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Textile Creep
by Kari Mullen-McLaughlin

It may be a tale far better told by another:
this feeling crawling up his spine,
causing him to cringe and bare his teeth;
to shiver
when he hears this word from me
And his visceral desire to flee...
You may not know shit from Shinola
or Macassar from an anti-macassar;
but soon you will see...
Owing to Mr. Mercer for the
Stringy spooled spirals,
under the lamp
Consideration to Mr. Rowland for the
Interwoven itchy inches,
Clinging on the chair arms and back
For the sake of idle ladies are the
Light lacy lengths,
Skimming the mantle.
Moisten (starch?) –iron and proceed to:
Place on every surface. Rags.
Trim every fabric. Weeds.
Hang from windows and dress the walls. Webs.
Eat on it. Lattice.
Sit with it. Skeins.
Wear it. Nets.
Live with it. Filigree.
Die with it. Mesh.
Oi, say I
casting poils before swine,
goils with swoils of coils
aren’t so oily that they must make a d’oiley.
Torn tatted treasures, yellowed with age;
Crotchety crocheted coverlets, pooling the floor;
Long lacey largesse, lining the dresser;
Perforated piece-worked patterns, floating o’er a china plate.
And she who lies stupified at length on the sofa-her brain on a boil
drawn into the vortex
she is spun into the d’oiley.
Is something moving in there?
What is it saying?
“They’re coming to get you, Baa-brah.”


Author's note:
This poem is dedicated to 5 men without whom it would not have been possible:

  • My husband John McLaughlin - this is his phobia ;)

  • Nobleman Robert D’oyley (before 1051?-1091)

  • Father of textile chemistry-John Mercer (1791-1866)

  • Celebrated London barber-Alexander Rowland (1747-1823)

  • Businessman/inventor George Melancthon Wetmore (1858 – 1923)

A new process for treating cotton fibers called Mercerisation was devised in 1844 by John Mercer.  The treatment shrank the fabric and increased its tensile strength and affinity for dyes.  Mercerisation is one of the oldest methods of treating cellulose textile fibres. It has been applied mostly to cotton textiles. The treatment involves soaking the fibres in a dilute solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH).


  1. Improves the fibre surface adhesive characteristics by removing natural and artificial impurities, thereby producing a rough surface topography.

  2. Changes the cellulose crystalline form in a complex solid-state mechanism, increasing the amount of amorphous cellulose at the expense of crystalline cellulose

  3. Leads to fibre fibrillation, that is, breaking down the com posite fibre bundle into smaller fibres, increasing the effective surface area available for contact with the wet matrix.


The improvement of cotton fiber and thus thread, led to a cottage industry of women young and old, tatting up many MANY fine doilies.  Alexander Rowland (1747–1823) was a celebrated London barber. It was then not uncommon for barbers to make their own hair preparations, and around 1793 Rowland began offering Rowland's Macassar Oil. Within two decades it had become hugely popular, and was used extensively by men throughout the 1800s and early 1900s as a hair conditioner to groom and style the hair.  It was aggressively advertised with extravagant claims of its effectiveness, becoming one of the first nationally advertised products.


The words Macassar Oil were registered as a trademark by A. Rowland & Sons in 1888. Rowland's son (also named Alexander) later stated that a relative living in the island of Celebes (port of Makassar) in the Dutch East Indies had helped in procurement of the basic ingredient. Macassar oil is a blend of vegetable oils, such as coconut, palm or Kusum oil, combined with fragrant oils such as ylang-ylang.

Due to the tendency for the oil to transfer from the user's hair to the back of his chair, the ANTIMACASSAR was developed. This is a small cloth, often crocheted as a doily, placed over the back of a chair to protect the upholstery.

From a Jan 1895 ladies publication: “The word doyley, now a familiar one with ladies, is derived from the name of Robert D’Oyley, one of the followers of William the Norman.  He received a grant of valuable lands on the condition of a yearly tender of tablecloths of the value of three shillings on the feast of St Michael.  Agreeably to the fashions of the time the ladies of the D’Oyley household were accustom to embroidery and ornament the quit-rent tablecloths; hence these cloths becoming curiosities and accumulating in the course of y ears, were at length brought into use as napkins at the royal table and called doyleys.”


Robert was appointed High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and ordered the construction of many parts of Oxford, some of which still survive today. Oxford Castle was built under Robert's orders in 1071, and the collegiate church of St George's within the castle was founded by Robert in 1074. The church of St Peter-in-the-East was first mentioned in 1086 as a possession of Robert's although it is possible that he merely acquired it, along with St Mary Magdalen's Church, north of the former gate of Oxford's medieval wall. He died in 1091.

George Melancthon Wetmore (August 31, 1858 – June 10, 1923) was born in Gates, New York and, after attending military school, got a degree at the Rochester Business Institute. At age 18, he went to work for the American Chemical Manufacturing and Mining Company, which was founded in Rochester, New York in 1877. The company was primarily focused on carpet cleaning, but sold several specialty products, including  boot and shoe polish. Wetmore found that the polish was cheaply made, did not hold or bond well, and 95% of it was dyed black using lamp black. Wetmore designed a replacement and called it Shinola.  In 1886, Wetmore was promoted to vice president, and a few years later, to president of the company. By 1909, the company had moved to a larger facility to handle increasing orders. It was produced under a sequence of different owners until 1960.  It’s popularity during the first half of the 20th century entered into the American lexicon in the phrase, "You don't know shit from Shinola," meaning to be ignorant.

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