Why Cotton as Linen? The Use of Wool in Beds in Norway
Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Tone Skårdal Tobiasson & Kirsi Laitala
Cotton is the “natural” choice and the dominating material in bed linen and sleepwear in Norway as in many other European countries. Regulation of temperature and humidity are important for good sleep, but they are not cotton’s strong points. There must have been other than the functional reasons which made cotton the winner in the bedding market. This article builds on literature about bedding in Norway from the 1800s and survey questions from 1951. We ask the question: what materials have been used and why? Wool was used in all bed textiles, both closest to the body and the layers over and under, from the cheapest chopped rags to the most costly textiles. The decline was seen throughout the 1800 and 1900s, but only in the 1960s does wool become totally absent as a next to skin bed textile. The cheap imports of cotton made cottage industry and home production unprofitable and the new emphasis on cleanliness gave cotton a clear leverage.