Multicolored, multi-patterned wool rug attributed to Sister Elvira Hulett, Church Family, Hancock, MA
Hulett, Elvira Curtis (1805-1895)
Knit wool rug consists of eight circles ranging in width from 1 1/4" at the center to 4" at the outer edge. Each circular section has its own unique coloration and pattern, with a diamond motif used in the four widest circles. Plied yarns add visual interest and lots of color. Braided edge. The backing is a brown cotton duck that is tied with orange and green yarn.
Shaker sisters wove, braided, knit, and crocheted a great variety of rugs. Three exceptional examples of Shaker rug making share common technique and design that suggests they were made by the same hands (this, #1957.8574.1, and #1957.8933.1). The main bodies of all three round rugs are made from knitted strips sewn together to form concentric circles. A continuous knitted strip is coiled around itself to form the center of each rug and the outside edge of the rugs are all bound in braided cloth strips. The patterns in all three are complex, showing that they were the work of an accomplished knitter. All are backed in a heavy blue denim fabric. An identically constructed rug in a private collection sheds light on the maker of these exceptional rugs. On the back of this related rug is inscribed in cross-stitching, "Made 1882 By Sister Elvira In Mar 88th Year." Sister Elvira refers to Elvira Hulett (1805-1885), a member of the Church Family at Hancock. A collection of fourteen pattern drafts for weaving fabric prepared by Hulett are preserved in the Edward Deming Andrews Shaker Collection at Winterthur. Hulett's apparent skill as a weaver may explain the unusual patterns she chose to use in her knitted work because the designs are reminiscent of patterns she would have produced at the loom.  Robert and Katharine Booth, "Divine Design: A Shaker Legacy," guest curators, loan exhibition for the Philadelphia Antiques Show: A Benefit for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 1991, p. 40.  McKinstry 1014 Reference: Beverly Gordon, Shaker Textile Arts (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1980).
Blog post on Sister Elvira's rugs: https://shakerml.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/the-knit-rugs-of-elvira-hulett/