Teresa Bouchonnet, owner and operator of Cowee Textiles, believes that the past should always have a place in our modern world, which is why she is currently one of the occupants of the Cowee Heritage Center where she teaches classes in weaving and spinning.
“This loom used to belong to my great aunt,” she says, pointing to the large machine in the middle of the room. “These looms belonged to my parents. They were weavers. My dad learned from her back in the ’60s. Back then, men were the ones who weaved.”
Besides teaching the community a variety of different weaving techniques, Bouchonnet also goes above and beyond by allowing the Methodist Home for Children to attend private classes to teach the kids the timeless art of weaving. Last week, children attended Bouchonnet's class for the second time since she began to teach it. Joyce Lackey, a teacher from the home says that the kids are excited to be able to attend these offerings.
“The kids look forward to coming here. They learn to work with their hands and it lets them focus their energy on their projects,” she said. “They work with their minds and their hands at the same time so it gives them some kinetic learning. This project in particular allows them to work as a team which is one of the things we work on in the home.”
The Methodist Home is a multi-purpose group home located in Franklin. It is a non-profit organization that works with youth between the ages of eight and 17 years of age who have been court ordered to the home. It serves both males and females and residents typically stay at the home between four and eight months.
“We connected with Cowee Heritage Center to do some community service projects and some garden work,” said Lackey. "And through that, we met Teresa. We helped clean some buildings and some other things and that's how we met her. From there she offered to work with our students and do some weaving. She's just been fantastic. In fact, all of Cowee has been. They've been very supportive. It's been a great way for people in Franklin to work together. It's just an incredible resource.”
The first time that the home and Bouchonnet collaborated on a project the kids made coasters out of compact discs and yarn. This newest project was one that the kids chose to work on. They wanted to make shoe strings so that they can use them.
“I wanted them to be able to come in and work on a project that would actually take a little bit of time to finish,” said Bouchonnet. “I want them to be able to work and when they are done, see what they have made and hopefully they will be proud of it.”
The children were in agreement that visiting Bouchonnet for her classes was something that they looked forward to and enjoyed. Lackey said that an added benefit was that they don't have to stop working on it when they leave the class room.
“I think one important part of learning these things, is that you all don't have to stop when the class ends,” Lackey told the kids working diligently around the table. “You can work when we're back at the home too. You can keep learning.”
Bouchonnet teaches classes and workshops on weaving, spinning, felting, dyeing, quilting and sewing at the center. The classes that she offers are open to all ages and all abilities. She will have looms for lease at the center for $6 a week. For more information and/or a schedule of upcoming events, visit www.coweetextiles.com.