pattern for bedspread
© F H Powell 2011

Most of us take for granted that at the end of a long tiring day we can clamber into a warm, comfortable bed. This is a far cry from our early ancestors who slept either in the open or in caves, using animal furs and possibly with a fire for warmth.

A recognised bed and the comforts it brings did not appear until around 3,400 years BC in Egypt, and then only for the Pharaohs. It was deemed suitable for these most powerful and respected people to have their sleeping arrangements raised up from the ground and so the bed was born. The Pharaohs beds were also decorated often in gold as was befitting of their status. Flax fibre, a hand woven type of cloth, provided not only bedding but also burial shrouds for that final sleep. It is also believed that around this time cotton was also becoming more common and could also have provided bed linen.

By the time of the Roman Empire stuffed mattresses for the wealthy aided comfortable sleeping. By today’s standards the mattresses were pretty basic being filled with wool, hay or reeds. Some of the better ones were feather filled. Silk had been manufactured in China from around 2,600BC but it remained a secret from the rest of the world until around 300AD, when the luxurious properties gave rise to great demand, not least for bedding. By the 14th century in Europe silk, satin and velvet were becoming increasingly popular covers for the basic straw stuffed mattress. The staple bedding materials for the less well off remained wool, cotton or linen, which were woven into a bed cover. Hand woven coverlets were popular in 18th Century North America being made of a linen warp (lengthwise strands) and woollen weft (strands drawn through the warp). By the 19th Century bedding became fashionable as well as functional with coloured dyes being applied to make geometric designs aided by increasing automation in the weaving industry.

This largely remained the case until the next milestone in bedding materials; synthetic fibre. Leading the way at the start of the 20th Century was Rayon. Known as mother-in-law silk it recreated at much lower cost the fine properties of natural silk. Many other synthetic materials have followed each aiming to have better properties and lower cost so that today the norm is to have bedding solely made from synthetic materials.

Bedding goes back to the dawn of man and you can represent some part of that history in miniature by adding a handcrafted bedspread to your dolls house, we have patterns for both knit and crochet bedspreads in both 1:12th and 1:24th scale, or if you don’t knit or crochet we have a few items of ready made handcrafted bedding too.