Tuesday, October 26, 2010


On Saturday I visited The National Museum of the American Coverlet located in Bedford, PA. The current exhibit is called Stay at Home and Use Me Well -- Flax and Fleece: Fiber to Fabric. On this day the museum was hosting the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America (a Chicago-based organization) which included a presentation by Ron Walter, a special exhibition tour let by Ron and show & tell. This was an all day event.

Stay at Home and Use Me Well showcases items from the collection of Kitty Bell and Ron Walter. The name of the exhibit was inspired by a flax hetchel or hatchel owned by Kitty & Ron that was made near Burrillville, Rhode Island dated May 18, 1797 and inscribed with the names of Mathewson and Lyda Mathewson with Stay at Home and Use Me Well.The exhibit was extremely informative. One exhibition room was dedicated to the entire process of linen and cloth production from plant or animal to the finished yarn. Ron's collection included a variety of spinning wheels and winders. There were wool wheels, flax wheels, production wheels, a pendulum wheel, and several long-bed spindle wheels where the spindle travels on a three-wheeled trolley. Ron also had a large collection of spinning wheel heads.The coverlets in the collection are of two types which they call geometric and figured and fancy. The geometric have pattern motifs based on circles and squares, woven by both men and women, mostly for use at home. The figured and fancy coverlets have ornate motifs of florals, animals, buildings, etc. and were made by men who were professional weavers mostly woven with the help of a Jacquard mechanism.

This Early American loom owned by the museum came with a Jacquard head they hope to install soon. Sitting on the bench are punched cards read by the Jacquard machine containing the pattern draft. This mechanism can raise or lower a single thread. It will be exciting to see it in operation.I purchased Ron Walter's book, of the same title as the exhibit, in the museums gift shop and it is worth every penny.

This turned out to be a very special day, one I shall remember. We had beautiful weather for the ride there and back and I traveled with friends who I very much enjoyed their company. We felt very welcome and met some wonderful people.