Friday, December 30, 2016

18th century bed rugs

Bed rug auctioned by Skinner in 2014, sold for $28,290
In a recent blog post I wrote about early American bedcovers, the elegant artifacts of affluent families with well appointed homes. There were several types, but one of the most elusive is the bed rug. Most people do not know what a bed rug is. I have only seen them in books and online.

I try not to be envious, but was a little green when I saw this auction record

One came up for auction at Skinner a couple years ago. It sold for $28,290. No idea who got it, but lucky them! I don't expect to see another for many years, but if I did, I would at least go to the preview to see it in person. A large part of my knowledge about quilts and coverlets comes from handling them or seeing them in person. I can only dream of handling a bed rug.

Bed rugs are very old, wonderfully exuberant, embroidered bedcovers. They are sometimes confused with hooked rugs because they resemble them in ways, but they are created with a needle using a wool or linen ground cloth or blanket, not with a hook using an open weave canvas. They are very beautiful and very warm. I am learning all about them from this great book Mom gave me for Christmas, "Bed Rugs, 18th & Early 19th Century Embroidered Bedcovers" by Jessie Armstead Marshall.

It's a really interesting book, with several illustrated examples of surviving bed rugs and information about how to make a bed rug. In fact, the author made one over a two-year period in the early 1970s, and she learned a lot in the process. She shares her notes in the book, including estate records of previous owners and makers of bed rugs. The book is a little scarce, and prices reflect that, but you can actually find it on Amazon. Looking at some of these very old bedcovers, I find it remarkable how bold and modern looking they are. Thanks, Mom, for the awesome book, and for always supporting my education and continuing education!


  1. Often, the well-appointed homes were quite drafty. These bed rugs are beautiful works of art.

  2. Come to the northeast - several here - Historic Deerfield has one.