Behind Factory Doors: The Bates Queen Elizabeth Bedspread
It was a glorious day, but Queen Elizabeth I was anything but pleased. The year was 1572, and the deeply dissatisfied Queen left Berkeley Castle in a huff. She would never again stay at the Gloucestershire manor. Her displeasure was not completely uncalled for, as the Queen had little liking nor respect for the Henry Berkeley, the castle owner. Not only was the 7th Berkeley involved in legal feuds with the crown concerning the Berkeley castle lands, but he had also hurt her pride upon her arrival: as she approached the castle with her entourage, he rode out-- an act Queen Elizabeth took as a serious insult. In her prompt departure, the Queen left behind several objects which have since become historical relics: a pair of gloves and her silk, quilted bedspread.
It was quilted Elizabethan-period bedspreads like these that, centuries later, would find reemergence in the great minds of textile designers around the world, including members of the Bates team.
“The Bates ‘Queen Elizabeth’ bedspread is relatively young in years as a manufactured article but it is centuries old as a genuine representation of the intricate weave, texture and quality of the bedspreads that were choice items in the Elizabethan Era.”
The Queen Elizabeth Bedspread was first introduced by Bates in 1953 in commemoration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s name honors both the new Queen’s coronation and the fact that the original weave was traced back to Elizabethan times.
The original idea for creating the “Queen” pattern evolved from the successful manufacture and selling of the puff construction spreads in the fall of 1950, Bates Centennial Year. George Mills, the Bates Division’s head designer, was given the go-ahead to embark on a new project and began to think of how a center medallion pattern could be developed. Up until this point, patterns being used were all-over repeats. To create a bedspread featuring a center medallion would be to break the existing pattern mold. The more he thought the closer he came to solving some of the mechanical problems in weaving such a spread.
In the fall of 1951 this thinking crystallized into a definite plan on paper, and the designer then was authorized to proceed with working out the basic weave technique and the loom operation. In the meantime, a representative of management came across an old bedspread for which its owner had paid $75. This spread helped the designer to implement his thoughts on the construction. In the end, the entire design of the old spread was changed, and it was improved by replacing the diamond border with a border that would bring greater emphasis to the beautiful center medallion.
The original point paper design sits overlapping the woven spread at Museum LA
The Company’s designing staff at first was puzzled how the spread would be woven, but the persistent efforts of the head designer convinced doubters that it could be done, albeit with an unusual loom tie and weaving technique.
Once put into action, the weaving technique was indeed successful and represented the first of its kind.
Today, the iconic, historical pattern is still proudly produced by the men and women of Maine Heritage Weavers and continues to be a top-seller in the heirloom collection. To browse products featuring this venerable design, visit the Queen Elizabeth Collection.
Purchase yours at a 10% discount for the entire month of September!
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