Margaret Hester photo
My mother-in-law is a weaver. She loves her loom, which sits on the second-story sun porch, windows looking out over the tops of old apple trees, across the mountains toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the nine years I’ve know her, it seems that she’s always had a project ready and waiting. Meticulously strung, brightly colored yarn gives the loom the appearance of a Technicolor harp just waiting for her hands to make it sing.
She says that weaving is soothing, and its rhythmic motions a happy distraction. Fibers interlock, slowly crafting the long, patterned panels that she then makes into placemats, tea towels, scarves and more. She makes them for the sake of making them. Only occasionally does she sell her work—she and her husband, a woodworker, are both members of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild—more often giving it away to family, like me, for a holiday gift or sometimes no reason at all. I love yarn. It is an art and an art material just waiting to become something new. I’ve tried my hand at crochet, but confess that the counting of stitches felt tedious, so instead I buy yarn for my mother-in-law. She, in turn, gives it back, and thus when the weather is cold, she is with me, wrapped warm and soft around my neck—sophisticated in grey and black, playful in a multitude of flaxen gold, soft pinks and blues. There are other scarves she has made, each unique, each a cherished possession made of soft, chocolate brown chenille or sturdy black and red wool.
It’s tempting to put each of her works away for safekeeping, but that is not what she wants. Her work is made to be used. Whether it’s a Tuesday night dinner of leftovers or the family’s holiday dinner, her placemats are what frame the plates. Her runners top the piano. And one thick, deep blue wall hanging has held a prominent placed in our bedroom, a gift first given to my husband when he was a younger man making a move from the family home’s near Waynesville, N.C., to Charleston, S.C.
She is a giving person. And I continually am happy to accept her kindness, as it’s through this kind of give and take, the back and forth, that we become woven together.
This edition of Smoky Mountain Living is dedicated to the theme “yarns.” From knitting circles to tellers of tall tales, we spin a few yarns, long and rambling, of communities bound together.