The Story Behind


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Reviving a Tradition with the Fiber Arts Crew

In the last semester, a renaissance of fine crafts has started at Warren Wilson. The College has roots in fine crafts going back to at least 1928 with the weavers at Dorland Bell School who went by the name “Dorland Bell Looms.” The students in the '20s were working their way through school in a way reminiscent of the Warren Wilson Work Program. When the Dorland Bell School merged with the Asheville Farm School in 1942 to become the Warren H. Wilson Vocational Junior College, the weaving program went with it. The weaving program, combined with the woodworking program, became known as “Warren Wilson Crafts.” Warren Wilson Crafts was a work crew throughout the '50s and '60s, and students worked 15 hours per week to produce fine quality woven goods to sell. They made guest towels, luncheon mats, needle cases, napkins, baby bibs, table runners, bookmarks, pillowcases, stoles, and aprons. However, sometime following the '60s, the Warren Wilson Crafts program was lost.

The weavers at the Warren H. Wilson Vocational Junior College

This fall, students proposed two new crews that would go a long way towards reviving the tradition of fine crafts that the College once enjoyed. Now the Fiber Arts Crew and Wood Joinery Crew are completing their first semester and have proved very successful. The Fiber Arts Crew has been producing woven scarves, handbags, runners, and rugs on looms donated by members of the local community. One large loom was a gift from Richard Bellando, another loom was gifted by WWC professor Joe Young, and other gifts were made by the Southern Highlands Weavers’ Guild. Supervisor Melanie Wilder has brought a wealth of experience in fiber art as well as her own collection of tools to help the crew.

A Table Runner

The impressive rag rugs have been especially successful. Made of old clothing from the College’s recycling program, the rugs are works of usable art that express the College’s commitment to sustainability.

A Rag Rug

Students are also trying ways to use scrap yarn that wouldn’t otherwise be long enough for a weaving project. Here is a scarf made of yarn scraps in progress on the loom:

Weaving Scrap Yarn Weaving Scrap Yarn

These new crews have a bright future at Warren Wilson and have already enriched the College by teaching students new skills in craft and spreading handmade art throughout campus!