The persistence of decorative ideas in New England over a great period of time is seen in the migration of compositional elements from one medium to another, the result being a widespread aesthetic unification. This type of bedcover, called a whole-cloth quilt, was made from joined lengths of single-color fabric. One of the most common fabrics used in the construction of whole-cloth quilts was a professionally produced glazed, worsted wool called calimanco. A variety of techniques were used to produce its characteristic high sheen. The fabric could be run between rollers with applied heat and pressure, or it could be rubbed with a soft stone. Another method was to apply gum arabic or another resinous substance to the surface. In the eighteenth century, this type of fabric was common for clothing, especially quilted petticoats, and sometimes the fabric used for bedcovers was salvaged from worn petticoats.
Calimanco provided a perfect surface for elaborate quilting, which created a three-dimensional, almost sculpted, effect. A close examination of the quilting motifs on this rich, indigo-dyed bedcover reveals a heavy reliance on the same Mannerist motifs that had informed Pilgrim-century furniture almost a hundred years earlier. The quilt is bordered on four sides with feathered leaf and geometric designs recalling the ornamental carving that framed low, heavy case furniture of the late seventeenth century. The spreading vines emmanating symmetrically from a central motif are similar to the painted decoration on furniture from the Guilford-Saybrook area of Connecticut, while the palmettes, diamond reserves, and scrollwork across the main body of the quilt, in particular, relate strongly to examples of furniture made in Ipswich, Massachusetts, by Thomas Dennis and William Searle.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Indigo Calimanco Quilt," in American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 297.