Woven Coverlets: An American Collectible

One fondly-remembered Estate Sale experience was being able to reinstate a piece of family history. Family members often come to the estate sales of departed loved ones, and we can sometimes return items like family photos. But on occasion, a greater coincidence occurs. Such was the case when we got a call from a buyer interested in an item we had posted a photo of on the web site in preparation for an upcoming sale. The excited caller recognized the name of his great-Grandmother on a woven jacquard coverlet!

These woven coverlets are a fabulous piece of Americana. Since Colonial times, woven coverlets were made for utility and beauty in the home. Commercial weaving was often done for an area from a central location, such as the county seat. This was because the costly loom was centrally located! Weavers were often men, and there were apprentice weavers also. A coverlet such as the one we sold might have taken an experienced craftsman a day or two to create. Fabrics were usually wool or linen, The common colors were the result of the use of imported indigo and madder dyes. Homemade dyes were sometimes used also. A number of patterns and techniques were used. A simple pattern, or coverlets pieced together (from using narrow looms) may indicate an early piece. A big loom improvement arrived in the early 1800s. This was the Jacquard attachment (named after the French inventor). There were punched cards that controlled intricate patterns: these were the early forerunner of computer punch cards. They allowed the detailed patterns one sees in the jacquard coverlets like the one pictured, and enabled the artists to weave in the names and dates that make these coverlets such an interesting piece of American history. This name and date allowed the weavers ancestors to find her work! And incidentally, the family came to the estate sale and were very happy to be able to buy the coverlet!