Historic American Antique Quilts

Historic American Quilts

Woven Coverlets, An American Story

 

For the last ten years it has been our goal to bring to these pages a broadly representative group of American quilts, particularly those that span the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In a sense, those quilts, handed down over the years through many generations, constitute their own history of our nation.

But roughly parallel to the development of American quilting was American weaving. Beginning in colonial times, woven cotten and woolen coverlets became an indispensable asset in most homes. Unlike a "brides quilt", the coverlet was less a form of decorative pride than a staple of everyday use.

Until the second quarter of the nineteenth century, weavers served a number of towns from one central location, the situs of their loom . The weaving of one quilt took one or two days, and

usually involved the assistance of an apprentice. The cost to the purchaser was usually $6 to $12. At least one weaver could be found in most county seats.

Most nineteenth century coverlets involved imported indigo and madder dyes and local wool. Often natural home dyes were used as well. The most common form of weaving in those days was called "overshot", but double-weave (two layered) coverlets were also popular.

In the early days of coverlet weaving, most weavers employed a rather primitivee "four harness" loom, which was limited in its ability to incorporate complex or original patterns. But in the 1800s all of this changed. A loom termed the "Jacquard" after its French inventor ennabled the weaver to incorporate many more intricate designs...including in many instances the name of the client or the location of the loom.

Thus the decades before the Civil War saw the Jacquard coverlet progress from a rather limited functional item to one of asthetic beauty, present in most homes. After the Civil War, the demand for such quilts faded. Thus if you have an 1800-1860 bedroom, a woven coverlet is one of the best bets for authenticity.

We have in our personal collection a limited number of these representatives of the weavers art; overshot, double weave and Jacquard, some biederwand or tied biederwand.. Some, incredibly, have retained a brightness and clarity rarely matched in quilts of a similar vintage. Others bear the scars of 150 years of history. We try to describe the condition of the coverlets as best we can, but as far as names of patterns or types of weave, please don't quote us.

If we may be allowed an editorial comment, coverlets today appear to represent unusual value.

As always, we would be most pleased to answer your questions. Further, if you have future plans to visit the Galena area, stop in and visit us. Our home is in woodland, overlooking more than fifteen miles of the Mississippi River.

 

Chuck Woodford

 


 

The coverlets in the outdoors photos below had to be hung folded so that 2/3 of the coverlet faced the camera. They were too heavy to suspend from the top of our rack as we do with the quilts. Be assured that all rear-facing portions of the coverlets are just as photogenic as the front-facing ones that you see below. The indoors photos tend to have a slight alteration in color tint. Please ask if this is so.

356, Double Weave Jacquard, Early 19th Century, Tulip tree with Flower Border, 81x84, Fairfield estate, Waterloo, Iowa. This beautiful indigo and natural coverlet has fringe on three sides. The vining throughout is a bit unusual in that it is on the diagonal. It is not known if it was woven in the Midwest, but its early date suggests not. There is very slight discoloration and very slight damage. $500

 

 

514, Overshot, 20th Century, 72x94. This is a copy of an old overshot quilt done at a much later date in orlon or some other synthetic wool.It also was probably commercially machine loomed. It has selvedge weft edges, although both the bottom and top are hemmed by hand.The pattern consists of tables, lozenges and crosses. The borders have different designs, but there is a center seam which is hand butted. The feeling is very soft, and this would make a lovely blanket or spread for a bed that might get a bit more wear than some others we hate to put 100-year old coverlets on. There are some very slight brownish stains. $250

 

607 Tied Biederwand Jacquard, "Emmanuel Meilly 1837, Lebanon", Pennsylvania, 78x95. Four colors, four lillies, sunray, acanthus and birds with rose tree on border. The fringe has worn on two sides and the center seam stitching is loose. There is a large rip and void on one corner through the signature. The coverlet is faded and slightly discolored on one side. It has been washed (by me).The price is right. $375

 

599 Double weave cloth, 1810-30, Pennsylvania, provenance. 77x86. Indigo and natural coverlet is one of the earliest types of coverlets. This one has windows, lover's knots and pine trees on the border.The fringe is completely worn off, there are a few worn-through spots, and there are some brownish soil tinges on the sides (see above photo). The middle photo shows a mend. This is old and worn but has a nice graphic appeal. $250

487 Overshot coverlet, early 19th century, 60x86. "Foxes Chase" or "Stars" pattern in dark blue, Madder red, natural and sea green (Photos one and two are reverse sides). The sea green dyes must have been from different lots (probably overdyed blue and yellow) because one is more yellow than the other (third photo). The coverlet has self fringe on the weft six-inch wave-like border and applied fringe with about an inch of plaid on the bottom (photo two). seven-inch border. The colors are unusually vibrant, and the coverlet is in excellent condition. $575.

 

 

727 Hand Woven Summer/Winter Coverlet from about 1800, 2 pieces each 36 x78, This has a wool warp as well as a wool weft. There are two pieces.Although it has the pattern of a double weave, it is not. The two sides are tied together as can be seen in the last photo. The second picture is the reverse side. This is very similar to a piece in A Book of Handwoven Coverlets by E.C. Hall, 1912," woven in Belmont County, Ohio by an English weaver Mowry in the latter part of the Revolutionary War", ed. 1922, p. 223. There are many holes in both pieces. I am not knowledgeable enough to guarantee that this was made on an 18th century loom, but the above reference seems to stongly indicate that it was. I am open to any suggestions, but offer both pieces now at $400.

