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Oregon Custom Weavers Guild Linen Research Notebook, 1950

By Rachel Lilley

Collection Overview

Title: Oregon Custom Weavers Guild Linen Research Notebook, 1950


Primary Creator: Oregon Custom Weavers Guild

Extent: 0.25 cubic feet. More info below.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2005

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Oregon Custom Weavers Guild Linen Research Notebook represents the textile research done by Oregon Custom Weavers founders, and Oregon State College employees, Jesse E. Harmond, USDA agricultural engineer and head of Small Seed Harvesting and Processing Investigations, and Joan Patterson, Professor of Clothing, Textiles, and Related Arts. The collection is comprised of a notebook containing samples of Oregon linen subjected to various strength, fading, and shrinkage tests; and tow linen color samples of different linear densities, or lea.

Scope and Content Notes

The Oregon Custom Weavers Guild Linen Research Notebook is comprised of samples of woven linen fabric of various patterns and colors. Each fabric pattern was subjected to a battery of tests, and each test – for fading, color fastness, shrinkage, tensile strength, and stretch – is represented by a swatch of the fabric / pattern being tested.

A large swatch affixed to each left-hand page of the notebook was laundered to test for color fastness; specifically, these large swatches were tested to see if, and how much, each color bled onto the other colors in the pattern, and whether the pattern faded from laundering. This large swatch was also tested for warp and filling shrinkage; results of these tests are hand-written under the large swatch. A smaller, white swatch of fabric affixed to the large swatch was used to test whether or not colors transferred to the plain swatch.

On each facing, right-hand page of the notebook, a long, narrow swatch documents the effect of light exposure. Each fabric tested was exposed to a light source and tested for fading at regular intervals, the most common intervals being 8, 32, 55, and 79 hours. A control swatch is also included for each fabric. Data on tensile strength and stretch of each fabric is included on each left-hand page.

The notebook also contains a flyer for Silkar Studios – the New York City studio that was the exclusive retailer of the linen fabrics designed by Joan Patterson – and a flyer for Oregon Custom Weavers. Tow linen yarn samples of different linear densities, or lea, and colors are housed in Box 02 of the colleaction, as are extra samples of linen found with, but unattached to, the notebook.

Biographical / Historical Notes

The Oregon Custom Weavers Guild Research Notebook was likely an outgrowth of the work business partners, and Oregon State College researchers, Jesses Harmond and Joan Patterson.The notebook was compiled by Guild member Jesse Harmond. His residence in Corvallis is listed in the notebook as the main guild office.

In 1952, Jesse Harmond and Joan Patterson collaborated on a business venture, Oregon Custom Weavers, to produce, market, and promote home furnishing fabrics (e.g. draperies, upholstery, table linens) made from Oregon fiber flax. The linen yarns used in the patterns designed by Patterson were produced by the Oregon Flax Textile Company of Salem, Oregon and the fabric itself was woven by the Oregon Worsted Company of Portland, Oregon. In an effort to promote their product – and, by extension, the Oregon flax and linen industry – Patterson’s textiles were shown at the Silkar Studios in New York City in 1950. Press in attendance at the preview included Good Housekeeping, House and Garden, Handweaver and Craftsman, Modern Bride, and the New York Times. As a result of the showing, the fabrics were offered for sale through Silkar Studios, and the Jack Valentine outlet; in 1955, one of their more finely-woven drapery fabrics retailed for $20 per yard. The Chrysler Corporation placed a tentative order of 100,000 yards of fabric per car model; lack of sufficient credit rating on Oregon Custom Weaver’s part, however, caused the order to fall through.

Oregon’s inability at the time to control fiber flax prices within her own operations, paired with the relatively inexpensive fibers imported and used by eastern manufactures, meant that Oregon’s woven linen couldn’t compete on the open market, and manufacturing ultimately ceased. Oregon Custom Weavers was able to sell the remainder of Patterson’s previously manufactured fabric and weaving yarns out of Harmond’s home, at Russell’s Department Store in Eugene, Oregon, and at the Ceramic Studio in Portland. Weaving yarns continued to be manufactured by the Oregon Flax Spinning Company of Canby, Oregon, the only spinning mill in Oregon to work with flax.

