Off-white damask tablecloth with fringed edges said to have been made from spun bog cotton.
The fibres of bog cotton, or Common Cottongrass Eriophorum augustifolium, were used to stuff pillows and children’s mattresses, for wound dressings during the First World War, and in wicks for candles. The short, fragile fibres are, however, almost impossible to spin pure. A tradition collected by Alexander Carmichael in the nineteenth century set the task: “Canach an t-slèibhe/No maiden could get a man of old till she had spun and wove and sewn with her own hands a shirt of the canach. This was the marriage test!” (CW89/112 f.23v). There are a pair of stockings in the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall that are labelled: “made from bog cotton”. This reflects another tradition that a bride should wear bog cotton stockings on her wedding night. In the 1851 Great Exhibition catalogue (page 82) there is an entry from Inverness: “Linsey-woolsey made of cheviot wool and bog cotton. Bog cotton fibres can be spun if combined with other, longer, fibres like wool, linen or cotton.”