Counterpane made by Molly Kelly Enfinger

The counterpane is white cotton, tightly woven, with a double row of trim around three sides. It was made to be used as a bedspread, with the top edge tucked under the pillows. The thread is very fine, with a design of ridges spaced periodically throughout in multiple wefts. Many thicknesses of threads were used to make the fringe. The counterpane was made in about 1870, so it is 130 years old. It was made by Molly Kelly Enfinger from cotton that she picked, spun into yarn, and wove on a loom.

Photographed by Terry Crago

The seeds were picked from the cotton boll by hand. The lint was carded and formed into a roll shaped like a cigar, then the thread spun on a spinning wheel. Cotton is a very short staple fiber, and needs a lot of twist to hold it together as a yarn. As you are drawing out the yarn, you must give plenty of time for twist to accumulate. If the yarn is drifting apart you will need to treadle faster, sit further away, and/or draw-out more slowly.

The counterpane was all woven by hand on a loom. In weaving, lengthwise yarns are called warp; crosswise yarns are called weft, or filling. Most woven fabrics are made with their outer edges finished in a manner that avoids raveling; these are called selvages. They run lengthwise, parallel to the warp yarns. The cotton thread was used to warp the loom from top to bottom. By raising one set of these threads, which together formed the warp, it was possible to run a cross thread, a weft, or filling, between them. The tool used to raise the threads was called a heddle. The block of wood used to carry the filling strand through the warp was called the shuttle.

The loom was often set out of doors to take advantage of the coolness of the shade.


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