The sign of the unicorn. A fabric shop for 18th century reenactors and historians.

Hemp Linen

Hemp linen was produced in great quantities in Russia and was therefore often called Russia linen in the 18th century. Virginia also saw hemp as a way to reduce its dependency on tobacco as a cash crop. With foreign supplies of hemp linen cut off during the American Revolution, Virginia greatly increased its production of hemp linen by building mills to meet demand. The natural beige color of our Russia linens is completely appropriate; however, all of these hemp linens will easily turn white if you wash them in chlorine bleach. Much of the information on these pages is gathered from Swatches: A Guide to Choosing 21st Century Fabrics for 18th Century Clothing which has swatches you can feel and for a wider view of fabrics imported to the Americas try Textiles in America 1650-1870.

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Ticken
100% hemp, 12 oz., 60" wide, $19.00/yd.
WHD 099

Ticking (also ticken) is a twill weave linen tending to be finer than Russia drill. Ticking was often striped but was white as well and it is difficult to tell which was most common. It is used for the same purposes as Russia drill but there are more references for ticking in England. Ticking was commonly used to make breeches, waistcoats, pillows, sacks, and bed ticks. Less commonly ticken was used to make trousers, jackets, coats, and women's pockets. The sailor's contract of 1706 called for ticken waistcoats and breeches. Hand sewing this project would work well using 35/2 off white linen thread. In The Virginia Gazette of 1737, "ran away from the Subscriber, Two Convict Servant Men. One is an Irish Man . . .  professes himself a Gardener by Trade; and took with him . . .  one pair of Ticken Breeches". And in 1780, London in the trials of a highway robbery in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, "What colour was Bob Drury 's coat? - It was a jacket he wore. What colour? - A kind of ticking. A whitish colour? - Yes."

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Russia Drill
100% hemp, 12 oz., 61" wide, $20.00/yd.
WHP 100

We have recently changed our supplier for Russia drill. This new fabric is very similar in weight and texture but will appear slightly darker than what we had before. We think you will like this just as well.

Russia drilling or drill is a stout twilled fabric used to make both military and civilian clothing, usually breeches and trousers, but occasionally coats or jackets. For example in The Virginia Gazette in 1775 "Run away from the Subscriber . . .  a Convict Servant Lad . . .  a Native of London . . .  He had on, and took with him . . .  Russia Drill Breeches". Hand sewing this project would work well using 35/2 or 16/2 off white or unbleached linen thread.

Russia drilling had military uses also. Drill was used in summer-weight clothing in the French & Indian War, by New-York's Provincial Congress, who bought Russia-drilling for the waistcoats and breeches of its four 1775 regiments, and by some British and loyalist regiments in America after 1778 and made by the regimental tailors into breeches, waistcoats, and overalls.

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Hemp Sheeting, Drab & Canvas, 100% hemp, 59" wide
Russia Sheeting, WHP 101, 12.5 oz., $20.00/yd.
Russia Drab, WHP 102, 16 oz., $21.00/yd.

Russia-sheeting & Russia-canvas were both plain weave hemp linens. Fabric made of finer weight threads was called sheeting & heavier weights canvas. Russia duck was hemp sheeting with a glazed finish to help shed water. Glazed hemps are not commercially available today. Russia drab was simply any coarse hemp fabric that is left unbleached and therefore of a drab color similar to our 16 oz. drab.

Russia canvas, sheeting, and drab were used to make sturdy knapsacks, sacks, spatterdashes, haversacks, drop cloths, bags, market wallets, chair seats, wagon covers, tents and clothing. Negro slaves were given shirts made of canvas. Sometimes used for durable waistcoats, hunting shirts and breeches, and for sailor's trousers. Working class women's stays may be made of canvas since the rubbing of the boning will wear through weaker fabrics. In The Virginia Gazette in 1772, "RUN away from the Ship POLLY . . .  [a] Seamen WILLIAM STEVENS . . .  he had on when he went away . . .  short Canvas Trousers." For another example in The Virginia Gazette in 1773, "COMMITTED to the gaol . . .  a runaway Negro man . . .  had on a Russia sheeting coat and breeches". If you will be hand sewing your project try our 35/2 or 16/2 unbleached or off white linen thread. If one of these hemp linens are not exactly what you are interested in you might look at our coarse flax linens.

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Indigo 1/8" Stripe, 55% hemp/45% organic cotton, 8.5 oz., 58" wide, $14.00/yd.
WHP 107

Blue and white stripe linen was extremely common for working class garments both in Europe and the New World. Runaway descriptions repeatedly refer to blue and white stripe linen and several original garments are made of very similar fabric to that pictured here. This hemp blend is tightly woven and prewashed. It has numerous uses. For women: petticoats, gowns and jackets. For men: waistcoats, jackets, trousers, breeches, shirts, work aprons, workmen's caps, and outer breeches (commonly known as slops although this term actually refers to all unfitted clothing). Stripe linen is an excellent choice for children's clothing too. For example in The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1777 "Ran away . . .  a Dutch servant girl . . .  She had on a blue and white striped linen short gown" as cited in Wenches, Wives and Servant Girls. Linen thread for hand sewing in 35/2 off white and one inch cotton twill tape natural matches this fabric well. Tape of matching color is often used as binding on women's petticoats and gowns.

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Brown 1/8" Stripe, 55% hemp/45% organic cotton, 8.5 oz., 59" wide, $14.00/yd.
WHP 108

Brown and white stripe linen slightly less common than blue stripes for working class garments both in Europe and the New World. This hemp blend is tightly woven and prewashed. It may be used for women's petticoats, gowns and jackets and for men waistcoats, jackets, trousers, breeches, shirts, work aprons, workmen's caps, and outer breeches (commonly known as slops although this term actually refers to all unfitted clothing). Stripe linen is an excellent choice for children's clothing too. For example in The Pennsylvania Evening Post in 1779 "Ran away . . .  an apprentice girl . . .  had on, and took with her, two short gowns, one of white linen, the other striped brown and white". Linen thread for hand sewing in 35/2 off white and one inch cotton twill tape natural matches this fabric well. Tape of matching color is often used as binding on women's petticoats and gowns.

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Red 1/8" Stripe, 55% hemp/45% organic cotton, 8.5 oz., 59" wide, $14.00/yd.
WHP 109

Red and white stripe linen was not as common as other colors but it does show up occasionally. This hemp linen is tightly woven and prewashed. It has numerous uses. For women: petticoats, gowns and jackets. For men: waistcoats, jackets, trousers, breeches, shirts, work aprons, workmen's caps, and outer breeches (commonly known as slops although this term actually refers to all unfitted clothing). Stripe linen is an excellent choice for children's clothing too. For example in The Virginia Gazette of 1773, "RUN away . . .  two convict servant men . . .  [one of them] by trade a cooper, born in Ireland, and has a good deal of the brougue . . .  Had on, and carried with him . . .  a red and white striped cotton and linen jacket, with sleeves, double breasted, and the stripes across". Linen thread for hand sewing in 35/2 off white and 1" cotton twill tape natural matches this fabric well. Tape of matching color is sometimes what is used as binding on women's petticoats and gowns.

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