Jesse Edward Harmond was born in Columbus, Mississippi on December 10, 1906.  From 1927 to 1932, he attended Mississippi State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. In 1939, Harmond began work with the United States Department of Agriculture as an Agricultural Engineer. Harmond came to Oregon State College in 1945 to serve as the head of Small Seed Harvesting and Processing Investigations, funded jointly by the Agricultural Engineering Research Division of the USDA and OSC. Harmond’s research and subsequent publications seem primarily to have focused on the mechanization of agricultural processes. Research topics included the efficacy of fluid conveying when processing seeds, using vibration in the separating of seeds, and seed cleaning by electrostatic separation. Harmond developed new fiber flax processing machines that drastically cut processing time at all stages of the process – from harvesting to drying to hand-working. In 1963, Harmond even researched the introduction of “electronic computers for the precise programming of [seed processing] machines, and the use of radioactive tracers for more effective blending of seed.” All these efforts cut the cost of labor and reduced processing times, further increasing the economic feasibility of fiber flax production in Oregon. Jesse Harmond retired in November 1969.

Joan Patterson was born April 25, 1907 in Baker, Oregon. She attended the University of Oregon from 1925 to 1931, graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture in interior design; in 1950, she completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Patterson worked for a year as a Research Assistant in Art Appreciation Teaching immediately after graduating from the University of Oregon, and in 1935 worked briefly as Assistant Decorator for the Meier and Frank Company. Hired by OSC in 1936 as a statewide Extension Service Instructor in home furnishings, Patterson later transferred to a resident teaching position in OSC’s School of Home Economics, where her teaching duties primarily focused on textiles design, home furnishing and interiors. By 1951 she’d been promoted to the rank of full professor. Patterson’s research focused largely on the use of Oregon-grown flax in weaving linen and other home furnishing fabrics. Fabrics woven by Professor Patterson were exhibited widely in the west, and in 1948 won first place in a national competition held by Moss-rose Manufacturing Company for a Jacquard loomed fabric. Joan Patterson retired from OSU in June of 1969.

The following resource was used to prepare this biographical note: Tobin, Louise Agnes. A History and Analysis of the Oregon Linen Industry. MS Thesis. Oregon State University, 1959. Web. 8 Jan. 2019.

Author: Rachel Lilley

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 2 boxes, including 1 oversize box

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The materials were donated to the University Archives by the Benton County Historical Society and Museum in 2005.

Related Materials:

The Apparel, Interiors, Housing, and Merchandising Department Records (RG 028) include records of the flax research conducted by Joan Patterson from 1947 to 1954. Additional materials documenting Joan Patteron's work with flax and flax weaving include the Gwil Evans Photographic Collection (P 082), and the News and Communications Services Records (RG 203). Joan Patterson's MFA thesis, Oregon Flax to Fabrics, completed at Cranbrook Academy in 1950, is a part of the History of the Pacific Northwest Rare Books Collection and is available for review in the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center Reading Room.

Additional materials documenting Jesse Harmond's work with flax, and the machinery he developed for processing seeds include the Oregon Fiber Flax Collection (MSS ORFiberFlax), Gwil Evans Photographic Collection (P 082), and the News and Communications Services Records (RG 203). Images from the Gwil Evans Photographic Collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital. The Oregon Fiber Flax Collection (MSS ORFiberFlax) documents Jesse Harmond's work with flax while serving as head of Small Seed Harvesting and Processing Investigations at Oregon State College.

The Bioresource Engineering Department Records (RG 001) include extensive flax research records as well as equipment plans and drawings. The Bioresource Engineeering Department Photograph Collection (P 106) and the Agricultural Engineering Department Motion Picture Films (FV 106) include approximately 500 images documenting flax harvesting and processing equipment and facilities and a 1947 film, Fiber Flax Growing and Processing in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Preferred Citation: Oregon Custom Weavers Guild Linen Research Notebook (MSS OCWG), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid replaces information about the collection that was placed online in 2012.


Oregon Custom Weavers Guild
Harmond, Jesse E. (Jesse Edward), 1906-
Patterson, Joan (1907-)

People, Places, and Topics

Flax industry--Oregon.
Local History
Oregon Custom Weavers Guild
Textile fabrics.
Textile industry.
Textile research--Oregon--Corvallis.

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