Meet the Angels That are the Crossnore Weavers!
Are you as fascinated by all things textile and history like me? Any time I find an opportunity to check out a weaving room and art gallery, I’m already planning the trip. So, when I happened upon a sign for the Crossnore Weavers in the mountains of North Carolina my interest was piqued. I had no idea the awe-inspiring passion, talent and compassion of what I’d find.
Nestled up in the North Carolina mountains somewhere between Boone and Asheville lies the sleepy little town of Crossnore. You’ll know you’ve reached the one road access because of the wooden sign and historical marker. In the heart of this tiny town lies the campus of the Crossnore School and Crossnore Weaving Room.
Founded in 1913 by Mary Martin Sloop, the Crossnore School started because Mary Martin saw a drastic need for education for the people in the mountain region. Herself a certified doctor, she set aside her college profession and put her heart and soul into helping the children of the Appalachia.
Once a few good teachers were brough in and a new, bigger building was erected, children from all over the area began coming to the school. Many of the children came from distances too far to walk in one day. Therefore, Mary Martin set up a boarding program so these kids could stay there during the week to keep up their education.
As you can imagine, funding was a constant struggle for the budding school and boarding house. Mary Martin was relentless in her pursuit for these kids. Reaching out to churches, friends and various organizations such as the Daughters of the Revolution, the kids were always well provided for. To this day one of the largest benefactors to the school are the DAR.
Weaving was introduced for the 1920 / 1921 school year. Money for the new program had become available because of the recent Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Bill that passed in February, 1917. The bill provided federal funding for ‘training in agriculture, home economics, and trades and industries.’
Mary Martin decided to open the program to both students and local women that wanted to learn a trade. The program took off like wildfire. By the start of the 1922 school year Crossnore reported 30 students and 4 married women enrolled.
The program brought with it a group of new (at the time) smaller handlooms designed by Anna Ernberg specifically for use in weaving programs. The most common looms up until this point were very large and usually made with rough cut timber. These newer looms were smaller and easier to maneuver. Plus, more of them could fit into a room.
To continue to help fund the program and the school, Mary Martin decided to sell the products that were made in the weaving program. Students progressed through the program by making more intricate designs which in turn brought more money for the program. Not only was it encouraging for the students but the married women in the program also said it gave them a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Throughout the years the women and students have made and sold everything from bookmarks to shawls and table settings to blankets and even hooked rugs. Even past First Ladies of the United States have purchased finished products from the Crossnore Weavers.
Today the Weaving program has been going strong for 100 years with no end in sight. When you venture to the campus you can walk through the Weaving room to look at all the projects currently in production. And, if the ladies are at the looms, they are more than happy to have a chat.
Be sure to walk through the attached store and pick out a few things that strike your fancy. There are also items made by other local artists in the region that include glass, pottery and even a few quilts! Don’t forget to meander through the art gallery upstairs. Everything is for sale. And, let me tell you, the talent on display is incredible!
My favorite part about this school program? The philanthropy. Today the school works directly with social services and other agencies to help board and educate children that come from all walks of life. Some are foster children waiting to be adopted. Other children are permanent residents. Either way, they’re all loved and very well cared for.
On campus is a full charter school with cafeteria, library, gym, therapy offices, parks, and more. Each child is placed in a family home with a couple that cares for at most 7 or 8 children. They work with the local humane society to adopt dogs for the children to care for and each child is given a bike to ride. Also, the older children are offered the opportunity to do volunteer work for the campus store and get part time jobs around town.
When a child ‘ages out’ or is ready to graduate high school, there are counselors that work with them to get into college. And, if they wish, there is even a separate fund to help them pay for college, as long as they stay committed and keep up their grades. 😊 40% of all the sales from the local artists projects go directly this this college fund. All of the weaving sales go to fund the school itself.
After my lovely talk with Star in the Weavers store (she’s also one of their Weavers), I was ready to write a check just to help with this school’s mission. And, I couldn’t wait to share everything about this diamond in the hills with all of you. A stop in to see the Crossnore Weavers is sure to be one of the highlights of your North Carolina Mountain adventure!
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