Weft-Loop Woven Counterpanes in the New Republic: The Rediscovery of a Textile Legacy


From Uncoverings 2014, Volume 35 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group


By: Horton, Laurel

Abstract: Among the various quilted and embroidered white bedcovers surviving from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American collectors and curators have encountered curious woven textiles with designs of raised loops. Lacking an authoritative interpretive framework, these bewildered individuals offered a variety of interpretations for these distinctive weft-loop bedcovers. Recent research on a tradition of handwoven bedcovers produced in Bolton, Lancashire (UK), suggests that imported Bolton counterpanes produced a significant influence on both woven and embroidered counterpanes in the New Republic era and beyond. From an examination of white counterpanes found in American museums and private collections, the author interprets the relationships among imported Bolton counterpanes, American-made woven counterpanes showing Bolton influences, weft-loop counterpanes influenced by other textile traditions, and American embroidered “candlewick” counterpanes influenced by woven textiles.

Laurel Horton is an independent quilt researcher, author, and fabric artist. She joined AQSG in 1982 and has served on the board of directors and as editor of Uncoverings. A native of Kentucky, she holds a BA in English and an MS in library science from the University of Kentucky, and an MA in folklore from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her 1979 thesis, "Economic Influences on German and Scotch-Irish Quilts in Antebellum Rowan County, North Carolina," was one of the earliest studies of regional variations in American quiltmaking traditions. She authored the award-winning 2005 book, Mary Black's Family Quilts: Memory and Meaning in Everyday Life. Since 2005 she has researched embellished white whole­cloth quilts and counterpanes.