Saturday, November 13, 2010


First of all....don't you just love that word?  Serendipity...finding good things accidentally.

Ginny, who belongs to the Clinch Valley Handweavers Guild, brought me a box of Guild books and items that she had stored at her house for me to take care of.  We keep the Guild Library at the Appalachian Arts Craft Center where the Tuesday Weavers meet.  I just transferred the box from her car to my car, but this book caught my eye.  Ginny told me that one of the Guild members would need to keep this one at their house, since it is now out of print and worth a lot of money.  I thought I would take it into the house and take a look before I went to the Center on Tuesday.  OH MY!!!!  This book is a treasure!
  Sadye Tune Wilson and Doris Finch Kennedy conducted and directed a 5 year study of the early handwoven textiles in Tennessee.  The book was copyrighted in 1983, and contains beautiful color, as well as black & white pictures of coverlets from all over the state.  It also includes information and stories behind the person that wove the coverlet, if known.
  So, imagine my surprise when I got to page 178, and the house in the picture jumps out at me!  I know that house.....I took a picture of that house this spring when my brother, sister and I went up to Grainger County about my parents' farm.  Then, I started reading the text.  It was the Helton home place in Grainger County....YES!!!  It was my great-aunt Stella's house!  She was Esther's daughter, and married Robert (Bob) Helton.  Aunt Stella died in 1969 at 80 years old.  Uncle Bob died in 1972....and since they had no children, his nephews inherited the property, and sold it at auction.  The book mentions that a loom, spinning wheel and "counterpanes" were sold at that auction.  I don't remember seeing her loom...but we usually ran around outside when we went to visit them.  I do remember the beautiful "hall tree bench" that sat right inside the front door.  It was a work of art...solid oak!
  So, now I have another piece of the puzzle.  It looks like that Aunt Stella carried on the weaving tradition after she married.  She even used the loom at the house, as well as spinning her own thread.  The book mentioned that the wheel was a flax wheel, which goes along with what my Grandmother told me about the family planting and spinning flax.  The coverlet shown on that page was woven by Frances Hammer Helton...that could have been Uncle Bob's mother....I'll have to research that.  But, I wonder how many coverlets Aunt Stella wove?
  I enjoy looking at and studying my coverlet...I keep trying to figure out if this pattern has a name.  The first chapter of the book is about the structure of coverlets, and they even have a "motif classification system."  While I'm recovering from my tumble, I may try to study this system and graph the pattern.
  The book is very heavy, so this might be a challenge.  I have regained some use of my left arm, but I can only lift my arm about waist high.  I'll be starting therapy in 2 weeks, but I don't want the muscles to get too out of shape.  I'm even doing some of the Tai Chi movements I learned....I can see a little improvement every day! accident may lead to a delightful discovery.....time to research the motif and graph the pattern of my coverlet.  And, I can weave a little if I stand at the loom.  I've got a few projects that need to be finished before the holidays. 
       Yes, a little serendipity!!!!  (And, I'll gladly keep this book at my house for safe-keeping!!!)


Bonnie said...

What an interesting story. That house is a beautiful old home. If you knew the story behind the coverlet. I bet you can figure out the pattern and have fun at the same time.

Anonymous said...

OMG! As I was reading the first paragraph, my eye scanned down to the picture and I thought how much that looked like Aunt Stella's house. I was surprised to find out that it really was her house!

Good times and good memories at that house and now a lovely history about weaving, too. I'll have to see if Pete can link this to the family tree he is working on for M.

Do our coverlets have the same pattern or are they different?

Glad your arm is getting a little better.

Maggie said...

That is a neat story! I love those kinds of books.

Theresa said...

Serendipity is a wonderful word, usually preceded by a wonderful experience! How exciting, both that you get to keep that lovely book at your house and for putting some family history pieces together. And I might add, Stella is a great name! ;-)

Tina J said...

Lou Ann that is great! What a shock it must have been to see that picture. What fun to have that book in the same house the coverlet lives.

Anonymous said...

Lou Ann it was such a delight to read your story this early Sunday morning and the serendipity continues! Keep us posted on your researching journey. Sharen

Roxie said...

How wonderful! Enjoy your research, keep up with your gentle Tai Chi, and heal fast!!

Linda said...

LouAnn, what a wonderful discovery! I can just picture you sitting there with a big smile on your face!