The Catherine Evans Story

From Acorns to Mighty Oaks

Catherine Evans' Home
Catherine Evans’ Girlhood Home in Dalton, GA (1909-1922)

This story tells how a small North Georgia town revolutionized the worldwide carpet industry.

Catherine Evans lived in this house as a young lady, on the west side of Whitfield County in Dalton, Georgia in the early years of this century, until she became Mrs. W. L. Whitener in 1922. The old house now stands empty and quiet. It must have been filled with much activity.

As a farm girl, Miss Evans remembered an heirloom bedspread which had been in her family, perhaps a candlewick from Colonial days. In 1895 she attempted to copy it. After much experimenting she worked out a stitch which locked into the fabric and, once snipped, left a small tuft. Appropriately, she called the stitch “tufting” because each stitch resembled a tiny tuft of grass.

As she worked out the pattern for the new spread, she used a dinner plate and saucer for drawing circles and a ruler for straight lines. She began stitching the pattern with 12 ply yarn. The first spread was given as a wedding gift to her brother in 1898. The next spread she made using the odd new stitch was in 1900. This one she sold for a tidy $2.50.

With the sale of this handmade chenille bedspread, a trade was born. Soon families were busy on farm porches all around, stitching spreads to sell from their front yard clothes lines. As the tiny cottage industry grew, Singer Sewing Machine Company in nearby Chattanooga took an interest. What if this unique new stitch could be performed by a sewing machine?

Singer found that indeed it could; and, before long, they developed a twelve-foot wide sewing machine with a needle-bar containing 1500 needles. Singer hoped to sell the new sewing machine to nearby bedspread crafters.

In the meantime, a few curious Georgia pioneer carpet makers began to experiment with Singer’s new tufter. They wondered if the new machine could produce broadloom carpet faster and better then their present method. To this point in time, all carpet makers had used an old style Axminster loom which produced carpet at four feet per minute.

The Georgia carpet manufacturers were amazed that the new Singer tufting machine could produce carpet at forty feet per minute; however, the established carpet industry (bound to the old Axminster looms), claimed that no “tufting machine” running at forty feet per minute could possibly produce high quality carpet.

They were wrong. Carpet that had cost $25.00 per square yard made the old way, could be purchased for $4.99 per square yard. The carpeting of America had begun. From Miss Evans first two dollar and fifty cent bedspread, the carpet industry mushroomed into a multi-billion dollar business. Carpet was no longer only for the rich. Now it was affordable for everyone.

America and Northwest Georgia can take special pride in its inconceivable accomplishments in carpet manufacturing. Thanks to people like Catherine Evans, we hold the number one position in the industry today… with the rest of the world miles behind.