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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, andusually 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 weaver's 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.

 

 

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 coverlet, about 1840, 81 x 84, found on Fairfield Estate in Waterloo, Iowa. However, this was actually made in Washington County, PA, called the Ida P. Rogers Coverlet (See "A Book of Hand-Woven Coverlets" by Eliza Calvert Hall, 1922). The main body is a tulip tree with diagonal vines, and the border is composed of lillies surrounded by geometric borders. There is fringe on three sides. With very slight discoloration and slight damage, it is still very lovely. $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

 

 

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.

 

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. $650

 

 

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

 

 

 

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. $1000

 

 

 

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. $1050

 

 

 

 

 

758c Woven Contemporary Navajo Style Blanket, 20th Century, 60 x 74, bought in Santa Barbara about 1980. Of course we all know that true Navajo blankets do not have figures as medallions on them, Instead they are very graphic. What makes this akin to some of the Navajo weavings is the style of the border with 22 alternate bars protuding into the background.This is all wool. The warp yarns are thinner than the weft yarns, but are definitely wool as I did burn tests on both. The piece is quite heavy. It is made in two pieces and is stitched together by hand. There is fringe on the top and the bottom. An unusual Western piece in excellent condition. $300.

 

 

757c Woven Navajo Style Comtemporary Blanket, 54x73, purchased in Santa Barbara in 1980. An all wool tightly woven weaving of two pieces sewn together by hand. The center medallion may have some meaning but I don't know what it is. It is a rondel with 22 petals on an off white background surrounded by borders on the top and bottom of 8.5 inch cocoa bands and on the sides of 5.5 inch bands. These bands have alternating rods of 25 cocoa and 27 white in the Navajo style. On the bottom and top there is an additional 4 inch cocoa border and fringe. Some of the fringe is worn, otherwise the piece is in very good condition. An unusual and startling wall hanging. $300.

 

 

756c Hand Woven Blanket Called the Dazzler, 54x84, Age? Source may be Texas or New Mexico. This is cotton and wool. The base color is gray and the bright bright colors give it its name. There is fringe on top and bottom but on one end it is coming apart, along with some of the weaving. If you want a small spot in your home for some color, this is it. $225.

 

 

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