Thursday, February 26, 2009


Who doesn't love getting in bed and snuggling under a couple of warm blankets on a cold winter night? Blankets were the mainstay of colonial beds. When linen sheets were not available, blankets were used instead as "woolen sheets".

Traditionally, blankets were woven in two panels with a center seam and finished with tiny overcast stitches. They were hemmed with a 1/4 inch, narrow roll. The weaves were either tabby, plain, a diagonal twill weave or a bird's-eye twill weave comprised of concentric diamonds. They may bear the owner's initials cross- stitched in a corner.

Early on the natural cream color seems to have been the most common. Later in the 18th century they were used under a checkered or embroidered top blanket. Over time the cream color mellows and develops an almost tactile patina. Cream colored blankets are my favorite. They are the basic component of any blanket collection.

Natural dyes were used in the 18th century. They included indigo for blue, madder for reddish brown to red and wood shavings from butternut bark for tans and browns and shavings from maple bark for cinnamon brown. These early colors were used to dye wool which was woven in a plain or a twill weave. Blankets were woven with a checked, cross-line, windowpane or plaid design. The cross-line and windowpane designs were woven in a plain weave that used less dyed wool and had a larger area of white. They were usually woven of all wool but occasionally had cotton warps and cross-lines. The early plaids often had a hem-stitched fringe at one end and a regular hem on the other end. Blankets with a deep indigo, a warm nut brown or a mellow mustard check, window-pane or plaid add dimension and interest to your blanket collection.

Blankets are so versatile. Whether you stack them on a blanket chest or in a cupboard, fold them over a rack, hang them from a peg or better yet use them to dress a rope bed, collecting blankets is fun and affordable. Blankets are functional, decorative and a piece of history you are preserving for future generations.

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