Embroidered Two-part Woven Blanket,

Embroidered Two-part Woven Blanket,

Emeline Shearman Turner,
probably Connecticut, 1839

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Blanket, including fringe: 70” x 92” • price: $2600 $1820

Many women continued to ply their needle and thread or yarn throughout their lives, years after they learned these skills as schoolgirls. One form that practically called out for the embellishment that embroidery could supply was woven blankets – these were generally made by local weavers working on 35" or 36” wide looms and weaving patterns that were then very carefully joined with a center seam. Labors of Love America’s Textiles and Needlework, 1650 – 1930 by Judith Reiter Weissman and Wendy Lavvitt (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987) publishes some particularly fine plaid blankets, both plain and embroidered. The repeat of open squares presents a perfect opportunity for the embroidery of small organic or geometric patterns. We were delighted to have discovered this outstanding example, which is signed and dated by the maker, “Emeline Shearman Turner’s Blanket AD 1839.” The purposeful use of red and deep blue crewel wool embroidery yarn was likely home dyed using madder and indigo, the same as the warp and weft of the weaving.

The top and right edge seem to be partially unfinished, but it is also possible, even likely, that Emeline had a certain bed in mind and knew that the right side would be out of sight, against a wall. Her signed square is an indication of this as well, as this square would have fallen precisely where it would be most prominent. The top edge, of course, would be covered by pillows. A thrifty New Englander might well have decided to save her time and wool yarn. The blanket is in pristine condition, so she may have rarely, if at all, used it on her bed. The reverse of this (see below) allows for close study of the technique. Emeline used the laid stitch for her leaves and flowers, this was often used on early crewel work.

The specific identity of the maker is unknown. We speculate that Emeline Shearman had likely recently married and enjoyed using her newly minted name. The Shearman family is one with deep roots in Connecticut, beginning with Samuel Shearman (1618-1700), who emigrated to America at age 14 and became one of prominent early settlers of the New Haven Colony. 

 (detail)

 (back of blanket)

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