The Whole Story

Whole cloth wool quilts are iconic products of colonial America. Made with brilliantly dyed hard-surface worsteds (wool fabrics woven of compactly twisted yarn), and carded woolen battings, they added beauty and warmth to bedsteads in unheated rooms.

Their designs typically feature bold scrolling flowers and leaves, sometimes growing from vases or baskets, bordered with feather plumes. The worsted textiles were often glazed, or polished to a shine under heat and pressure, prior to quilting. The polishing process was a commercial endeavor done by the textile manufacturer, involving folding the woven textile and pressing it, often causing permanent creases still visible in a finished quilt.

Glazed worsteds were a perfect vehicle for large-scale quilting patterns. Although the textiles were too stiff for the tiny patterns sometimes seen in cotton quilts, the firm textiles puffed up nicely around the quilting stitches to enhance the design without the addition of any additional batting.

Click images below to enlarge these quilts and read more information about the quilts included in the exhibit.