Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Georgia's Bedspread Alley

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Georgia's Bedspread Alley

Are you on Pinterest? I have an account, but my four or five little boards there are awfully lonely.

I’ve ignored Pinterest on purpose.

I’m afraid once I dive in there will be no saving me, and I’ll spend too much of my time scrolling through the pretty images and forget more pressing matters.
Every now and then I get a notification that someone new is following my boards. I feel so bad and want to send them an apology letter letting them know that one day…someday… my Pinterest boards will be more interesting.

I most certainly see the value of Pinterest just from the pins that roll across my newsfeed on Facebook. 
I see things I could forward to others...I saw this and thought it might interest you

Ideas that I could use thinking to myself...Oh, that would be perfect for the bedroom.
All sorts of craft ideas that make me dream...Yes! I can make that, too.  I’ll try that…, and then I laugh myself right out of the thought minutes later since I’m not very crafty as in glue and thread kind of “crafty”.

In 1892, when she was 15, Catherine Evans didn’t have Pinterest, of course, but she did see something she wanted to try. She saw a tufted bedspread someone had made prior to the Civil War. Catherine decided she wanted to try the technique.

She took a bodkin needle, a blunt needle used for pulling something large through a piece of material, and tried her hand at tufting. The tufts were made by pulling eight threads at a time through the material. Over and over the threads would be pulled until the design was complete. Once the fabric was washed and dried the tufts would be there to stay.
What began as a personal challenge to see if she could recreate something turned into something she did over and over for family and friends finally selling one for $2.50.

That’s where the story really takes off economically not only for Catherine, but for nearly 10,000 women and their families across North Georgia.
You see, after that first sale the orders just kept coming. More and more folks were recruited to complete the tufting.
A cottage industry was born!

Gradually over time men were hired to work in stamping facilities where the designs were made on plain white sheeting.  There were various methods used to stamp the fabric,  but one way was to lay a plain piece of sheeting over a completed tufted spread.
Blocks of melted paraffin with bluing would be rubbed across it. The tufting underneath would leave marks and form a pattern to follow.

Sheeting stamped with designs would be delivered to homes where the women would complete the tufting. Once the design was complete the sheeting would be washing in hot water shrinking the fabric which in turn would hold the threads in place. The sheeting would be tossed over the clothes lines for drying which helped the tufting to “fluff”. 
Hanging the sheeting over the clotheslines with the bright colors and interesting designs was also a great way to advertise the bedspreads, and fairly soon the route down Highway 41 between Cartersville and Dalton became known as “Bedspread Alley”. 

Over and over again delivery men would pick up the completed pieces and drop off more printed sheeting for the women to complete.

Eventually, real manufacturing centers were set up while the orders came in from all over the place.  There are stories though the ladies didn’t always wait for the orders to arrive. Sometimes they would simply pack up 15 bedspreads along with an invoice and mail them off to a northern department store.  When the first invoice was paid without question the ladies also received an additional order for more bedspreads. The process was repeated over and over with department stores all over the place.
The demand for tufted items grew – house robes, rugs, wall hangings, and house shoes.

The Singer Sewing Machine Company took note and created a needle that could be used along with their machine to push the threads through he cloth, and a hook or “looper” would catch the thread and keep it from being pulled out as the needle moved to the next stitch.

If you’ve ever wondered how the Dalton area became home to the carpet industry you only have to look back as far as the ladies who made tufted or chenille bedspreads. The tufting process eventually led to wool fibers being used with jute resulting in Dalton’s carpet industry.
Hmm, I wonder what I might find on Pinterest that could be the next cottage industry in Georgia?
You just never know….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this information! I was thinking about these bed spreads tonight and thought I might find some pictures of them. When I was a child my family would travel from Chicago to Orlando to visit my grandparents. I am pretty sure we traveled via US 41. I was always enthralled by the colorful spreads hanging in front of the shops. Because we had limited travel time my pleas to stop were never granted. How I would loved to have one of those beautiful spreads! You did clear up a misconception of mine. I always thought they were made by Indians, for some reason.
Again, thanks so much.

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