This quilt (detail shown) is mostly made with mid-18th century fabrics over 18th century linen bed curtains. From the Emerson Homestead collection, it was probably made by Lillian (Ellis) Emerson (1868-1958) in York around 1880. Consisting of voided and plain velvet, satin, prints, chine and plaid fabrics-all of which are commonly found in crazy quilts of the period-this example also includes several jacquard woven silk strips with such exquisite detail that they appear to have a three-dimensional effect.
In 1860, the Cobden Treaty removed England’s protective tariff on silks, brocades and ribbons. Its impact upon Coventry, the center of English ribbon weaving for 150 years, was devastating. One Coventry weaver, Thomas Stevens, was able to survive the depression by improving, adapting, and refining the jacquard loom by a series of inventions so that he could produce silk pieces with such exquisite detail that gave them a three-dimensional effect. He produced pictures, bookmarks, musical notes, lettering and portraits of amazing beauty.
The Emerson quilt includes three Stevengraphs. The one shown above, “The Old Arm Chair”, is dated 1871.