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Member News: The Kentucky Historical Society’s Churchill Weavers Collection By Jennifer Spence

Jennifer Spence, a TSA member, oversee’s the processing of the Churchill Weavers fabric archive at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, KY. 

Specialists at the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) are engaged in cataloging the fabric archive from one of America’s most notable handweaving studios—Churchill Weavers of Berea, Kentucky. Acquired by KHS in 2007, the fabric archive comprises over 30,000 textiles, in more than 2,000 boxes, representing every style made by this legendary Kentucky loomhouse. Today images and descriptions of thousands of Churchill Weavers pieces are viewable at history.ky.gov/objects. New information is added weekly.

Members of the weaver’s group, Colloquy, viewing the collection in October 2013

Members of the weaver’s group, Colloquy, viewing the collection in October 2013

From 1922 to 2007, Churchill Weavers employed hundreds of Kentuckians in the traditional craft of weaving. The company sold high-end products at local shops and at fine department stores across the United States. Mainstays of the company’s production lines were its luxury baby blankets, couch throws, and ladies’ accessories—yet the company produced everything from swing capes and bowties to cloth for NASA’s spacesuits. Personalities like Shirley Temple and Johnny Carson both enjoyed and endorsed the quality of Churchill Weavers’ products.

Churchill Weavers baby blanket, ca. 1955

Churchill Weavers baby blanket, ca. 1955

Model wearing a wool and Lurex stole made by Churchill Weavers, 1950s

Model wearing a wool and Lurex stole made by Churchill Weavers, 1950s

Company founders, Eleanor and David Carroll Churchill, were entrepreneurs who brought the concepts of fashion and innovation to handweaving in a region best known for overshot coverlets and rugs. Eleanor, in particular, saw great value in maintaining a business archive to document her company’s production history and continuing innovative work. KHS owns a rare find—one of the most intact fabric archives in the nation—and its staff and volunteers are working diligently to make it accessible to textile scholars and enthusiasts around the world. 

Sample made for American fiber artist Gerhardt Knodel, ca. 1980

Sample made for American fiber artist Gerhardt Knodel, ca. 1980

The complete Churchill Weavers collection is comprehensive, and includes:

  • Over 30,000 finished products, sales samples, swatches, color blankets, and scraps of cloth
  • Business records, advertisements, scrapbooks, and photographs
  • Oral histories with employees and promotional videos
  • Looms, tools, and weaving equipment
  • Designer logs, write-ups, and warp and weft cards
Whig Rose Pattern in a Churchill Weaver’s Colorblanket, ca. 1930

Whig Rose Pattern in a Churchill Weaver’s Colorblanket, ca. 1930

Cataloging is projected to be completed in 2015. The Kentucky Historical Society welcomes research and general inquires about the collection at this time. Please contact Jennifer Spence, Project Coordinator, at Jennifer.spence@ky.gov, or (502) 564-1792 ext. 4503 if you would like more information. Visit kyhistory.com to view images, videos, and documents related to the company’s history.

Drawing illustrating dress made with Churchill Weavers yardage, ca. 1930

Drawing illustrating dress made with Churchill Weavers yardage, ca. 1930