When I was growing up reading was an important part of the day. Before we learned to read our parents read to us at bedtime. One of my all time favorites was The land of Counterpane.
THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE
|When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
I always liked counterpane, an old word for a bedspread, but I never knew its etymology, which is quite unexpected: it’s an alteration of earlier counterpoint (due to an association with obsolete pane ‘cloth’), but that counterpoint is an entirely different word from the one you’re thinking of—it’s from Old French contrepointe, which is an alteration of coultepointe, from Medieval Latin culcit(r)a puncta ‘pricked (i.e., quilted) mattress.’ That word culcit(r)a is the etymon of quilt, so counterpane should really be quiltpoint
Definition of COUNTERPANE
: bedspread , A cover for a bed, bedding
Example of COUNTERPANE
<a beautiful counterpane that was a family heirloom>
Origin of COUNTERPANE
alteration of Middle English countrepointe, modification of Middle French coute pointe, literally, embroidered quilt
First Known Use: 15th century
Synonyms: bedcover (also bedcovering), bedspread, coverlet, hap [dialect], spread
Recently there has been an effort among quilt historians and collectors to further define what a counterpane is. I find this amusing because the word covers a very broad range of textiles. Any textile that is intended as a bed covering is by definition a counterpane. Efforts to describe a specific type of bed covering as “the” counterpane are futile. Some say that a counterpane is a non quilted, embroidered bed covering….true it is a counterpane, because it is a bed covering. A trapunto whole cloth quilt intended as a bed covering is also a counterpane…because it is intended to be used as a bed covering. A chenille bed spread for the 40’s is also a counterpane…because it is intended to be used as a bed covering.
|Think of the word table. We all know what a table is. A piece of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, providing a level surface on which objects may be placed. We also know that there are many types of tables: Coffee table, side table, dining table. Add in variations in materials, design, construction and period and there are literally thousands. Would it make sense to try to define “the” table?I say that the word counterpane is the same.|
The word counterpane seems cool to us now because it is generally out of use and therefore “historic”, (and makes you sound smart or “in the know” to use it.) but even if “experts” use the term in books to refer to a specific type of bed covering remember that is not the one and only item that is a counterpane. The correct way to define a textile is to define it specifically, and if the term counterpane is used it should be used with a descriptive modifier:
A whole cloth quilted counterpane, A whitework embroidered counterpane.
Time for me to take a nap…My bed is covered with a hand quilted mid-century improvisational patchwork counterpane…..sweet dreams