*Please note, this product is custom woven when your order is placed, please allow 6–12 months for completion.
Coverlet pictured is woven in synthetic dyed navy blue. I am no longer able to include wool fringe on the selvedge, but this coverlet may be woven with cotton fringe on both ends.
In 1804, Joseph Marie Jacquard perfected a device that utilized punched cards for controlling figured patterning in woven goods. By the 1820s the Jacquard machine and other figuring devices had crossed the Atlantic and were adopted by a wide range of professional handweavers. No longer limited to the strict geometric patterning capabilities of a standard shaft loom, there was an explosion of figured and "fancy" weaving, most notably in American coverlets. As powered mechanization forced the decline of handweaving, these professionals managed to carve out a niche for themselves, often using yarn supplied by their customers in weaving figured coverlets into the late 19th and even early 20th centuries.
This quarter-sized coverlet is inspired by the children's coverlets that some fancy weavers produced for young people and as samples of their work. Including all of the design elements of the full-sized coverlet, this scaled down version makes a perfect throw or area rug. The reversible heavy cotton and wool fabric is woven in tied doublecloth and every coverlet is dated, signed, and numbered. For an additional fee, a custom inscription can be woven into one end, traditionally the owner's name.
According to Rabbit Goody, in November of 1822 the New York Statesman made the first mention of this coverlet design "...One of the most ingenious and finest specimens of manufacture was a counterpane woven by Mr. Graham, of New Jersey, and deposited by Mr. Wakeman of this city. On the border was woven in capitals AGRICULTURE & MANUFACTURES ARE THE FOUNDATION OF OUR INDEPENDENCE..." At least 125 coverlets woven between 1822–1840 bearing this inscription are known to exist today in enough variety that they are believed to be the work of multiple weavers. Extensive research into the motto and motifs by Victor Hilts reveals their origins and meaning. In the nation's early years, Masonic imagery was folded into a growing body of patriotic symbols. Freemasonry's system of universal ethics represented a nation built on proper character, in harmony with one built on proper economics and politics. Worked into the borders of the coverlet are the twin pillars, square, and compass—symbols of establishment, strength, morality, and merit. Goats symbolize plenty and the stewards of the lodge, the little man with outstretched arm is the "tyler," the officer who guards the lodge door. The dog-headed baboon stands in for the Egyptian Thoth, scribe and god of reason and mathematics. A figure on horseback likely represented Washington, Paul Revere wouldn't become famous for his midnight ride until Longfellow's 1860s poem. The eagles with sheilds clutching arrows and laurel are familiar enough today, the steeple probably represents the Pennsylvania Statehouse, better known as Independence Hall. The centerfield of the coverlet is composed of a large center medalion of foliage and tulips, alternating with a bold quatrefoil.
While the motto was one with a nationalistic sentiment in the 19th century, it represents the best lessons of the past to me. AGRICULTURE, to bring forth food (and fiber) from the natural world. MANUFACTURES, to make with one's hands. Participating in these two things give us independence from the corporate forces that place profit over people and view the earth as a commodity to bleed dry for a quick buck. In the time and place that this motto first appeared, that vision of independence was only open to a select group of Americans and that legacy haunts us every single day. To push the doors open to all, every purchase of an Agriculture & Manufactures coverlet includes a donation to Radical Imagination Projects, a project led by a trio of international black and brown women artists. Radical Imagination currently offers an artist residency, land trust, and series of events that invite BIPOC to share their creativity and build connection with the land. Their artist residency and land trust are centered here, on the original land of the Abenaki People that we've come to call Vermont. Together we can imagine and create a more just future, and put traditional craft to work for good.
I am extremely fortunate to operate a single-lift Jacquard machine that was built in the 1860s, exactly like the ones used to weave these coverlets in the 19th century. Unlike modern electronic Jacquard looms that turn a digital file into cloth, this beautiful old machine is treadle operated and still reads paper punch cards I cut myself. Working with an original piece of 19th-century technology is an enormous privilege and makes these coverlets truly unique. Learn more about the history of my Jacquard equipment and the entire process of creating a figured coverlet from paper to fabric.
Figured Quarter Coverlet—Agriculture & Manufactures
- 54" x 44.5", plus cotton fringe on two ends
- Cotton warp, wool and cotton weft
- Natural or synthetic dye
- Figure woven in tied doublecloth
- Hemstitched fringe on two sides, all sewing by hand
- Hand or gentle wash cold, flat or line dry