Published April 20, 2017

Sadly, Evelyn Lahman passed away on June 13, 2017, shortly after receiving her apprenticeship.

A craft originally born of necessity, the fiber arts continue to thrive throughout southern Appalachia. In Southwest Virginia, gifted artists spin, dye, knit, and weave, consciously creating beautiful objects that perpetuate rich handcraft traditions dating back centuries. Evelyn Lahman, of Rural Retreat, Virginia, was largely self-taught in weaving and knitting before learning the craft of wool spinning at the John C. Campbell Folk School. She soon became a regular attendee and a dedicated member of the Handweavers Guild of the New River Valley, one of hundreds of fiber arts guilds that thrive in the Commonwealth. A retired farmer, Evelyn has devoted herself to mastering various aspects of fiber arts, including the use of multiple varieties of floor and table looms and the natural dying of wool. For the past twenty years, Evelyn has taught many students at the Guild and in Mill Creek Studio, her personal studio in Rural Retreat. She will apprentice Dr. Michael Gilley, of nearby Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Michael has been weaving rag rugs and other household items for more than forty years—a skill he learned from his grandmother—and has long conducted personal research into the making of spun wool and flax cloth in the eighteenth and nineteenth century traditions. Though he brings considerable skill and experience in the fiber arts to the apprenticeship, Michael has never used a traditional spinning wheel to make yarn, the first order of the artists’ work together.

Learning Experience

Virginia History in Song

What can songs teach us about history?