You Look Well to the Ways of Your Household

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In 1892 twelve-year-old Catherine Evans of tiny Reo, Georgia, saw a family heirloom bedspread while visiting a relative. She thought that the bedspread, handmade by candlewicking, was so beautiful that she decided she would make one some day. Three years later, she did. However, Catherine invented her own variation of candlewicking. Her method came to be called tufting. Catherine even created her own yarn for tufting. She did this by winding twelve strands together on a spinning wheel that her father had made.

After giving one of her first bedspreads to her brother and his new bride as a wedding present, friends and neighbors began wanting to buy one for themselves. Soon Catherine was hiring other women to help her meet demand.

Women she trained began businesses of their own. By the 1930s, the craft had spread in north Georgia and to nearby regions in Tennessee and North and South Carolina. Women living along U.S. Highway 41, also known as Dixie Highway, hung bedspreads on clotheslines to advertise them to travelers.

On display in the Stilesboro Academy museum was this example of a handmade tufted bedspread. According to the description alongside it, women created tufts by inserting a steel needle with 24-ply cotton thread into the bedspread at 1-inch intervals. They cut the thread between each stitch and tied it. When they completed a bedspread, they hung it on a clothesline on a warm, breezy day. The warm breeze fluffed up the yarn tufts. I wonder if the first bedspreads sold from clotheslines, not because the women had hung them up for sale, but because people just saw them hanging there getting fluffed up.

This tufted bedspread has a hobnail design. Clarice Nelson, who was once a member of the Stilesboro Improvement Club, is thought to be its creator. Notice the handmade fringe. 

Businessmen noticed what these enterprising women were doing and began to supply them with yarn and with fabric with pre-printed designs. In addition to the nickname Dixie Highway, U.S. Highway 41 also became known as Bedspread Highway. And, when women began to import colored yarns from northern factories, they often created tufted peacocks on the bedspreads. Then, some people called the highway Peacock Alley. This home-based bedspread industry helped many families survive the Great Depression without having to depend on charity.

Catherine Evans became Catherine Evans Whitener after she married. Enterprising women added tufted toilet seat covers and throw rugs to their offerings. Catherine’s invention of tufting led to the creation of the modern carpet industry centered in Dalton, Georgia, when businessmen found ways to mechanize the industry and began to manufacture cotton carpets. When the Dupont Company began supplying nylon thread, Dalton carpet makers were able to compete with northern woolen carpet makers and today Dalton is the hub of the Georgia carpet industry. Of the $11 billion in wholesale carpet sales in 1997, $8 billion went to Georgia companies. Of the 50,000 carpet laborers nationwide, 32,000 worked in Georgia.

Wow! You just never know where one woman’s creativity is going to lead.

Whether you use your creativity to add to or to completely supply your family’s income or whether you use your creativity to figure out ways to help your family thrive on the income of your husband or whether you do both, I am proud of you for doing it. You have made your family a priority. You look well to the ways of your household. Good job, Mama.

She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
. . . She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
. . . She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:16, 24, 27


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