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Weavers of the Southern Highlands

Weavers of the Southern Highlands

philis alvic
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Weavers of the Southern Highlands
    Book Description:

    Weaving centers led the Appalachian Craft Revival at the beginning of the twentieth century. Soon after settlement workers came to the mountains to start schools, they expanded their focus by promoting weaving as a way for women to help their family's financial situation. Women wove thousands of guest towels, baby blankets, and place mats that found a ready market in the women's network of religious denominations, arts organizations, and civic clubs.

    InWeavers of the Southern Highlands, Philis Alvic details how the Fireside Industries of Berea College in Kentucky began with women weaving to supply their children's school expenses and later developed student labor programs, where hundreds of students covered their tuition by weaving. Arrowcraft, associated with Pi Beta Phi School at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Penland Weavers and Potters, begun at the Appalachian School at Penland, North Carolina, followed the Berea model. Women wove at home with patterns and materials supplied by the center, returning their finished products to the coordinating organization to be marketed. Dozens of similar weaving centers dotted mountain ridges.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4814-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. maps
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Appalachian Settlement Schools and Weaving Centers
    (pp. xiii-xix)
  6. preface
    (pp. xx-xxiv)
  7. 1 foundations of the appalachian craft revival
    (pp. 1-14)

    Even over a hundred years ago, weaving was associated with the southern Appalachian Mountains. Perhaps this perception occurred because weaving survived as a household art longer as part of subsistence mountain living or because the local color writers who set their adventure tales in the southern mountains referred to “damsels in homespun” or “youth in rugged trousers of handwoven jeans.” Around 1900, many social service workers in the region encouraged weaving to promote economic development among women, which also strengthened the association between the Southern Highlands and weaving.

    “Hand spinning and weaving were at the foundation of the revival of...

  8. 2 common threads
    (pp. 15-34)

    The histories of weaving at Berea, Gatlinburg, Penland, and Rabun Gap record their individual development, but these places shared several events, people, and other connections. The weaving centers started independently of each other, with different organizational structures, but they professed common founding principles. Their leaders came from similar back grounds and held similar beliefs. Periodically the craft production centers joined together for mutual benefit, sometimes in self-generated ventures and sometimes in opportunities provided by others. The federal government also influenced and participated in Appalachian crafts development in several ways.

    In 1905 Martha S. Gielow founded the Southern Industrial Education Association...

  9. 3 berea college and fireside industries
    (pp. 35-55)

    Most Kentuckians and Appalachians—along with a good portion of the United States population—associate the name “Berea” with the word “college.” Berea College not only dominated the town that bears its name but played a leading role in supplying the educational, spiritual, and social needs within the self-designated area it served, the southern Appalachian Mountains. The college led the revival of weaving in the mountains and served as a model for many other weaving cooperatives.

    Within the Berea community, four major weaving establishments grew during the early part of the twentieth century: two directed by the college and the...

  10. 4 pi beta phi settlement school and arrowcraft
    (pp. 56-74)

    “In the ‘yesteryears’ this country was a community of weavers, but after the war, ‘store cloth’ was cheap so that one woman after another put the old loom aside,” wrote Caroline McKnight Hughes.¹ The passing of weaving skills from one generation to the next had not continued within families following the Civil War. The revival of handweaving occurred because there was again a reason to weave: people from outside the mountains would pay “cash money” for the products from weavers’ looms.

    The story of weaving in Gatlinburg in the early part of the 1900s is made up of two major...

  11. 5 appalachian school and penland weavers and potters
    (pp. 75-95)

    The story of weaving at Penland starts with the Appalachian School at the whistlestop town of Penland in the mountains of North Carolina. Penland is located in Mitchell County, which sits at the northwest edge of the state, adjacent to Tennessee. Penland’s early tale of weaving is Lucy Morgan’s story too, although she doesn’t enter the picture immediately. Lucy’s older brother, Rufus Morgan, developed the Appalachian School under the direction of Junius Horner, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Bishop Horner approached the young Morgan while he was still attending seminary in New York City. He proposed...

  12. 6 the weavers of rabun
    (pp. 96-112)

    In a ranking of strong weaving personalities in the Southern Highlands, Mary Hambidge would be near the very top. As founder of the Weavers of Rabun in the northeastern mountains of Georgia, her operation did not conform to the patterns established by the other weaving centers. She struck out in a direction uniquely her own, largely because her education, environment, and inspiration were different than those of the leaders of the other craft ventures in the southern Appalachians. While no one could claim that she contributed the most or wielded the greatest influence, she accomplished much and inspired many. With...

  13. 7 other mountain weaving centers
    (pp. 113-134)

    Although Berea’s Fireside Industries, Penland Weavers and Potters, and the Pi Beta Phi’s Arrowcraft Weavers represent the largest and most influential weaving centers, dozens of other centers were born during the Appalachian Craft Revival. Because these centers served their immediate areas, the organizational structure and the experiences of their weavers were all very similar. Although they had much in common, these places sprinkled throughout the mountains each had their individual history. Since the Craft Revival movement remained unorganized until the inception of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild in the early 1930s, each center invented itself in response to specific conditions...

  14. 8 weavers and managers
    (pp. 135-151)

    Only women wove for the mountain weaving centers. The actual number of weavers employed at weaving centers was not large, because the social settlement workers established schools in small communities where they perceived need, rather than in the larger established towns of Appalachia. Only around one hundred community women worked at anyone time for Berea or Arrowcraft, although their lists of potential weavers contained two to three times that number. At Berea, students needing campus jobs swelled the weaving ranks. Penland’s weavers increased to sixty-four by 1930, but declined after that date. The majority of the other centers remained small...

  15. 9 production
    (pp. 152-168)

    When social settlement workers moved into the southern Appalachian Mountains in the early twentieth century, they chose weaving as the craft to promote among women. As a home based industry, woven textiles combined many desirable characteristics: the skills were already known or could be easily taught, the raw materials were available locally or easily transported to the area, an extensive capital investment was not required, and work could be produced in the home without undue mess. The products displayed a uniqueness that found a ready market, and items shipped easily and inexpensively. Weaving also possessed some cultural and traditional ties...

  16. 10 financing and fulfilling a mission
    (pp. 169-189)

    In pricing handmade products, the maker always had the significant problem of covering the costs of materials and labor while staying under the limit of what a consumer might be expected to pay for an item. The individual craftsperson usually undervalued her labor, and attached no monetary value to the many extra processes performed by her and her family. In addition, she usually ignored the overhead of workplace and equipment required for production. When a craftsperson progressed from constructing pieces for friends and family to selling the items, she invariably figured the price based on the cost of materials, with...

  17. appendix: List of Oral History Interviews
    (pp. 190-192)
  18. notes
    (pp. 193-211)
  19. bibliography
    (pp. 212-223)
  20. index
    (pp. 224-233)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 234-234)