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American Coverlets. CTD 415: History of Textile Design Dr. Virginia S. Wimberley . Definition of a Coverlet. Woven Bedspread Usually made of wool and cotton. Woven Fabric . Composed of warp and weft yarns Warp yarns remains stationary and run vertically

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american coverlets

American Coverlets

CTD 415: History of Textile Design

Dr. Virginia S. Wimberley

definition of a coverlet
Definition of a Coverlet
  • Woven Bedspread
  • Usually made of wool and cotton
woven fabric
Woven Fabric
  • Composed of warp and weft yarns
  • Warp yarns remains stationary and run vertically
  • Weft yarns are woven horizontally, back and forth through the warp
  • Simplest - one harness [ device through which the warp yarns are threaded]
  • Colonial home loom - two to four harnesses
  • Harnesses connected to treadles which raise or lower them
earliest coverlets
Earliest Coverlets
  • Woven on two harness hand looms
  • Four harness hand looms soon replaced the two harness
  • Loom set up in common room of the home or in a loom shed, separate from the main dwelling; usually women were weavers
  • Woven in two sections, each 30 to 50 inches in length, then sewn together
origins of professional weavers in u s
Origins of Professional Weavers in U.S.
  • Attracted by
    • promise of ample employment
    • political stability
  • Country of origin
    • England
    • Ireland
    • Scotland
    • France
    • Germany
professional weavers
Professional Weavers
  • Many settled in the Northeast and Midwest
  • Many led an itinerant life, traveling from town to town in quest of clients in need of his services
professional weavers9
Professional Weavers
  • Used 6 to 8 harness looms
  • Usually assisted by two apprentices or assistants
  • Most weavers used patterns that showed how to thread the loom
  • Most patterns resulted in geometric designs
professional weavers10
Professional Weavers
  • Upon arrival in a new location, he would advertise in the local newspaper
  • Set up loom wherever he could find lodging
  • Client would select a pattern from the weaver’s book
  • Weaver would weave the coverlet with slight variations
professional weavers11
Professional Weavers
  • Some weavers would establish themselves in a permanent location where the population was sufficient size to support a weaver on a regular basis
  • Often permanent shop weavers would also weave custom order carpets
jacquard attachment
Jacquard Attachment
  • 1820s saw the introduction of the Jacquard attachment which made curvilinear designs possible
  • Attachment controlled the movements of the harnesses
  • Consisted of punched cards
  • Accomplished weavers create own designs by punching new cards
jacquard attachment13
Jacquard Attachment
  • Allowed the more efficient use of large numbers of harnesses
  • Most looms were fully or partially mechanized
  • As many as 40 harnesses
overshot coverlets
Overshot Coverlets
  • Four harness loom
  • Among earliest American woven bedcovers
  • Warp yarns of natural, undyed cotton-strength
  • Weft of dyed wool-warmth
overshot coverlets16
Overshot Coverlets
  • Name comes from the weaving technique
  • Horizontal/weft yarns are allowed to skip or “overshoot” three or more vertical/warp yarns at a time
  • Thick but loosely woven appearance
overshot coverlets17
Overshot Coverlets
  • Surface floats tend to abrade and wear out easily
  • Patterns usually combine stripes, squares and diamonds, using a “floating” weft of colored yarn over plain background
overshot coverlets18
Overshot Coverlets
  • Coverlets were always made of two pieces and seamed through the middle
  • In the South, the belief was that an uneven seam would turn away evils spirits and insure good luck for the user of the coverlet
double weave coverlets
Double Weave Coverlets
  • Made on Handlooms
  • Made on fully or partially mechanized looms
  • As early as 1725
  • Surviving examples from 1800-1900
double weave
Double Weave
  • Name - the use of two sets of warp and two sets of wefts, simultaneously
  • Produces two separate layers of cloth that are interwoven at pre-determined intervals
  • layers can be pulled apart within design
double weave21
Double Weave
  • Pattern is repeated on the other side, usually in a lighter color
  • This type is confused with Summer and Winter coverlets due to reversability but they are a single layer
summer and winter
Summer and Winter
  • Originated in PA
  • Early 1800s
  • Created by professional weavers from Germany
  • Five or more harnesses
summer and winter23
Summer and Winter
  • Similar to Overshot coverlets
  • Differs in that supplementary weft never goes over more than 3 warp threads at a time
summer and winter24
Summer and Winter
  • Name refers to the fact that the pattern is reversed on the other side
  • Lighter side - summer; darker -winter
jacquard coverlets
Jacquard Coverlets
  • Loom with special mechanical devise
  • Introduced by French weaver Joseph Jacquard in 1801
  • Brought to America in the 1820s
  • Attachment speeded production
jacquard attachment26
Jacquard Attachment
  • Attachment organized warp and weft threads according to holes on a series of cards
  • Cards activated the loom and dictated the pattern
  • Could be added to existing looms to make Double Weave coverlets
jacquard attachment and design
Jacquard Attachment and Design
  • Possible to create unseamed coverlets
  • Coverlets with complicated curvilinear patterns and elaborate borders
  • Border designs with trains, eagles, buildings, urns
  • Weaver in one corner included his name, name of destined owner, and town, state and date of weaving
jacquard coverlets28
Jacquard Coverlets
  • Complicated curvilinear patterns
  • Elaborate borders
  • Borders so distinctive that collectors specialize
  • Eagles, urns, rosettes, buildings, trains
jacquard coverlet signature block
Jacquard Coverlet Signature Block
  • Allowed for more precise information about origins
  • Handweavers could weave names but very time-consuming and rarely attempted
colors and dyes
Colors and Dyes
  • All four types used limited color range
    • limited to natural dyes available for wool
    • limited to dyes available locally or by import
  • Most popular indigo
    • imported from India
    • derived from wild plant in Southern states
  • Red also popular
    • imported from Asian madder root
    • South American cochineal
  • Imported dyes sold by itinerant peddlers in Northeast
  • Later general stores throughout country
  • Homemade vegetable dyes
    • brown - bark of red oak or hickory
    • yellow - peach leaves, golden rod, black-eye susans
weaving mills
Weaving Mills
  • By mid 19th C. coverlets produced in weaving mills on fully mechanized looms
  • Most located in industrial Northeast and parts of Midwest
  • Size varied but usually several weavers banding together
  • Initially factories specialized in textile materials and carpets
weaving mills34
Weaving Mills
  • Popularity of woven bedcovers encouraged them to move into coverlet production
example mills
Cockfair Mills



carding and fulling cotton

converted to weaving

seven employees

water powered looms

Franklin Woolen Factory


three employees

In 1850 -500 coverlets

and 1500 yards of carpet

valued at $3700

Example Mills
mill signature blocks
Mill Signature Blocks
  • Devised their own signature block or trademark
  • Blocks included
    • name of factory
    • maker
    • date
  • Trademark linear design or picture motif
demise of the industry
Demise of the Industry
  • During the Civil War, most factories converted to blankets
  • Hand weaving never recovered from the war era
  • Parts of Appalachia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois kept the tradition to limited extent
  • 1876 Philadelphia Centennial inspired brief revival