The story behind the Journeys in Design Making Millie Project. How a simple linen tea towel captured the imagination of women in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2018 ‘Linen Millie’. Journeys in Design commissioned illustrator Sue Shields to create a tea towel tribute to the working women of the linen industry. The design includes a cut-out pattern and instructions to assemble our Linen Millie doll. These dolls are a focus for crafting skill and memories old and new, all part of Our Linen Stories.

Linen mill workers – Millies – formed the backbone of the first industry to emerge from Scotland and Ireland and much of Europe: hard-working, multi-tasking and super-skilled. At the peak of linen trading in the early 20th century, tens of thousands of women were employed to support the economy of a continent. Though a tiny fraction of jobs persist, many of us have a Linen Millie amongst our families or those of friends.

2019 ‘Oor Millie‘ This special display was created for Our Linen Stories Edinburgh, comprising 18 individually made and marked Linen Millies. The Millies link in groups much as they might have done on exiting the factory after a long, tough day at work. Journeys in Design is very grateful to the women from Scotland and N.Ireland who offered their maker skills to create such a varied display of Millies.

2020 ‘Making Millie’ Journeys in Design called for your help to expand our display, honouring the key role of Linen Millies. Your response has been phenomenal and we have been inspired by the creative energy released by your making and story telling. Fifty two Millies formed part of our pop-up display in Kirkcaldy Museum and Gallery: you can view this on our Events page. More Millies join the troupe by the week and we are planning our ‘Millies on Tour‘ displays for 2021. All our makers will receive advance notice of display of their work and stories. Thank you!

We continue to gather Our Linen Stories in celebration of these hard working women. If you are willing to make up and mark a doll and to tell us your linen story, please email us for more details using our dedicated address: