The Storrar Coverlet: uncovering a story of Baltic trade
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This beautiful double-weave coverlet, dated 1729, was recently acquired by National Museums Scotland from the collection of a family from Fife in the east of Scotland. In the family’s possession for generations, the coverlet has been passed down, tradition has it, from mother to daughter. The double-weave technique was used in the eighteenth century for so-called Scotch carpets and other locally produced domestic textiles, and historically the coverlet has been described as of Scottish manufacture. Visually, however, the design, with its repeating motif of geometric forms and birds, is far closer to traditional Swedish double weave textiles known as finnvaev. Such textiles survive from as early as the Viking era, and their distinctive design characteristics were established in the Renaissance, partly through influence from southern Europe. In Sweden, such coverlets were often made to mark a wedding or family event and, so, incorporated dates; they were often handed down through the female line. Research is currently underway on the history of the Storrar family, the early provenance of the coverlet, and its physical characteristics to establish its relationship to traditional Swedish production and to the Scottish textile industry. The east coast of Fife where the coverlet comes from has historic trading links with the Baltic, and we are excited about what the coverlet will reveal about the rich history of trade, cultural exchange, and the transfer of skills between Scotland and Scandinavia.The double-weave technique has been used for woolen coverlets and similar textiles in a range of other contexts, including the North American coverlet tradition—almost certainly arriving via immigration from Scandinavia. An examination of this transfer of a traditional skill to a new continent could potentially help establish the status of the Storrar coverlet, between Scotland and Sweden.