By Alicia Stemper/Vitamin O
Carol Blackmore started teaching herself to weave on a pot holder loom when she was six or seven years old. “My mother didn’t really understand why I was addicted to this but she facilitated… I just had to do every single combination of color I could think of.”
Meanwhile, Blackmore’s paternal grandmother collected antique textile equipment from the southern mountains. Blackmore used to peer into the windows into the building where it was stored, intuitively understanding it would one day be hers. “The cool thing about looms is that they are made so many different ways and in each culture they do it differently.” Now the owner of Crow Hill Rugs, Blackmore primarily weaves on a large Glimakra loom, made in Sweden. She bought it used in the days before the Internet by sending postcards to weaver’s guilds all over the country. She had been told by a dealer she would never find one; there were only about six of the type she wanted in the country. But “weavers take care of each other” and a woman in Kansas wrote back, pointing her to an ad in a magazine about a loom available in Savannah, Georgia, which Blackmore purchased.
The loom is large, designed to be operated by two people, but Blackmore primarily weaves solo. She modified it by adding a set of pedals in the middle. It was modified again by her son Collin who added a compressed air powered system to drive the heavy beater, which helped her manage the weight of it. Blackmore, who suffered for years with Lyme disease, found the physical nature of weaving very helpful as she recovered. Weaving… “helped me through it because number one, it is really good exercise and number two, I don’t have to think… This stuff is just coming out of my hands…I love the color, I love the feel of it and I can bang away and just get rid of all my frustration.”
Blackmore’s rugs are woven using recycled clothing which she cuts into strips. With her daughter Ivy, she formed Nica Tejdos, a Nicaraguan women’s cooperative in one of the poorest villages in the western hemisphere after realizing one resource the women had was old clothing. “We’re talking poverty that you can’t even imagine – they have one plastic chair and they take turns sitting in it.” The profits from the rugs they weave provide the women with money for health care, school fees, and basic tools. The cooperative uses Blackmore’s philosophy which is to “start small, figure out what you can do, and then grow it.”