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College of Human Ecology

College of Human Ecology featuring 'Woven Wonders' exhibit in Justin Hall

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

MANHATTAN - An exhibit of woven coverlets from Kansas State University's Historic Costume and Textile Museum is on display through May 6 in Justin Hall. The hall is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays.

The weavings in "Woven Wonders: A Cross Section of American Coverlets" date from 1839 to 1870 and reveal family secrets and tell tales of a fledgling nation, according to K-State's Marla Day, museum curator.

Day said the coverlets reflect the weaver's artistry, a family's heritage and wealth. They often mirror a patriotic fervor common in the days when American was trying to establish itself. They also served as status symbols and were passed along in wills and included in dowries.

Coverlets, similar to today's patterned throws, were woven by the women of the house, then later by itinerate weavers before mass production in New England textile factories took over, according to Day.

One of the most unusual coverlets on display has a vibrant red background with deep green yarn depicting oak leaves, acorns and deer, Day said. Both the color and masculine design are uncommon, as most coverlets were woven in drab colors because those dyes were less expensive, she said. For example, the recipe for pink yarn dye called for black oak bark, cream of tartar, "spirits" and cochineal -- a red dye made from the dried bodies of female insects called cochineal. The insects were exported from the New World to Europe because they made such a stunning red dye, she said.

All the coverlets were gifts to the museum, including one woven by a Mrs. "Wm." Griffiths and donated by her granddaughter, Genevieve Howe.

Beth Shirley, a museum intern and a senior in anthropology, Topeka, assisted with the exhibit. Local weavers Marty Hartford and Marie Burgett helped identify the type of weave in the coverlets.

The K-State Historic Costume and Textile Museum features clothing and textile artifacts; dolls; accessories; implements and tools associated with the creation of clothing and/or textiles; and a variety of paper artifacts such as patterns, period magazines and photographs. Items are used for education, research and exhibition. The museum is administered by the department of apparel, textiles and interior design in K-State's College of Human Ecology.

Source: Marla Day, 785-532-6993, mday@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Jane Marshall, 785-532-1519, jpm2@k-state.edu

This article was posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2007, and is filed under Apparel, Textiles, & Interior Design.