Listen here:  Hurst Weaving History

Surrounding these words are two American eagles with wings spread, a symbol of Freemasonry and two flowers. In the immediate vicinity are what appears to be the tower of Independence Hall and various patterns of starbursts, clovers and leafy vines.


Am I describing a fancifully detailed work of art? Yes, but this wasn’t painted or drawn.


All of these details – and many more – were hand-woven, thread by thread, into a large textile product known as a coverlet. It was created in 1829 to serve as a bedspread.


As civilization advanced and a middle class emerged in antebellum America, coverlets became increasingly commonplace. During their heyday – the second quarter of the 19th century – women wove geometrically patterned coverlets on home looms and professional weavers (mostly men) wove “figured and fancy” coverlets that displayed patterns of flowers, trees, animals, architecture and other motifs.


Considering that they often were given as gifts on special occasions, such as births and weddings, it appears that coverlets always were considered to be something special. Today, they are becoming recognized as outstanding examples of American folk art.


While there aren’t many places where you can see more than a few examples of coverlets on display, our region is fortunate to have two outstanding collections on regular display: one is the McCarl Coverlet Gallery at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe and the other is The National Museum of the American Coverlet in Bedford.


The result of the gift of 300 coverlets and money to care for them by Foster and Muriel McCarl of Beaver Falls (who were considered among the premier coverlet collectors in the nation), the McCarl Gallery is free and open to the public on a limited schedule. Check  HYPERLINK “” for more details.


Located in a 19th century “common school” in historic Bedford, The National Museum is open seven days a week on a regular schedule and continually has about 50 coverlets on display from its growing collection that already exceeds 500. Here you also can see looms, spinning wheels and other textile-making tools.


As a part of its mission, The National Museum also showcases other textile arts such as quilting and rug hooking. And throughout September the museum is hosting a number of special events.


Hooked rugs from across the country will be on display along with coverlets all month long. There will be a rug-hooking workshop, September 24-27, featuring Barbara Carroll of the Wooley Fox in Ligonier, and a rug hook-in on September 27-28.


September 14, there will be a Fiber Retreat for knitters, spinners, weavers, rug-hookers and other fiber enthusiasts with demonstrations, workshops, informal lessons and vendors. And there will be a Coverlet College, September 20-22, for people interested in learning more about this folk-art form.


More information on all of these special events is available at  HYPERLINK “”, where you can also see the coverlet I described above.


This column often has considered how our region draws recreationists – bicyclists, boaters, hikers and others who enjoy our great outdoors and natural resources. But it appears that our region is an epicenter for fiber enthusiasts as well.


I feel an inscription coming on! How’s this:












Too bad I can’t weave.



Our region’s a center for fiber arts


By Dave Hurst


© 2013 Hurst Media Works