National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Coverlet Coverlet
Rendered by Ruth M. Barnes (artist), c. 1937
watercolor and gouache on paper
overall: 35.7 x 26.7 cm (14 1/16 x 10 1/2 in.) Original IAD Object: 69" wide; 78" wide
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Textiles from the Index of American Design
Object 2 of 17

Although American women continued to weave articles for their families, by the late colonial period, much weaving was done by itinerant professional weavers. Woven coverlets, or bed coverings, were, perhaps, the most handsome products of both the housewives and the journeymen weavers. From the late seventeenth century until about 1850, overshot coverlets like this example were popular. The overshot weave was relatively simple, though more complex than the plain homespun weave. There was one warp yarn, usually a two-ply linen or cotton, a binder weft yarn in the same material as the warp, but often single ply, and a pattern weft, which was of colored woolen yarn. The term "overshot" means that the supplementary weft patterning thread is "shot," or floated, over the plain warp threads, creating areas of solid color that stand out above a plain supporting weave. The overshot weft threads, seen here as a combination of blue and red yarns, create variations in texture as well as pattern and produce the lively geometric surfaces that are characteristic of overshot coverlets. The patterns for these coverlets were largely traditional and were based on written drafts, or pattern guides, brought to America by European, English, and Scandinavian settlers. These drafts resemble musical notations, and, appropriately, the coverlets woven from them are, like this example, strikingly rhythmic in design.

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