Tuesday, October 04, 2005

History of Textile Arts in Pocahontas County, Episode 1

Peviously, I threatened to begin a history of fiber arts in Pocahontas County. I have been collecting snippets of information. Pearl S. Buck, born but not raised here, published her mother's childhood recollections of her Hillsboro home in The Exile (1936). As a woman writing about women's lives, Buck delivers plenty of details about domestic economy. In this passage, the textile arts are the medium through which she reveals one side of her mother's character.

The postwar period in the life of the little West Virginia town [called Hillsboro now] was one of deep spiritual fervor coupled with necessarily ascetic living. This atmosphere was the air which she breathed in her youth, and which forever placed a check upon a nature that was at heart sensuous and beauty-loving. But it gave also the opportunity for experience of many sorts and in this her varied mind delighted. I remember her saying once, "I have done every kind of work needed to maintain life and I am glad of it. After the Civil War there were no shops, nothing to be bought. We grew our own flax and we spun linen thread and made our own sheets and table cloths and inner clothing. We dyed our dresses from cotton and linen thread we had made ourselves and we wove it. I learned to know what colors could be made from different herbs and barks and from roots of many kinds. Sometimes our experiments were failures and we had to wear them just the same. And we sheared sheep and washed the wool and carded it and spun it and wove it. I am glad I learned how to do everything."

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