Appalachian Folk Festival At the Historic Vance Birthplace

It isn’t often that we as a group of tatters and lacemakers are invited to demonstrate our skills. So I was pleased to receive an invitation from Kimberly Floyd of the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace outside of Weaverville, NC late last spring. She had heard about The Thread Bears and invited us to attend their annual Appalachian Folk Festival.  

I agreed to come to the event, totally unsure if any other Thread Bear members might be able to attend.  The Birthplace is one of the sites affiliated with the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources as a state historic site.  Zebulon Vance was the governor of NC during the Civil War beginning with his inauguration to a 2-year term in 1862.  There is the house, a visitor’s center and at least one out building in which the Vance family lived and worked after obtaining the property around 1815.  It is a rather remote location today, and it is clear that when the only way to reach the farm was by wagon, on horseback or on foot, it was a remote location, indeed.  

I don’t know if the family had any members who tatted.  The spinning of flax and wool were certainly part of daily life there.  There was one person present at the Festival who was demonstrating spinning using a drop spindle. While spinning wheels were widespread throughout Europe in the early 1800’s, there were not so common at that time in these mountains.  In the bedroom of the main house was what appeared to be a Christening gown which was lined and was decorated with embroidery of the day.  The threads were quite a bit more coarse than threads we find today.

There were 3 of us who were present and demonstrating tatting.  Our “booth” was near the front door to the Visitor’s Center and we were directly in front of a large display describing Governor Vance’s career as a lawyer in Asheville, NC.  Here you can see Shonn along with examples of tatted doilies, bookmarks and other adornments for clothing and accessories.  We also had prepared some simple book-marks of large paperclips, ribbons and a small piece of tatting for our visitors.  There were about 180 visitors to the center that day, in spite of the cool rainy weather.  

Almost everyone who stopped by to chat with us had either an awareness of tatting, had seen it before or were totally unaware of the art-form.  Shonn is always willing to share his knowledge and skill with the shuttle and demonstrated often  while we were there:

The person from the NC Department of Natural and Cultural resources told us that in his 12 years of taping events such as this one around NC, he had never actually tapped anyone making lace.  We were amazed and at the same time honored to have made that distinction.  We will be watching for the video of the event in the weeks to come.


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