Historic American Antique Quilts
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
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.
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
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 and 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
644 Double Cloth Jacquard, 1840-1860, 80x86, New England.
This is called Christian/Heathen because of the combination
of Boston-type houses and oriental buildings on the double border
on the sides. The bottom and top have larger (government type?)
buildings alternating with churches next to palm trees. This coverlet
was made in three pieces rather than the usual two. There
is a fringe on the bottom; the top has been folded over
in a hem. The main body of the coverlet is comprised of birds
of paradise feeding chicks in a nest and more standing at attention
on the sides. Floral urns alternate. The colors are rust,
cream and indigo. This is a well known pattern, although
the maker is not presently known. This coverlet is in excellent
condition with no flaws that I can see. It's really a wonderful
piece for a woven coverlet collection. $1200
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
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.
515 Fancy or Jacquard, double weave, "Cynthia Davidson
Itaca 1833 A. Davidson Weaver" , New York, 81x88. "Double
Lily" or "Lillies of France"pattern and three
"Liberty" borders with eagles and fruit trees. The
top and bottom edges are turned over and hand sewn. The weft borders
have an additional strip of diamond-like embellishment finishing
the edge. There is no fringe on the coverlet as is often
the case with New York coverelts. The corner label indicates that
Archibald Davidson (b.1771) made this quilt for Cynthia.
Many of his coverlets are labeled "woven at the Ithaca carpet
factory by A. Davidson". This piece has light overall soiling,
a line of foxing on the light side and some minor wear at edges
and seam. An elegant coverlet which makes a superb showing
on the bed. $1250
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
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. 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
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 candlabra?), 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
652 Double Weave, 1/2 Piece weaving from North Carolina, 35x85. Age? This beautiful dark and light indigo piece has tables and diamonds, trees on the side and the bottom, and fringe on the bottom. It was obviously once a fabulous woven coverlet, now to be used as, perhaps a table cover or chair back. It has several tears and small holes in the yarns, but oh what colors. Mostly wool of course. $250
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