 

woven coverlet

woven coverlet

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744c Woven Coverlet, ca 1840, 78x91, "MANUFACTORED.BY.A.&.T.FEHR. IN. EMAUS", "LEHIGH.COUNTY.PENNSYLVANIA", One piece with attached fringe on sides and bottom, makers probably Abraham and Thomas Fehr.This has a large globular medallion with points radiating outward, surrounded by arcs, tulips and roses (?). Extending inward from the arcs are motifs that at first glance look like menorahs but do not have the usual 7 upright pieces. All the center is surrounded by a geometric frame, which is doubled at the corners, and the body is surrounded by a leafy border with alternating arches. This last has a final border of another geometric frame.Each bottom corner has a small block of a double four motif. This very complex weaving has a somewhat Hebrew air, which may represent the interest of the ancient client in Pennsylvania. There are some tiny losses in the wool (no outright holes), but it is in otherwise excellent condition. $500

 

748c Monk's Belt Overshot Coverlet, 69x80, ca 1820, found in Texas. This is one of the simplest and earliest designs of handwoven overshots, made on a 4 shaft. It is also called "checkerboard" for obvious reasons. The bluish color seen in the second picture may have been a green wool that had been overdyed, or it may have been a poorly dyed indigo. There is no fringe, and the piece is hand hemmed at top and bottom. The center seam is crudely hand stitched. There is one very small stain, no holes of any kind. If you are a weaver, this is a good example of very early weaving to display and study. $450

 

 

633 Tied Biederwand Star Medallion with acanthus leaves, 77x80. Information on this coverlet so far eludes me. It is tomato red and cream and made all in one piece, which may indicate power looming, however many of the star motifs are distorted which might indicate hand looming. The star medallion is very nice but I like the surrounding geometrics, which remind me of Norwegian weaving. The top and bottom are hemmed; the sides look as though they may have had self fringe at one time. Overall the coverlet has a yellow tinge and might need a bath. I see that there are some yarn losses also. $200

 

 

 

640 Tied Biederwand, 1876, 77x83. This was probably made for the centennial. There is a medallion in the center and a nice combination of flowers and geometrics both in the center and on the border. The four eagles with arrows are at the corners of the main block. There is self fringe on the sides and applied fringe on the bottom. This coverlet is a single panel, rather than double as most others are. Coverlet books attribute this coverlet to Phillip Allabach, Michigan. There are a few minor repairs. $350

 

 

641, Tied biederwand, 1876, 77x83. This is a very similar coverlet to #640, attributed to Phillip Allerbach, Michigan. The difference is that this red is deeper and the wool yarn seems heavier. It has been washed (by me) and has some through-holes. A very striking coverlet. $300

 

 

627 Fancy orJacquard Double Weave Coverlet, no signature, but probably 1825-1840 and New York State, 75x94. This pattern is called Frenchman's Fancy, or a variation thereof. The second photo shows the lighter side of the coverlet. The geometric figures around the major pattern lend stability to the work. The bottom border has lilies and a lozenge and tree motif (first photo) with diagonal lines at the edge; the sides have birds (crows, ravens?) and two types of trees (third photo) with four lines on the outer edge. I have not been able to find photos of a border where the lillies are turned upwards; all others have lillies turned down. There is no fringe on the sides, but double self fringe is on the bottom. The top is folded over and sewn and this shows some wear. The piece is very heavy, perhaps due to wool warp yarns. There is a streak of foxing on the lighter side and slight browning on the other. An elegant product of an unknown weaver. $850

 

480 Double Weave Coverlet, 72x78. Both sides of this coverlet are attractive and quite different. Unexpectedly brilliant colors of red, blue and white are worked in the "four snowballs" and "nine roses" patterns. The wide border of double rows of "pine trees" is finished with self fringe on three sides. This is in excellent condition, and the photos can attest to its beauty.$600

 

368 Fancy or Jacquard Coverlet "Isaac Sheaffer Coverlet Weaver New Berlin 1845", Stark County, Ohio., 73x84, This is the "double roses" pattern in a tied Biederwand weave (the two layers cannot be separated and there are vertical ridges in the weave). The side borders contain several styles of houses and trees, which are bordered themselves with rows of Greek figures. The sides are edged with self fringe. The bottom border has a floral tulip vase design interspersed with arches enclosing more vased flowers (third photo). This latter border has been seen on other coverlets made in Ohio. The self fringe on the bottom is worn and there is wear around the seam. This is a wonderful example of a weaver master's art. $750

 

642 Jacquard, True Biederwand, probably about 1860, 75x78, "M-BY-H STAGER MOUNT JOY LANCASTER CO PA WARRANTED FAST COLORS NO 1". This is an outstanding piece and shouts out Pennsylvania. Orange, red, blue, green and white yarns are used in a framed medallion format. All colors are still brilliant. Mr. Stager lived from 1820-1888. He combines geometrics and florals into an exciting whole.There is self fringe on the sides and applied red and blue fringe on the bottom. There are a few very minor discolorations, but this is in a most excellent condition. $1500

 

 

634 Fancy or Jacquard Coverlet, "Elizabeth Miller 1848", 74x87, probably Pennsylvania. The photos show both the dark and the light side.This is a tied biederwand in indigo and white in the "double roses" pattern with lattice-like outlining. The side borders have birds and trees (or are they candleabra?), and the bottom border has birds and trees, one of which sports two roses. The bottom has white fringe. The sides are merely edged in more of the "lattice work". We cannot say who the weaver was; there are only two known female fancy weavers, so this was probably made for Elizabeth Miller. This is in excellent condition. $1250

 

683 Jacquard coverlet, "1846", 76x82, probably New York state. Called "Thistle", it has a huge medallion and several different kinds of flowers and leaves. The border is a double row of geometrics. The coverlet is illustrated in "Heirlooms from Old Looms" by the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America, 1940, p. 243. Most New York coverlets did not have fringe. The "Thistle" is a popular pattern and although we don't know who wove it, we can guess it was a Scotch-American. There are several mends in holes, and there is a light overall soil. $550

 

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