National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Valance Valance
Rendered by Suzanne Chapman (artist), 1935/1942
watercolor and graphite on paper
overall: 33 x 54.8 cm (13 x 21 9/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 11 1/4" high; 20 1/2" long
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Textiles from the Index of American Design
Object 8 of 17

Embroidery worked with loosely twisted yarn, called crewel, is known as crewelwork. Also known as "worsted" yarn, crewel was widely available in England by the seventeenth century, when favorable agricultural conditions produced robust sheep capable of growing the longer strands of wool required for this yarn. American crewelwork was inherited from Jacobean England. While the embroidery is generally less dense than that of English prototypes, English patterns were perpetuated in American designs. Coastal New England was the center of crewelwork activity on this side of the Atlantic. The needlewomen of New England purchased their yarn, as well as the fabric on which they embroidered, from England and generally followed English needlework styles. Crewelwork motifs were derived from painted and printed cottons imported into England from India during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Typical crewelwork designs showed flowering trees rising from delineated hills, as in this eighteenth-century example made in Massachusetts. Exotic birds in scroll-like branches were also popular, as were floral sprays scattered irregularly upon the ground fabric, which was usually of linen plain-weave. This crewel-embroidered valance retains the luxuriant character of Indian designs in the forms of the exotic trees and in the rich combination of brilliant colors. Crewelwork decorated counterpanes (bedspreads), hangings for four-poster beds, valances for windows, chair coverings, or curtains for the home.

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