The Appeal of Vintage Chenille Bedspreads
A Little Bit of Chenille History
Chenille sometimes may refer to the yarn or fabric used to produce a textile. Often the term is used to describe a vintage type of fabric used to make a bedspread. These vintage bedspreads are commonly recycled into stuffed animals and throw pillows. The word chenille is French and it means caterpillar. An apt name for a yarn that is quite soft and fuzzy. Chenille yarn can be traced back to the 1890's but it was not until the 1930s that the bedspreads and shams became popular. The term chenille instead of bedspread stuck and often the fuzzy bedspreads instantly come to mind when the word is used. Today chenille yarn is commonly used to produced the tufted varsity letters seen on "Letterman jackets" popular among sports teams in high school and college.
Chenille hand made items are often seen in online art shops like Etsy and the chenille bedding is auctioned online at Ebay. Products range from baby blankets to bibs, throw rugs to furniture covers, and from bath robes to scarves.
What to Look for When Buying Vintage Chenille
The best way to find variety is to shop online. However, shopping online presents some issues. Can the seller be trusted to send you a product that matches the item's description. Always ask the seller questions when in doubt. If they do not answer or answers are vague then move on. It is hard to tell in pictures online if there are stains on a chenille bedspread or perhaps even tears or wear. Make sure the online posting shows more than one picture and that the item is described in length.
Tags are important on vintage chenille bedspreads. If you are looking for a certain maker, be sure to get a picture of the tag from the seller. Common vintage chenille bedspread makers are Cabin Crafts, Morgan Jones, Bates, Cottage and Hoffman.
Sellers of chenille bedspreads were often small home based businesses. Families were trying to eek out a living during the Great Depression. Cabin Crafts became the first truly industrialized maker of chenille bedding. They put Dalton, Georgia on the map and turned to making carpets when chenille bedding fell out of fashion in the 1960s. The bedspreads produced by Cabin Crafts still had a homey charm to their styling. Often 'wave' patterns are prevalent on a Cabin Craft bedspread.
Morgan Jones had already established factories by the late 1800's. They had an edge over the competition because they had buildings to produce the chenille bedding when the craze caught on. Despite being a larger industrial chenille bedding manufacturer, Morgan Jones produced quality chenille bedding that is highly sought after by vintage bedspread collectors. Morgan Jones made a couple of popular patterns that are ideal for a collector. Look for their "rosebud" and "popcorn" patterns.
Well known for their "George and Martha Hobnail" bedspread, the Bates Mill started in 1850, still produces chenille bedding today. The Bates Mill has a story similar to Morgan Jones. Bates had a jump on the competition because the company already had a production area when the chenille fad began.
Cottage chenille bedding is literally the cottage industry that sprang up before the larger companies like Bates and Morgan Jones was involved in creating chenille bedspreads. These desirable spreads were being homemade in houses in Northern Georgia. This industry can be credited to Catherine Evans who devised the craft to help families feed themselves during the Great Depression. A common design on cottage spreads is a peacock. These chenille bedspreads were sold by the side of the road. The myriad of displayed chenille bedspreads on the roadside influenced the name of a stretch of highway 41 to be called "Peacock Alley". These spreads that started the craze will not have a tag and can be recognized by their hand made qualities.
Hofmann is one of the chenille bedding companies that did not survive until this day. Hofmann chenille bedding is sought after for its quality. A Hofmann tag generally reads " W. Hofmann Textiles Inc. Englewood NJ". The pattern most sought after is white tufting on a pastel colored background.
Turn Old Chenille Spreads into Something New
Now that you have gathered a collection of chenille bedspreads, there are certain to be ones showing signs of wear, stains or even holes. Fortunately, you are living in a age where repurposing is chic. With very little effort and expense, turning worn or stained chenille into something beautiful is possible. Try these ideas with one of your old bedspreads.
- Cut the spread up and sew together lively pillowcases.
- Save the fringe from the end of a bedspread and sew it on to the bottom of a window valance for a vintage look.
- Use a piece of the chenille bedspread to upholster the seat of a chair.
- Smaller bedspread scraps make great holiday stockings or heart warming stuffed animals.
- I see a chenille bath robe in your future. Patterns are found on any search engine.
- Do you crochet? Tear the bedspread into long strips and string together a throw rug.
- Use the material to create a small hand bag or cosmetic storage bag.