Whole Cloth or Linsey-Woolsey Quilt

Whole Cloth Quilt, 1776
Lucretia Smith ; Missouri or Iowa
Linen and wool
Gift of Ethel G. Abbott
37075
This heavy quilted bedcover is elaborately decorated with hand stitched twisting vines, curving acanthus leaves, bunches of grapes and blooming flowers stemming from a Tree of Life, a British design style carried to the new American colonies. Quilts of this type are often referred to as linsey-woolsey because of the combination of linen and wool materials of which they are made. The appeal of this bedcover lies in its age, its vibrant color and the outstanding quilting which gives the raised effect to the naturalistic motifs. The quilt top, made of homespun linen, is dyed indigo blue and is pieced (or assembled from) three sections. A layer of warm wool filling under the top was no doubt a comfort during cold nights. The chartreuse-colored linen backing was also homespun as was the linen thread used to achieve the fine stitching. Imagine the time it took to create the exacting diagonal lines throughout the entire surface.
Early versions of linsey-woolsey quilts, like the 18th century example in the Bowers’ collection, were more elaborate and fine in design and construction than later versions made in the first part of the 19th century. Eventually the linen and wool quilts were overshadowed in popularity by the availability of cotton. The term "linsey-woolsey," commonly used today to describe heavy, quilted bedcovers, in its broader sense refers to any coarse cotton or linen fabric woven with wool. The term is derived from the Middle English word "lynsey" a corruption of "Lindsay," the village in England where such cloth was first made. All images and text under copyright. Please contact the Collection Department for permission to use.
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Monday, 20 September 2021

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