Finger Lakes Coverlet Weavers' history presentation set

Antique Club of the Finger Lakes

April 28 program looks at “Forgotten Treasures: Going Undercover with Finger Lakes Coverlet Weavers”

An antique coverlet woven in Palmyra in 1852.
If you have a coverlet in your family, you are encouraged to submit a photograph to the speakers via MLS5@cornell.edu or bring it to the program.

FINGER LAKES —  A program titled “Forgotten Treasures: Going Undercover with Finger Lakes Coverlet Weavers” will be presented by the Antiques Club of the Finger Lakes at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28  at the Geneva History Museum, 543 S. Main St., Geneva. Coverlets are woven bed covers. The speakers will be Mary Jean Welser and Marty Schlabach.  The program is presented in association with Historic Geneva.

Marty Schlabach and Mary Jean Welser will explore what a coverlet is, highlight their path to collecting coverlets, and identify some local and regional coverlet weavers of the early 19th century. Several coverlets will be displayed at the in-person program. If you have a coverlet in your family, you are encouraged to submit a photograph to the speakers via MLS5@cornell.edu or bring it to the program.

In the 19th century, coverlets were often woven for special occasions and became prized family heirlooms. Many small towns in our region and across New York State hosted professional weavers in the first half of the 1800s. Most homes had spinning-wheels and looms. A wide array of types of cloth was woven by the women of the family for household use. There were also professional weavers who wove for others and earned their living practicing their trade.

Advertisements by weavers in local newspapers in the 1830s often listed several different textile types that could be woven for customers. For example, an 1832 advertisement in the Geneva Gazette for weaver Henry Johnson in Benton indicated that he “continues weaving in all its branches” and more specifically he weaves carpets and coverlets. And he says his weaving compares favorably with imported Scotch carpeting and is even superior in quality. He promises to weave the customer’s name in the coverlet.

Mary Jean has been interested in and has collected textiles for many years, with a particular interest in quilts. About 10 years ago, while pawing through a pile of textiles at a local estate sale, Mary Jean came across two whole cloth, early 19th century quilts and one geometric overshot coverlet. Thus started Mary Jean's and Marty's interest in, exploration and collection of coverlets. As a retired librarian, Marty particularly enjoys the historical research associated with learning about coverlets. Marty and Mary Jean claim Interlaken, NY as their home and spend substantial time gardening and working on their 1840s Greek Revival farmhouse, in addition to prowling antique shops and auctions.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Masks will be required in consideration of any vulnerable attendees. We hope to also have the meeting available through Zoom. Check the calendar on historicgeneva.org or call the Historic Geneva office.

The Antiques Club of the Finger Lakes is in its 47th year of programming. Meetings are free and open to the public, but membership is welcome and encouraged at $10 per year. Programs include meetings at the Geneva History Museum, field trips, and social events. See their Facebook page for more news.