Chenille is the French word for caterpillar, and it's a fitting name for those fuzzy, patterned bedspreads that were once so popular. Although chenille yarn has been around since the eighteenth century, it wasn't until the late nineteenth century that a woman from Dalton, Georgia, developed the stitch to make this tufted cotton fabric. And in no time, Dalton became the chenille capital of America, even calling its main road Bedspread Alley. Chenille bedspreads are happy things, and for many years, beds all across the country were covered with their tufted floral and geometric patterns.
But unfortunately, in the 1960s, chenille fell into disrepute when manufacturers tried to offset the high cost of tufting and introduced a fabric called polyester. Old chenille bedspreads were either packed away or -- even worse -- made into rags. But chenille has resurfaced, and new cotton spreads can be found in many catalogs and bedding stores. Old chenille, meanwhile, has become quite collectible. If you're interested in purchasing vintage chenille, turn the fabric over, and examine the bedspread from the wrong side to reveal any imperfections that may be camouflaged by the thick pile. If the background fabric has tiny pinholes, thin areas, or water stains, the fibers are weak, and the bedspread probably won't wear well.