February closed out with a coverlet weaving workshop and in preparation it seemed prudent to sample our yarns. For a pattern we turned to the late 18th-century manuscript draftbook of Silas Burton. Five of Burton’s coverlet drafts were made from existing coverlets owned by his neighbors and they’re filled with stories, if you look for them. For a moment, let’s take in the little mystery vignette for three players and a geometric instrument he called,

A Handsome Double Compass and Large Square Taken From Widow Curtiss’s Coverled 1793.”

The players: 

  • Burton—Our protagonist, 18 years old in 1793, completing his training as a weaver and compiling a book of patterns for his future career.
  • Widow Curtiss—A woman with a coverlet. Hazy character. (There were a lot of Curtiss’s in Burton’s hometown and tracking her down will take some time.)  
  • The Weaver of the Coverlet. Shadowy mystery figure. It's possible that Widow Curtiss is The Weaver, but in the book Burton records written weaving drafts he received from men, and weaving drafts he made from coverlets owned by women. Stratford, Connecticut, the setting of the scene, had several male weavers and it may be that coverlet weaving was primarily their domain at the time. 

Our roles cast, we turn our attention to the geometric instrument. Double Compass. Not double circle, double ring, or double wheel. Compass. Geometric weaving patterns made use of the compass to create curvilinear forms, and the same tool was used to mark out the spacing of heddles on loom shafts. What better name for the circles in the design?

The compass was also an essential tool for the housewright, governing the proportions of structures and ornament. Did those same builders rely on the compass when building looms? Playing around with our 18th century loom from Boxford, Massachusetts gives a resounding, “MAYBE?!” There’s more to investigate here.

For a compass to work, one leg stays anchored in place so the other leg may travel. In craft, Marshfield is a center point for a compass whose arc swings wide enough to encircle an international community of weavers. We hope a grounding here will help you to make your own mark, in whatever shape you please.

On behalf of our Board, we're glad you're part of this circle,

Justin Squizzero


Above: A Handsome Double Compass. Handsome indeed, double horizontally and vertically! Double the compass, double the fun!

Above: In Johann Michael Frickinger's Weber Bild Buch of weaving patterns from 1740, compass work abounds! Look at all those circles!

Above: The loom from Boxford. Lines of the same color are the same size. Was this loom built using a compass? We don’t know, but it certainly was marked with one (below).

Below: The school building itself, a barn built ca. 1810, fits nicely within the compass layout of its day when its original height is taken into account. (Check out Vermont Architect and Historian Jane Griswold Radocchia for more geometric fun!)

Looking Back

Our February Foundations class was small, but mighty, with 60% of the student body electing to weave full-sized blankets in Vermont singles wool. Student Kerry worked with yarn produced by her own flock in Connecticut.

Below: Kate traveled all the way from Australia to weave a floatwork coverlet in yarn she dyed with indigo herself.

Looking Ahead

Fleece to Fulling

This four-week intensive program is nothing short of a life changing experience as participants transform raw fleece into a finished blanket. The program begins April 29, so if spending a month carding, spinning, and weaving is on your bucket list, now's the time to register!

Introduction to Bobbin Lace with Elena Kanagy-Loux

We are beyond excited to welcome artist, historian, and educator Elena Kanagy-Loux for a two-day Introduction to Bobbin Lace this August! Learn about the craft's 500 year history while building skills through making a sampler of the basic stitches used in bobbin lace. Learn more and register here!

A full listing of our programs may be accessed here. We hope you can join us!

Meet our Board of Directors

John Schratwieser, Board President

John has been the director of the Kent Cultural Alliance since January 2018, and has spent nearly thirty years in nonprofit management in the arts, healthcare, and higher education. Most recently he was the director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts, serving as the lead lobbyist responsible for Maryland’s public investment in arts and culture. Maryland is currently third in the nation in per-capita funding for the arts. He has served as executive director or development director for five cultural organizations in four states over the last three decades. He is currently Vice Chair of the Maryland State Arts Council Board of Directors. 

Mr. Schratwieser is an artist himself and has performed with major choral organizations such as the New York Choral Society, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Thomas Circle Singers. He currently sings with the Chester River Chorale and the Emmanuel Church Chester Parish choir. John lives with his husband, artisan potter Mike Pugh, and their Golden Retriever Franklin at the historic Friendship Farm in Worton, Maryland

Look for this feature in upcoming newsletters as we introduce the hardworking team guiding the Marshfield School of Weaving, and learn more about each Board member here.

As always, we can only do what we do with your generous support. Gifts of all sizes make a tremendous impact. Thank you.