Monday, December 18, 2017

The Charming History of Chenille Bedspreads .. Peacock Alley

A few days back I was scrolling through Facebook posts and happened on one that I found so intriguing and ever so charming. It sparked my interest when It was about vintage Chenille bedspreads ... I don't know about you but I have always loved old Chenilles and even many of the newer ones that have made a resurgence in the last years..

In years past I found myself curious as to how they were made but never took the time to research it..

Thanks to the Old Marietta FB page who posts historical info about Marietta, GA and surrounding areas .. I'm not from GA myself but just a hop, skip and jump west of there but still in the south .. 

I think the original post from the OM FB page tells the history beautifully so here is their original post on the history of Chenille Bedspreads: ...

The World Capital for "Chenille Bedspreads"

Imagine: you’ve piled the family into the car and are driving south for a Florida vacation. You’re traveling along U.S. Highway 41 "Dixie Highway" in northwest Georgia, when suddenly both sides of the road become flanked by row after row of clotheslines chock full of stunning chenille bedspreads. Congratulations! You’re in the thick of “Peacock Alley.” And most likely you’re between Dalton and Marietta, GA.

1930s travelers often stopped and bought these bedspreads, and of the many designs adorning the spreads, the most popular among tourists was the peacock. Hence the nickname.

Sometimes the bedspread buyers believed their purchases to be examples of authentic American folk crafts, when in fact by that decade a well organized industry had formed around the tufted beauties.

Catherine Evans (later Catherine Evans Whitener) revived the handcraft technique of tufting in the 1890s near Dalton. Tufted bedspreads consisted of cotton sheeting to which Evans and (later) others would apply designs with raised “tufts” of thick yarn. These tufted bedspreads were often referred to as chenille products. Chenille, the French word for “caterpillar,” is generally used to describe fabrics that have a thick pile (raised yarn ends) protruding all around at right angles.

By the 1920s merchants had organized a vast “putting out” system to fill the growing demand. They established “spread houses,” usually small warehouses (or homes) where patterns were stamped onto sheets. Men called haulers would deliver the stamped sheets and yarn to thousands of rural homes in north Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Families then sewed in the patterns. The hauler would make another round of visits to pick up the spreads, pay the tufters (or “turfers,” as they sometimes called themselves), and return the products to the spread houses for finishing. Finishing involved washing the spreads in hot water to shrink them and lock in the yarn tufts. The tufted spreads could also be dyed in a variety of colors.

The participation of farm families in this industry provided badly needed cash incomes and helped these families weather the Great Depression. It also produced fortunes for some. Dalton’s B. J. Bandy (aided by his wife, Dicksie Bradley Bandy) was reputedly the first man to make $1 million in the bedspread business by the late 1930s, but many others followed.

Also in the 1930s such companies as Cabin Crafts began to bring the handwork from the farms into factories. The bedspread manufacturers sought greater productivity and control over the work process and were also encouraged to pursue centralized production by the wage and hour provisions of the National Recovery Administration’s tufted bedspread code. These new firms also began mechanizing the industry by adapting sewing machines to the task of inserting raised yarn tufts.



1934. Mrs. Ralph Haney poses for a photograph in her kimono. The peacock design was made of chenille.


I hope you enjoyed learning about the History of the Chenille Bedspread as much as I did .. and if you are in or Near or from GA ... be sure and hop over to the Old Marietta, FB page HERE and be sure to like or follow their page.  

I would have loved to see all those Chenille Bedspreads flapping in the breeze on clotheslines heading down the Dixie Hwy... Wow what a sight that must have been and every wife and mom must have pleaded for the hubby to stop if for no more to see, touch and  dream of owning one and for those that could take one home I'm sure it was absolutely treasured .. I think that's why we find so many wonderful pieces of the past such as chenille bedspreads in such amazingly good condition.. that era wasn't a throw away society and their earnings when spent on a special items meant they took care of it and treasured it ..

Here's to treasuring Beautiful Pieces of the Past ..

Farmhouse Blessings .. 


  1. I love the old chenille bedspreads. I have one on my bed right now. Love the soft texture and simple feel it gives to the room.
    Have a wonderful last week before the big day. Enjoy. Merry Christmas.

  2. Thank you for this history lesson, fascinating! I also love chenille bedspreads and own a couple of them. They are so soft and comfy!

  3. This was such a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing it I love chenille. Have a very Merry Christmas! Jo

  4. I have never seen ones with peacocks on them! Interesting article!

  5. Well, my first comment vanished as my wireless signal buffered in a constant loop.

    Thanks for such a great post. It brought back memories of when my son worked at a chenille factory while he was in high school about 27 years ago. It was called Crown Tuft in Heflin, Alabama. It went out of business not too many years after that. They made the most beautiful, soft chenille robes and bedspreads.
    I have a small piece of chenille fabric a friend gave me years ago that came from there. I need to make it into a throw or something.
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
    Merry Christmas!

  6. I have a beautiful chenille bedspread that my Pap gave us when we were married 45 years ago. It was bought from a roadside souvenir stand much like the one in the picture. The shop was in West Virginia just a few miles from where I lived. That spread has been used in our guest room at various times. It is a treasured heirloom. Thanks for the great article.


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