Hastings Sanderson
Utah USA

A Fur-Lined Coverlet 

I was really excited about this mini-challenge. I have had such fun making zibellini and fur lined muffs in the past and there were such fabulous portraits with all kinds of coats with sumptuous fur linings. I was very gung-ho about participating since it had been awhile since I'd done a challenge. Then I stepped back and looked at my wardrobe. I already have four muffs. I own five zibellini, not to mention the fact that I made a zibellino for the last mini-challenge. I have some lovely pieces of outerwear that I rarely use because I almost never am cold. So, what did that leave?

I decided on a coverlet. I'm sewing some garb for someone in exchange for a wooden camp bed. The random selection of bedding I've been camping with up to now just didn't seem quite nice enough to match it. I thought a period and persona appropriate blanket would take care of the challenge as well as being something to add to camp beautification project.

That decision was the easy one. Doing the research on period bedding wasn't nearly as straight forward as I'd hoped. I know that there were fur blankets used in Venice, and a 1532 inventory of Lorenzo Minio taken at his death proves that by mentioning "a fox coverlet backed with rose wool". Slapping two rectangles together didn't seem quite right. I wanted to make something more fun Looking for more decorated coverlets and quilts was a great deal harder. They just didn't survive.

The list of extant quilts that relate to Italy and the 16th century is rather short. There are the Guicciardini (Tristan) quilts from 1395 Sicily. The trapunto is beautiful, but they are very early. Not to mention the lack of use for fur. There's a heavily embroidered Swiss coverlet from 1580 [See left: left], and another highly decorated quilt given to a doctor by Karel V that resides in a private collection in Belgium [See left: right]. 


I did find some wonderful information in Peter Thornton's The Italian Renaissance Interior:1400-1600. Lisa Evan's article in Medieval Clothing and Textiles 4, "The Same Counterpoincte Being Olde and Worene: The Mystery of Henry VIII's Green Quilt." was also of great help. I began to put together a listing of mentions in inventories. Most inventories don't have intensive descriptions of the bedding, but there are some tasty morsels every now and again. Thornton mentions an inventory from Rome's Villa Farnesina in 1526 that was, "coperte of crimson tela," and "impotita in manderille" shapes. Henry VIII had 110 quilts in his inventory. Of the 44 silk ones, 19 were pieced of multiple colors. There were also 8 made of velvet. Evans spends most of her time with the best described of Henry's quilts, a green saracenet quilted with copper thread. The border features squares holding thistles, roses, pomegranates, and fleur-d-lis. Evan's opinion is that it was more than just a decorative choice, combining the badges of England, Scotland, Spain, and France.

The best clue I found, however, was in Thornton discussing an inventory from the wedding of Lucrezia Borgia in 1502 . Two of her bedding items were particularly of interest to me. A crimson velvet coverlet with a silver brocade center panel and edging, lined in fur was mentioned. The second item specifically mentioned blue shapes appliqued from silk in the border of a coverlet. I used this description and some of the other information in my reading, as well as heraldic tabards and hangings as my inspiration for my camp blanket,

I decided I wanted to do something heraldic as I just submitted my heraldry in the SCA. I have a vair winged boar on gold as my device and a badge of a seeblatt-- also vair. Vair is a heraldic fur, meant to represent the fur of grey squirrels with their white bellies and grey backs alternating. The extra level of "fur" for the competition made me chuckle a bit as well. Originally, I made a piece of vair out of two furs, grey and white, piecing them in alternate shaped rows. While it was an interesting experiment, the number of seams in the fur seemed like it would be uncomfortable to sleep under. Additionally, the piece I made was too small for the finished front. Instead, I went with budget constraints and bought some inexpensive grey faux fur for the center of the back and edged it with borders of a longer haired faux lynx. If any fur is seen it is likely to be the lynx, but both fur pieces are equally warm.

The fur is machine stitched to the front piece and then was sandwiched between trim on the front and tassels on the back. I decided not to do a bagged lining because of the heavy seams, but I wanted to use the tasselled trim so a regular binding didn't work very well. Currently there are rows of tacking stitches along the trim lines, but I intend to replace them at a later date with small individually stitched tacks depending on how the front and back shift. Alternately, I may re-explore my original thought of quilting the pig through all the layers. I just was unsure how much stitching would make sense to do through both layers with the fur as the backing. I'm planning to give it a couple of uses and a wash or two and see what it needs.

The front is where I spent most of my time. I did a brocade center panel with a gold velvet border and then a border of the brocade to mimic Lucrezia's coverlet. Then I appliqued the sections of the flying pig to the center. The appliques are stitched using a blanket stitch. Couching the applique with gold cord or gilded leather would have been more period correct, but I am planning to take this camping and wanted it to at least pretend to be rugged. I did some interior detailing in stem stitch. starting with the pig's eye, hooves, and legs, but the going was slow, so I turned to a period appropriate technique and painted details on. I had always planned to paint the vair, I had originally planned to do the stem-work between the seeblatter (heraldic lily pads) and the waterlilies by couching gold cord. My first attempts seemed thin and skimpy, however, so I did a bolder shape in paint. I block printed and painted the fabric I used for my drawers and saccocia in IRCC II and they have been washed repeatedly with no fading or damage so I felt comfortable with how well the design would hold up over time and wear. 

The scrolling banner across the bottom of the center panel is my motto. The literal translation is more along the line of "nothing hinders hope." I couldn't find a Latin phrase that effectively translated the statement, "the impossible happens," which is what I tend to tell people who look at me and my messes and wonder how I finish anything.


2001 - 2014 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.