Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Sarah Stopenhagen Broomfield


Churchill Weavers, a nationally known handweaving center founded in 1922 in the Cumberland foothills in Berea, Kentucky, created a marketing niche by promoting the Modernist look in its textile products. Modernist textiles focused on woven structure, texture, yarn and fabric properties as the major design elements. Bauhaus artists codified and disseminated a theory of modern textiles as Europe rebuilt in the interwar period, while in America Modernist textiles were commodified as a marketing trend in early 20th century consumerism. Eleanor Churchill, co-owner and the company’s first designer was influenced by textile designs from India, from Modernist textiles, and from Swedish design traditions.

Modernist textiles of Churchill Weavers inspired by machine–age modernism, Swedish, and Indian textile traditions were uniquely designed fabrics for women and men to wear and to beautify their homes. The company was guided by an innovative woman whose skills as a designer were matched by her ability to manage a small business and keep it growing through a depression, Second World War and recovery, and to provide strong leadership in a male dominated industry. Churchill’s Modernist textiles embody some intersectionalities that make for a rich narrative.

a. The intersection of European feminism and a theory of modern textiles led by the women of the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop, paralleled by Swedish designers with their interest in good design for all classes of society;

b. Intersections of architecture and public policy on modern housing in inter-war period Europe and in the United States, and textiles designed for those modern interiors.