A counterpane is a quilt or coverlet for your bed. In Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Ishmael compares Queequeg's heavily tattooed arm to the patchwork quilt that covers the noble harpooner: The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-coloured squares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of which were of one precise shade . . . this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt.