yarn, for ropes and furnishings, longer coarser fibres were spun into threads for shoes, leather goods, canvas or carpeting.

Fine quality threads were reserved for handkerchiefs, tablecloths and bedding. Bleaching the fine linen once relied on washing and laying on grass in sunshine but the development of chemicals made the process less dependent on weather, and more efficient. Textile workers with responsibility for preparing these chemical mixes required competence in numeracy. Just as medical students and doctors must calculate doses of drugs correctly, so factory staff were required to calculate correct quantities of chemicals for various processes - or hours of hard labour could be destroyed irreversibly with huge financial loss.

Factory work was not easy — the hours were long, often from 5.

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Longer hours were required in summer and shorter in winter. Decisions regarding time were not those of the workers. Nevertheless, the work was appreciated, as expressed poetically:. NI was recognised as a world-leader in this area of work, even exporting knowledge and skill to America. Belfast, at one time, was the city with the largest spinning mill, largest rope works and largest shipyard in the world. As the linen industry flourished, it supported the development of communities.

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The houses constructed for the mill workers were of good quality; many are still inhabited today. Each house had an allotment garden for growing vegetables. The village of Milford in County Armagh, was also established around the local linen mill. Rich and poor lived amicably in close proximity. Today the factory is idle but the neat terraces of red bricked houses, built by the mill owner, William McCrum, for the workers, remain comfortable homes.

The immense water-power of the River Mourne was the reason for choosing the site for Sion Mills in The mill and village built there provided better living standards for the community - by piped gas from the mill provided light for the village street and for every house. There was no public house until a court case was lost in but there was a village band, with singing classes for the girls. For the first 30 years everyone attended Church together; work, housing and schooling was provided for all, without discrimination.

Interestingly, the new state primary school in the s was the first integrated state school in NI. Lower wages in other countries made the textile industry in NI uncompetitive. The sporting tradition of Sion Mills began in , with a cricket team, which included both workers and gentry. Cricket is still an important feature of that community which readily recalls the celebrated moment in July when an Irish team defeated a West Indian touring team in the village. However, textile products themselves have relevance within many sports.

Not only is team clothing important, but also the quality of materials used, for example, in sails, parachutes, skipping ropes and fishing lines. Fine precision in weaving allows textiles to provide strength and resilience in all sorts of conditions. Textile manufacturers are often asked to adapt their products to meet different specifications.

A dropped glove would not be retrieved easily at high altitudes and would certainly be a threat to well-being. Linen has been used in covering aircraft wings, for years. Its durability and strength is demonstrated in a small aerobatic aeroplane, built in , which has given countless hours of pleasure to various pilots in NI with the original fabric remaining intact and blemish free. The positive impact of flying on mental health is recounted by many pilots.

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Since this is National Poetry Day, one such poetic reflection may be given —. The earliest medical textile was linen: poultices, drawing infection from wounds, used linen cloth for application. Life today seems so much easier! Many preparations are available in tubs or tubes and some are already integrated with the cloth. Attention to detail in engineering, keeping machines running smoothly, underpins the quality of textile products. Precision is required in each component thread of every product to create the desired design Fig 2.

Some local products that are used in medical practice and have been distributed worldwide include sutures, bandages, tapes and dressings. Research in biotextiles is creating new interactive fabrics with sensors, actuators and logic circuits.