Antique coverlet raffle planned

Shown is a detail of the “float work” of the historic, locally-woven coverlet that the Fort Plain Free Library will be raffling off on Sunday, Dec. 3. The geometric pattern of the textile, most likely woven in the town of Palatine area of Stone Arabia between 1780 to 1840, is created by yarns that pass over the plain-weave ground. (Photo submitted)

FORT PLAIN — Citing the quality workmanship in an expertly crafted, vintage coverlet that is being raffled off by the Fort Plain Free Library during a noon to 4 p.m. open house on Dec. 3, according to a news release.

Textile expert Susan Rabbit Goody recently described it as “a beautiful example of the genre” of “float work,” according to the release.

What makes the intricately patterned bed covering, donated to the library by local history buff Willis “Skip” Barshied, so special?

Goody, the owner of Thistle Hill Weavers of Cherry Valley and a textile historian, researcher and lecturer who formerly worked as the head of domestic arts and assistant curator for textiles at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, explained.

She said, “This is a ‘float work’ coverlet probably woven in the area of Stone Arabia. [It] would be hard to know by whom. Typically, these coverlets are found in rural areas from about 1780 to 1840.”

What is float work?

As noted in a document published on the Southeastern NY Library Resources Council’s Hudson River Valley Heritage website, https://www.hrvh.org, “Float work uses two weave structures: plain weave as a ground, and twill weave that creates the pattern block ‘floats’–the yarns that form the geometric designs by overshooting or passing over the plain weave ground.”

The document characterized float work as “diffused and tonal. The surface is often textured and dimensional. Patterns are always geometric.”

Goody said the coverlet being raffled by the Fort Plain Free Library is characterized by vertical “warp” yarns made of cotton. The colored horizontal yarns (the “weft”) are wool. The “binder”–that is, the thinner yarns that hold the pattern float in place–are also cotton.

“The multicolored weft yarns are what make this coverlet very special, and the quality of the work is very fine,” she said.

Goody noted that this coverlet and others of the period “were woven both in the home and by fancy weavers, but it would be hard to tell with this particular coverlet which.”

Barshied purchased the coverlet at the Showerman Family auction in town of Palatine hamlet of Stone Arabia in the 1950s. He donated the vintage textile to the library as a fundraiser for the library’s building fund. It is clean, odor-free, and in excellent condition, the release stated.

Besides her role as the owner, designer, and master weaver at Thistle Hill Weavers, http://thistlehillweavers.com, Goody, serves as a consultant to museums and the film industry on textile history, the history of technology, and interior furnishing fabrics.

The coverlet is on display at the Fort Plain Free Library during business hours. For more information or to buy tickets, call the library at (518) 993-4646. The drawing will be held on Sunday, Dec. 3, during the library’s annual holiday open house.

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