Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design


Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Linda Welters


The University of Rhode Island’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection (HTCC) recently accessioned a grouping of disarticulated patchwork blocks that once belonged to a coverlet. The coverlet was assumed to have been created in 1697 in British North America, making it the oldest firmly dated patchwork currently known to exist and placing this art form in the European colonies fifty years earlier than previously documented. However, because the blocks were disarticulated with companion pieces spread between numerous collections, it was crucial to analyze the blocks in depth to understand if this origin story was correct or had been manufactured later to increase its economic and social value.

The 1697 Project utilized a material culture methodology involving a two-pronged approach. First, observable data was collected, establishing a detailed physical description of the patchwork as it currently exists, then compared to extant samples originating from the seventeenth century. Second, the objects’ provenance was reconstructed from documentary evidence and combined with interviews of object stewards to establish where the coverlet was produced. Results confirmed that the patchwork is the oldest firmly dated example but originated in England rather than British North America, demonstrating how narrative construction impacts our understanding of patchwork history.

Available for download on Friday, May 17, 2024