Treasure in Flax

HAND-WOVEN INDIGO BLUE COUNTERPANE

I know little of my great-great-grandmother Rhoda Johnson Coleman.   But one possession that has come down to me provides a tantalizing glimpse  of her.  She wove by hand the antique counterpane coverlet above in Cady, Ohio, in 1837.  That puts the age of the coverlet at one hundred seventy-five years.  Although the edges show wear, the counterpane is in remarkable condition given its history.  It was passed down through four generations before reaching me, two of which were my great-aunt Rhoda and my mother, Frances Rhoda Hilst.  Although I am not a namesake, I receive it proudly.

A weathered note passed down with the counterpane also reveals that Rhoda raised, carded and made into thread the flax with which she wove the piece.  It is a rich, oriental design of exotic birds feeding nests of their young, bordered by rows of pagoda-style buildings.  The deep blue of the indigo dye remains a sharp contrast to the natural flax-colored figures.

Before receiving the coverlet, I did not know the name of my great-great-grandmother on my mother’s side.  It is only because her name remained with her handiwork that I know it now.  Art takes many forms.  In Rhoda’s day, it was utilitarian; and yet it survives today as a tangible tribute to  a life lived.

About Sharon L. Clemens

Sharon and husband Merle and their children owned and operated a specialty shop and restaurant in a restored dairy barn for thirteen years in a village in Illinois. After closing their restaurant, they converted the barn into the family home and moved their shop to the garden level. They operated a collectable shop as a home-based business for another thirteen years before retiring to the country life. Sharon has been a special feature guest on the local NBC telelvision affiliate and has spoken professionally on topics relating to herb gardening and cottage lifestyle. In addition to conducting workshops and programs, Sharon writes a weekly cottage lifestyle e-newsletter called “Cottage Chat” and a Word Press blog: Seasons of Farm Grove. She has written five novels, The Younger Girl, Door County Cottage, Timeless-A Door County Love Story, Door County Cabin and Door County Escape, love stories with traditional values set in Door County, Wisconsin.
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One Response to Treasure in Flax

  1. Sharon says:

    The internet is an awesome social networking tool. I sent out a story on my heirloom counterpane through my e-mail newsletter, Cottage Chat, and received a reply from a reader–who sent it to a friend out East–who sent it to another friend–who was familiar with the Colemans of Ohio. She corrected my geneological information, which is often passed down incorrectly, telling me the town was Cadiz, Ohio, rather than “Cady.” And, she offered to send me information from the 1850 Ohio census records on the Coleman name. Wow…all from internet sharing. Her assistance may provide the name of my great-great-grandfather, married to the weaver of the counterpane and previously unknown to me. Bottom line? I’m filling in more blanks in my family tree.

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