by Rachel Renaud
I began knitting at the end of my junior year of high school. It was definitely an experience learning how use the needles and how to knit patterns, and at times it was very difficult. But since learning to knit, I have gained an appreciation for all things crafty. I enjoy looking at quilts and other projects like that because I understand the hard work that goes into them. While I have never tried my hand at weaving before, I can imagine the hard work the girls at the Berry Schools had to go through to make hook rugs. Going through documents on the site, I have encountered a lot of letters that ask Miss Berry for a rug, or thank her for the rug that they received.
The girls had to work very hard on these rugs and especially given that they were in school at the time, I cannot imagine that they had a lot of free time between school work and weaving. Learning the skills and becoming good at weaving also takes time, as shown in this letter where Miss Berry explains she cannot fulfill an order for hooked rugs due to the girls’ inexperience at making them. Teaching the girls to weave must have been a time-consuming ordeal, and given how pressed for money the Berry Schools were during this time, to be unable to fulfill an order would have been very unfortunate.
It would be interesting to see how the Berry Schools taught the girls to weave during this time and if there are any documents that go into more detail about the process. I do know that the weaving took place in the Sunshine Room at Sunshine Cottage. The room has been closed down by this point, but the looms have been relocated to another area on campus, the Hoge Building. The equipment is not used often, but during the Alumni Work Week, some alumni work the looms to produce blankets and other items.
You can see other letters relating to weaving and crafts in our Handicrafts and Weaving collection on the website.