When we released the Winter + Summer Cotton Coverlet, we had high hopes that it would strike a chord with people. Woven from 100% cotton and featuring a fully reversible geometric pattern, the coverlet is both classic and distinctive. It was already one of our favorite pieces to style, and to our surprise and delight, it also became one of our most popular home goods products ever. But what everyone who bought or dreamed of buying the blanket may not know is that there’s a unique story behind the piece - a narrative that connects a particular vintage blanket discovered in a thrift store, and a nuanced craft tradition - that makes it even more special to us.
“A lot of people know about the American tradition of quilting, but fewer know about the parallel tradition of weaving, with the Winter + Summer Coverlet, we got to bring a beautiful, heirloom-quality piece to our customers and also give them a valuable connection to a deep American textile tradition.”
— Creative Manager Jorie Garcia
Were you to walk into the bedroom of a typical middle class American home during most of the 19th century, you’d probably find a blanket woven from wool, cotton, or linen adorning the owner’s bed. Quilts, which were meticulously crafted over dozens of hours by family members and gifted at weddings and other special occasions, were considered heirlooms too precious for everyday use. Coverlets, woven with speed and skill, were practical implements of everyday life. Some homes contained their own simple four-harness looms for that purpose.
But most people didn’t have to weave their own: nearly every 19th century American community had a weaver making a relatively affordable version, which helped spread the use of the coverlet through almost every level of society. It was one of these coverlets, over a century old, that served as the inspiration for our Winter + Summer Cotton Coverlet.
About six years ago, Jorie was at a thrift shop in Michigan on a trip to visit family when she came across the vintage textile. This amazing find featured deep indigo yarn contrasting against a more natural linen colored yarn with a pattern laid out in repeating boxes and grids. It consisted of two woven sheets sewn together down their middle (a common practice at the time required in the making of textiles wider than the loom itself) and the yarn weaving patterns matched row by row. The edges held a lengthy fringe which revealed the quality of the yarn: much thicker than any contemporary woven blanket you’d find, the piece had serious heft that hinted at its ability to protect the user from even the coldest nights. It was bold and rich in detail, but also classic and expertly crafted.
The original 1890's woven coverlet in Jorie's Portland, Oregon home.
“The piece was really, really well-made - the pattern was exquisitely done. The repeat is true. The only part where it’s coming undone is the edging, which is just from use. I fell in love.”
Jorie took the piece with her back to Oregon and used it on her own bed for several years. Then, in 2016, the opportunity to introduce our own version of the blanket arose. Jorie, working alongside Product Line Manager Kate Richard, started developing a blanket to release in Fall of 2017. “We wanted to have a piece that could be versatile customers that could be used throughout the house that still had a graphic touch,” says Jorie. “We also wanted something affordable but made from a high quality cotton.”
The coverlet living in her own home, gracing her own bed, was a natural fit for the project. Recreating the piece came with its own challenges. While the vintage piece may have been common during its own era, it’s been about a century since hand weaving was a common practice. But this wasn’t the first piece of bedding we’ve developed, and we knew exactly where to turn.
“We work with some truly expert weavers in Portugal and we’re so glad to be able to depend on their expertise,” says Jorie. “It took a while to convey to them that quality was what was most important to us, and not price. They weren’t used to getting directions like that. But once they realized that we really just wanted to nerd out with them about weaving, they got excited too and really helped us bring the piece to life.”
The final Winter + Summer Cotton Coverlet conveys quality with every warp and weft. It’s geometric pattern of navy and white boxes, bars, and checks stays true to the original inspiration piece, as does the substantial weight of the blanket. Thanks to modern machinery, the piece can be woven in one piece, as opposed two that are joined together. Instead of being woven from wool and linen, which are more difficult to clean at home, ours is made from high quality cotton that’s machine washable. Our piece also left off the fringe, which gives it a more modern and clean profile. All things considered, the piece is every bit as practical as its predecessor.
“I think there’s so much beauty in things that are made out of necessity in the truest and simplest form. The piece just feels very straightforward and refined.”
— Creative Manager Jorie Garcia