The Timeless Appeal of Vintage Chenille Bedspreads

For us – and many other linen collectors – nothing quitte matches the appeal of a vintage chenille bedspread…

Maybe it’s the rich history of this legendary American textile. It could be the mystery – after all, with most of these spreads now well over a half-century old, it makes one contemplate how it might have spent its previous life.

Or maybe…it’s simply the cozy comfort of being wrapped up in a great big hug, enfolded in the fabulous soft texture of all those fluffy tufts.

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Vintage Chenille Bedspread Manufacturers

Many vintage chenille bedspreads have no manufacturing tag. At times, you may be able to discern a manufacturer based on style and tufting, but it’s no guarantee.

Some of the more familiar American manufacturers are: Hofmann, Morgan Jones, Cabin Craft (sometimes spelled Cabin Crafts), Retrac, Dellinger, Fieldcrest and Bates. Two of our favorite English manufacturers were Vantona and Stagmoss.

A resurgence in popularity of chenille in the 1980s and 1990s saw companies such as Damze (which ultimately became known as the infamous Canyon Group) bring chenille back into the mainstream.

You’ll instantly recognize their fun, fabulous designs that often featured moon & stars, dogs, coffee cups, martini glasses and of course, the beloved “Nanny” chenille robes as worn by Fran Drescher in the popular 1990s sitcom.

Vintage Chenille Bedspread History: A Brief Timeline

Cabin Crafts Chenille

Rich with intricate needletufting, typical of Cabin Craft designs

Humble Country Beginnings…

Circa 1890s. Dalton, GA. Catherine Evans Whitener begins tufting cotton sheeting with thick tufts of yarn that formed designs. The bedspreads took off in popularity both on a local, and later, a national level. 

This handicraft was vital to the economic growth of the northwest Georgia area. As the spreads grew in popularity, marketers took notice…

From Rural America to the Big Cities

By the 1920s, chenille bedspreads were appearing on department store shelves in major American cities like NYC and Philly. 

The 1930s saw major advancements, when big time industry players like Cabin Crafts transformed production from rural homesteads to bustling factories. 

Also during this time, chenille bedspreads began dotting clotheslines along the now-infamous Highway 41 in Dalton, which became known as “Peacock Alley” thanks to the prevalance of the bold and beautiful tufted peacock chenille bedspreads.

The Glamorous 1940s & Beyond

As the demand for chenille bedspreads continued to surge through the 1940s and 50s, manufacturers also began offering a wider range of chenille products, including robes, bed jackets, capes, rugs and even tufted towels.

Over time, public interest in chenille declined, and once-beloved bedspreads made their way to rag factories and second hand shops; robes were relegated to the dark corners of dusty closets and storage chests, where many are still hiding…

By the 1990s, chenille enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks to media appearances in well-liked TV shows at the time such as The Nanny, where Fran Drescher was often seen in a glam 40s style wedding cake patterned bathrobe by everyone’s favorite manufacturer, Canyon Group.

A 1996 LA Times article explained, “The once boring bathrobe has been given a sense of humor. While vintage chenille robes were covered in tufted floral patterns that looked like the bedspreads that inspired them, the Chapmans’ robes are embroidered with kitschy motifs such as stars and moons, coffee mugs, teacups, Scottie dogs, Dalmations, cats with fish bones, watermelon slices and spotted cows.”

What About Chenille Today?

With a history of quality in craftsmanship and durability, it’s no surprise that there remains a wide market of chenille bedspreads for sale even today. A simple search of any major site like eBay or Etsy continues to yield thousands of results.

Crafty folks upcycle chenille into a range of handmade goods, from quilts and blankets to robes and fashion garments, as well as stuffed animals and accent pillows.

There is no question that the heyday of chenille has long passed – in fact, many in the millennial and younger generations may not even know what it is. Still, it remains an important part of our rich American textile history that we must preserve for future generations to cherish.

Vintage Chenille Bedspreads for Sale

We love sharing our passion for vintage chenille with fellow collectors, crafters & quilters! Please come visit us at Simply Chenille by Charlotte to see our extensive collection of chenille spreads, fabrics, quilt squares, robes, pillows & more.

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Tips on Buying a Chenille Spread

Buying a vintage bedspread? There are a couple suggestions we often share:

  • If authenticity is important, be aware of newer reproductions. From the late 1960s-80s era in particular, these were often cheap polyester blends that are nothing like the originals. If you’re unsure, look for excessive fabric pilling, very commonly seen on inexpensive chenilles that were not 100% cotton.
  • Some newer reproduction chenille bedspreads (circa late 1990s-present) look very similar to vintage Martex Cabin Crafts designs – but if you look closely you will see there is no intricate needletufting such as seen on an original. These may even be all cotton and have attractive fringe as well, so it’s key to examine the piece well before buying.
  • Many sellers on sites like eBay or Etsy may not be aware of the history, fabric composition, or even the general age of the linens that they are selling, so if originality and authenicity are what you seek, it’s up to you to do your research before buying.
  • Very few linens that are truly antique or vintage will be in “perfect” condition or free from any blemishes – even NOS textiles may show signs of age such as speckling or discoloration along fold lines.
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Explore the History of Vintage Chenille Manufacturers

There were many popular makers in the textile industry that made chenille bedspreads in their heyday. Here are some of the more well-known manufacturers. 

Cabin Crafts

Often boasting elaborate floral designs, many of which fit seamlessly into modern farmhouse decor today.  Learn More…

Bates

With a legacy of quality in American manufacturing, elegant Bates bedspreads are still produced today.  Learn More…

Fieldcrest

From shabby chic imperial cabbage rose patterns to tulips & chubby pops, Fieldcrest is a classic. Learn More

Hofmann

Prized for their stunning geometric designs in daisies, gothic crosses and abstract florals, this is an elusive maker.  Learn More…

Morgan Jones

A top choice amongst quilters and crafters for a wide array of plump rosebuds and cheerful popcorn designs.  Learn More

Retrac

With some of the most iconic cottage chic designs, nothing quite speaks the language of vintage romance like Retrac. Learn More

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