Quilted petticoat of yellow (now faded) silk taffeta lined with a medium blue, glazed plain weave worsted wool (tammy). According to information that accompanied the petticoat, Rebecca Kingsbury (1713-1807) of West Dedham, Massachusetts made this petticoat while she was teaching at a school in Sharon, Massachusetts, sometime before her 1740 wedding to Nathaniel Gay (1711-1776). Rebecca was the 7th of 9 children of innkeeper Nathaniel Kingsbury and Abigail Baker Kingsbury of West Dedham. Nathaniel was an extensive landowner with a number of luxury items, including books, listed in his probate inventory. He could afford a good education for Rebecca, and she probably learned to quilt in the English style as a school girl. At this time, quilting was a fancywork technique practiced by young women from elite New England families, many of whom learned from school mistresses. With Rebecca, this may have been George Brownell of Boston, whose school opened in 1713, offering "Writing, Cyphering, Dancing, Treble Violin, Flute and Spinnet, etc. Also English and French quilting, Imbroidery, Florishing, Plain Work, marking in several sorts of stitches and several other works, where scholars may board." Also see the embroidered purse (HD 2001.8.1) made by Rebecca. In the 18th century, it was unusual for Rebecca to leave home to teach school. Usually, woman only taught the summer session when men were needed for haying and other farm work. Rebecca and Nathaniel Gay settled in Walpole, Massachusetts, where they had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. According to Lynne Bassett, this petticoat represents one of the earliest documented quilted artifacts in New England. There are more surviving quilted silk petticoats than wool examples since the wool petticoats were often unstitched and incorporated into bed quilts. During this period, quilted pettticoats were closely modelled after the geometric aesthetic of English quilting styles. Rebecca's has typical English motifs of arching feathers, scrolls, circles, simple leaves and flowers, although Rebecca's is somewhat differently organized and more heavily quilted than most English examples. The quilting pattern was probably marked by a professional, as opposed to the person quilting the garment. The entire design was marked directly onto the fabric rather than only the outline being pounced on. The quilting design covers the petticoat, a fact which suggests the early (1730s) date; later petticoats have only a narrow quilted, border at the hem as fashion changed from an open to a closed robe. The petticoat is quilted using yellow silk thread, using an English-style running stitch to create the dense, overall design. The quilting stitches average about 9-12 stitches per inch (spi), as do the seam stitches. The petticoat opens with a center back placket, 9 3/4" long (ripped an additional 1 1/2"). At the top, the garment is pleated (all pleats are 1/2" apart, 1/8" deep, and open up towards center back), into a matching blue wool braided waistband, with the center back 3" left unpleated. The top 5-6" of the petticoat is unquilted, and ends with the fabric folded over and stitched, giving the appearance of a horizontal seam. Below this stitching, the petticoat is gathered on either side, for about 19" (the front 12 1/2" and the back 16" back 16" are left unpleated). The hem is edged in a matching gold silk braid, badly deteriorated. The inside wool layer is seamed using matching blue linen thread. The selvage of the silk contains blue threads (7-8) and a single, thicker red thread. There is wool batting (natural color) between the two layers. The petticoat has been lengthened, evidenced by stitch holes about 1" up from the gathering of petticoat. "Crumbs" of cotton thread indicate later (modern) alterations of an unidentified kind. A repair was attempted using cotton thread to fix a tear at the top, proper left side.
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