June 5, 2021

The End of the Wonder Rug

By Andrea Richards

3,103 words

It sold the so-called Oriental rug to America’s middle class. But after nearly a century, the Karastan factory is shutting down.

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  After working with a prototype, Ms. Galloway encouraged Karastan’s mechanical engineers to automate the winding process as well. They did. “It was challenging,” she said. “The machine would get on my last nerve sometimes but when the fixer would come, I would stay there and watch.” But “with Autoset you had to do so many lines a day. My body was used to moving at a certain pace. If my machine broke down and I had to be on the floor, it made me tired. With 20-some years on production, I still had that momentum going.”
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  In 2019, Mohawk Industries, which purchased Karastan in 1993, eliminated the Autoset department and Ms. Galloway retired. “There weren’t but three of us making these rugs by then,” she said.
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- Five of Ms. Galloway’s family members worked at Karastan in her time there, and two at other area mills. All their lives, like many of Eden’s residents were directly affected by the ebb and flow of the turbulent textile industry as ownership of the mills changed and production either moved elsewhere or evolved.
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+ Five of Ms. Galloway’s family members worked at Karastan in her time there, and two at other area mills. All their lives, like many of Eden’s residents’, were directly affected by the ebb and flow of the turbulent textile industry as ownership of the mills changed and production either moved elsewhere or evolved.
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  “Karastan is the only one that stayed,” said Mr. Ivie, who serves on the board of the Eden Historical Museum. On weekends, he is at the desk at the storefront museum, which exhibits various artifacts from the area, including a small Karastan rug. “I guess that we’re lucky in a way that it stayed as long as it did,” he said.
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  In 1953, Marshall Field & Co. sold its mills in the area to an investment company based in Boston, which formed a new company that would define this region of the Piedmont for the next half-century: Fieldcrest Mills. By the time Ms. Galloway began working in the late 1960s, the mills no longer rented out houses to workers, deducting the rent directly from their pay as they had until the 1940s, but Eden was still very much a company town.
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  My brother-in-law, William Pace, is the third-generation proprietor of Pace-Stone, a furniture and rug store on Washington Street, two blocks from the mill, that sold its first Karastan rug in 1929. For my husband, almost every part of his childhood bore the influence of Fieldcrest, from the towels he used (sold at a discount in the mill’s outlet store) to the church he attended.
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  When we moved to California more than two decades ago, one of the first things we did was pool our limited funds to order a Karastan rug for our new apartment. My nephew, John Tyler Pace, who has taken over at Pace-Stone, shipped it to us. It never even occurred to us that we could have found a Karastan dealer on the West Coast (nor would we have gotten a family discount). Karastan rugs, like Nana’s boiled custard or a Dick’s Drive-In hot dog, came from Eden.
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- Like transplants often do, we took a piece of home with us to ground us in a new place. And I’m not the first to do so with a piece of Karastan carpet: In 1964, when Mr. Ivie left Leaksville to attend Princeton, his parents gave him a framed tiger rug that was part of a limited edition of Karastan, 3 feet by 5 feet, made in the 1960s and ’70s that were meant to be hung as artworks.
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+ Like transplants often do, we took a piece of home with us to ground us in a new place. And I’m not the first to do so with a piece of Karastan carpet: In 1964, when Mr. Ivie left Leaksville to attend Princeton, his parents gave him a framed tiger rug that was part of a limited edition of Karastan, 3 feet by 5 feet, made in the 1960s and ’70s, that were meant to be hung as artworks.
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  “I think they thought it would help me make friends — something I could show to girls,” Mr. Ivie said. Ms. Galloway, in her home, has a commemorative piece of a Kirman 717 sitting on an end table that she flipped over to demonstrate how the Axminster looms sewed through the back. She immediately spotted an errant stitch, a mark of a human error that was likely not made on her shift.
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  When Fieldcrest consolidated with another textile company in North Carolina, Cannon, in 1986, 2,500 people worked at the Eden mills. This merger eventually resulted in both companies’ dissolution and bankruptcy and the biggest single-day layoff in North Carolina history, as well as the state’s longest-running labor dispute.

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  • The End of the Wonder Rug

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  • Carpets and Rugs
  • Eden (NC)
  • Interior Design and Furnishings
  • Karastan rugs
  • Mohawk Industries Inc
  • Shutdowns (Institutional)