Coverlet Weavers in the Hudson Valley
Coverlet weaving as a customer service industry
In rural areas where spinning was a common practice in homes and in small mills, trained weavers were able to offer far more complex and intricately patterned “fancy” coverlets (both geometric and figured) to households who could provide the necessary yarn and complete any necessary sewing for seaming, hemming, and adding fringe to bed coverings. This made the acquisition of fancy goods more affordable. Because a household’s status was displayed in part by its textiles, many rural families sent yarn to local weavers whose skill and equipment afforded the family access to fancier coverlets.
The Hudson Valley and textile innovation
Many of the new inventions and patents for coverlet weaving in the nineteenth century are registered in New York State and specifically the lower Hudson Valley.
After 1790, Scottish, Irish, and English weavers, escaping financial depression in the British Isles, relocated to New York State (many to Orange, Dutchess, and Ulster Counties) where they settled into communities of rural families who wanted and could afford fancier textiles, a situation that both drove and supplied a demand for fancy geometric and figured coverlets.
Mechanical attachments that allowed weavers to create pictorial designs of flowers, animals, and architecture were available from foundries in New Jersey and New York. Some weavers attempted to build their own mechanical attachments for weaving fancy work. The designs woven into fancy coverlets were sometimes drawn by the weavers themselves, sometimes bought from the company manufacturing the mechanical attachments, and sometimes copied from other coverlets and carpets. Several weavers used the same center designs and changed only the corner blocks or borders to personalize their coverlets while some weavers made no changes at all to the stock patterns.