An early nineteenth-century white textured bed cover in my collection was the inspiration for my study. The texture created by tufting, embroidery and quilting is not only visually appealing, but rare.
The first step in constructing the top was piecing together the ground fabric. The ground fabric in my inspiration quilt may have been woven on a nineteenth-century domestic loom. Nineteenth-century domestic looms produced fabrics narrow by today’s standards. To copy the original, I hand stitched a butted seam sewing the narrow widths together creating a larger piece of cloth. This seam includes the barely visible selvedge like the original. Butted seams are often found on early nineteenth-century quilts.
The central basket shape is one found in embroidery, appliqué, and watercolors of the early nineteenth century. The nature-inspired stems, flowers and leaves spread exuberantly across the top as if hand drawn with wild abandon. The Sawtooth border is on three sides and also appears hand drawn.
The underside of the tufting technique was visible on the back of the original. Tufts were created by laying multiple plies of cotton yarn on the top and tacking it down from the backside. Mildred Davis, in her book Early American Embroidery Designs, states, “A homespun background with stitches laid for maximum effect, but minimal thread suggests colonial American execution”. The tufts are cut and trimmed after sewing.
Additional texture and design is created with finer cotton thread in a variety of embroidery stitches: knots, stem, buttonhole and satin stitch. The edge finishes often incorporate fringe. The hand quilting is basic and functions to hold the layers together.
Examples of quilted white work are rare. These beautiful textural examples may have been made as substitutes for expensive imported Marseilles bed coverings.