National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Caswell Carpet Caswell Carpet
Rendered by Dorothy Lacey (artist), c. 1936
watercolor and graphite on paper
overall: 44.2 x 40 cm (17 3/8 x 15 3/4 in.) Original IAD Object: 144" wide; 162" long
Index of American Design
1943.8.2545
Not on View
From the Tour: Textiles from the Index of American Design
Object 9 of 17

In the early nineteenth century, American women often used their leisure time to embroider rugs. One of the most famous embroidered rugs is the Caswell Carpet, a portion of which is seen here. It was made in Vermont between 1832 and 1835 by Zeruah Higley Guernsey, who later married a Mr. Caswell; the rug is known by the latter name. The wool used in the rug was grown, spun, and dyed at home. Nearly eighty separate blocks were embroidered in a double chain stitch, or "Kensington stitch," on a coarse homespun foundation. Each block has its own complete design. While floral motifs predominate, diversity is achieved by modifying the floral forms and by varying their arrangement within each square. In some blocks, flowers or leaves stand alone; in others, they are combined with baskets, vases, birds, or butterflies. The overall design is further enriched through the inclusion of non-floral motifs such as kittens and puppies and, in one square, a bridal couple, believed to refer to the approaching marriage of the maker. On one end of the carpet is a long panel embroidered with a sawtooth border and a central design showing a basket filled with flowers and fruit. During the summer, when the fireplace was not in use, this panel covered the hearth; in winter it was folded under the body of the rug, in order to leave the hearth uncovered. The presence of the hearth panel indicates that the rug was not made solely for decoration, but that year-round utility was also a consideration in its design.

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