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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cover Me With Beauty

Woven coverlets (also referred to as coverlids in early times) were made in almost every community in the United States from the colonial era until the late 19th century.

The coverlets of 18th century America were twill woven with a linen warp and a woolen weft. The wool was most often dyed with indigo, but madder red (also referred to as Turkey Red, a walnut brown,and a lighter "Williamsburg blue" were also used. Later colors (mid 19th century) included green and a mustard gold.

Beginning at the turn of the 19th century, simple twill-woven coverlets were replaced by patterned hand-woven coverlets made in two different ways: 
Overshot weave coverlets were made with a plain, natural cotton warp and weft and repeating geometric patterns made with a supplementary dyed woolen wefts. Made on a simple four-harness loom, overshot coverlets were often made in the home and remained a common craft in rural Appalachia into the early 20th century.[Most of the coverlets were woven by men, though women did sometimes create them as well. Summer-winter coverlets were reversible (as seen here - my own find) ; the summer-winter term refers to the structure and NOT the color. The summer-winter coverlet should not be confused with double weave and is more closely related to overshot. Like double weave, it is dark on one side and light on the other but there is only one layer of cloth, making it is somewhat lightweight. 
 Double-cloth coverlets were double-woven with two sets of interconnected warps and wefts, requiring the more elaborate looms of professional weavers. Wool for these coverlets was spun (and often dyed) at home and then delivered to a local weaver who made up the coverlet.
Following the introduction of the jacquard loom in the early 1820s, machine-woven coverlets in large-scale floral designs became popular.

Distinct regional differences exist in the patterns and weaving techniques of the wool and cotton coverlets made in the United States between 1820 and 1850, when they were at their peak of popularity. At the end of the popularity of woven coverlets, regular blankets began to be sold and used more.  It is likely a reflection of the economics and the history of the times.
The larger coverlets, made of two widths of weaving tied together are referred to as "Tied Biederwand."
This work is a good example of the New York style. Many of the earliest New York weavers immigrated from Great Britain or Ireland where they had been trained in carpet weaving. Their training explains both the usual double weave structure and the appearance of New York coverlets. They are generally made of undyed cotton and indigo-dyed wool, with a structure much like woven carpets, and large medallions like the designs found on British carpets of the period. James Alexander, an immigrant from Britain.  He had a weaving workshop in Orange County, New York. This example is likely from his workshop, since the eagles in the upper and lower borders are trademarks of his work. Each weaver of the Jacquard pieces had his own trademarks in style, and also often put his or her name on the pieces.  These are remarkably beautiful examples of work that was intended to be used for everyday living.