Several years ago we inherited a woven coverlet made around 1861 by one of Tom's relatives in Georgia. Ever since we have wanted to learn more about coverlets. How excited we were when we realized that one of our travels this year would take us very near the National American Coverlet Museum in Bedford, Pennsylvania! This would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about our family heirloom.
Laslo, a Hungarian by birth and a former antiques dealer who specialized in textiles, gave us a personal tour complete with history of the weaving methods. Boy, was he knowledgeable!!
Here are some of the looms and the wonderful coverlets we saw. This first loom was the kind used by women to produce coverlets for their own homes. These coverlets, like the one we inherited, are called geometric and have only straight lines.
Even though the design possibilities are limited, there is still quite some variety in styles. For example, these three coverlets are representative of German (top), English (middle), and Dutch (bottom) influences.
The introduction of the Jacquard device in France sped up the weaving process by 24 times and also allowed for more intricate designs, but it raised the cost and complexity of the process and moved coverlet making from women in the home to professional weavers, mostly men. Here are some examples of professional-made coverlets using the Jacquard process.
Laslo told us that the museum has a thousand coverlets in their collection. Of course, only a small fraction are on display at one time, and the exhibit changes four times a year. He also told us that they will never sell any of the coverlets in their collection.