Date of this Version
Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).
In 1922 Eleanor and David Carroll Churchill founded Churchill Weavers in Berea, Kentucky, and it still continues as a unique American handweaving company over 80 years later. While a missionary in India, D. C. Churchill tackled problems within handweaving, the country’s second largest industry next to agriculture. He put to use his MIT education, adapting the loom’s fly-shuttle attachment for greater efficiency. After abandoning his short teaching career at Berea College, the Churchills began a business to employ local people that had few job opportunities. D.C. manufactured the loom he had designed in India and compartmentalized weaving tasks. Eleanor designed items, managed the operation, and marketed the production.
Churchill Weavers became known for an amazing array of items—blankets of all sizes and types, fashion accessories, household textiles, and baby items. The production showed inventiveness in design, good color, and a variety in weave structures and fibers. Eleanor Churchill saved one complete piece from each production item, which now forms an outstanding archive of the business, attesting to the creativity of their designers.
Churchill Weavers marketed their products through a variety of retail outlets, including specialty shops, department stores, and their own retail venues. When their competitors claimed their items were not handwoven, they opened their Berea factory to tours. In the late 1960s Eleanor Churchill chose a young couple to run her business. Lila and Richard Bellando have guided changes that kept the company successful while still turning out thousands of handwoven items on the old Churchill handlooms.