Chenille Bedspreads - King Bed Spread

The old-fashioned chenille bedspread is a now a shabby chic staple and worthy of page in the history of American home handicrafts. From tufted to chenille: Tufted chenille bed spreads, prevalent in American homes throughout the early to mid-1900s evolved from a revival of the handcraft technique of tufting in the 1890s, thanks to Catherine Evans of northwest Georgia.

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Evans' tufted bed spreads of the time consisted of cotton sheeting to which she would apply designs with raised "tufts" of thick yarn – these covers would eventually be called chenille bedspreads. French for "caterpillar," the term chenille is typically used to describe fabrics that have a thick raised pile, cut at right angles to the cloths Though most tufted bedspreads did not meet the strict definition of chenille, the name stuck.

Evans and others who learned the tufting technique hand-stamped patterns onto blank bed sheets, then filled the patterns with yarn. As regional demand for the bedspreads grew, area merchants began to market the homey chenille bedspreads throughout the state. By the 1920s, chenille bedspreads were stocked on the shelves of fine departments stores in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and other major cities.

A clamor for chenille bedspreads:

To fill consumer demand, retailers established "spread houses," (homes or small warehouses) where the designs would be stamped onto the sheets. Haulers would deliver the stamped sheets and tufting yarn to thousands of rural homes in north Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, where patterns would be sewn in by hand. The haulers would make a return trip to pay the tufters, pick up the spreads and return them to the spread houses for the finishing details of washing, preshrinking, and sometimes dyeing.

Chenille Bedspreads

In the 1930s, chenille bedspreads were pinned to clotheslines that lined the highway through Evans' hometown of Dalton and other small Georgia communities. Tourists heading for Florida would stop and buy the spreads. Among the tourists, the most popular tufted design was the peacock. So many of the peacock chenille bed spreads were purchased that the road became known as "Peacock Alley."

In ensuing decades, manufacturing companies started to bring the handwork from the farms into their factories, seeking higher productivity and control over the process. The new production companies also began modernizing and mechanizing the industry by engineering sewing machines to perform the task of tufting.

Tufting hits the wall-to-wall:

The astounding success of tufted chenille bedspreads drove companies to experiment with other tufted products that eventually included robes, fuzzy toilet tank covers and small rugs. In fact, it was the production of small rugs that ultimately led some of the manufacturers in the 1950s to start using the machine tufting procedure to create entire room-sized rugs that developed into the wall-to-wall carpet manufacturing industry of today.

 

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