Eleanor Clark & the Post Office weaving center
Many an ancient attic still harbors parts of looms, spinning wheels, winders, and a box or two of shuttles! So it seemed only natural for Eleanor Clark to find an interest in weaving when she came to live in Buckland after her uncle, Edmund Wilder, died in 1944. Eleanor gave up a teaching career to make her home at the Wilder Homestead with her Aunt Bertha. She was named Post-mistress at the Buckland Post Office, and there found time for other interests. It wasn’t long before she transformed two rooms at the Post Office building into an informal weaving center. Neighbors and friends became interested, an antique loom was brought up from the Homestead, and soon other more modern looms were made available. Eleanor started a schedule of weaving lessons, which brought participants from nearby towns, as well as Buckland and Shelburne, and soon they were calling themselves “The Buckland Weavers” and turning out varied products—even arranging exhibits of their work.
Among those who were active weavers, we recall Alma Merrill, Maywood Miller, Margaret Patch, Ruth Hunt, Eleanor Reddy, Christine Purinton, Imogene Litchfield, Florence Haeberle, Mary Clapp and her daughter Mary Jeanne, Ruth Graves and her mother from Conway, Florence Gray, and Bertha Wilder. There were also many of the Buckland Busy Bees 4-H girls. Maywood Miller was one of the talented weavers, who wove fine material for a christening robe, which was worn by her grandchildren. Mary Clapp eventually sold her 36” loom to Imogene Litchfield, who used it to weave a stair carpet. Two weavers who became especially influential and helpful were Mae Aldrich of Charlemont and Linna Whalen of Shelburne Falls.
New England Weavers Seminar
In July of 1955, Mae Aldrich, in collaboration with Ruth McIntire of the State Extension Service, organized a New England Weavers Seminar in Skinner Hall at the University of Massachusetts. This affair was successful beyond all expectations and became a regular biennial event at the University. It eventually included fourteen weaving groups from all over New England, and had visitors from many States.
“The Shuttle” publication (1965 – 1972)
After Eleanor’s sudden death in 1958, weaving enthusiasm faltered for a time, but due largely to the leadership of Linna and Mae, interest was revived and the group held together. To foster closer cooperation between members, Linna and Mae started publishing “The Shuttle” in 1965. In this way, designs could be shared, activities reported, and information concerning looms, equipment and materials made available. Linna was responsible for the printing and distribution of the paper. Mae, who was then living in Florida, contributed the leading articles, with patterns, treadling and actual samples. “The Shuttle” was continued periodically for several years, eventually reaching several hundred subscribers in a number of States, who had learned of it as they attended the continuing New England Seminars at Amherst. After Mae’s death, it was discontinued, and the final issue appeared in 1972.
Carrying on the tradition???
Now, eleven years later, a committee has been formed under the auspices of the Buckland Historical Society, to establish a Weaving Room at the Wilder Homestead. Plans include the use of a large old loom, owned by the Society, and as the project progresses, it is the hope of the committee that new leaders will come forward to carry on the tradition so ably represented from 1945 to 1972 by Eleanor Clark, Mae Aldrich, and Linna Whalen.
Buckland Historical Society — Box 88 — Buckland, Massachusetts 01338 — (413) 625-9763 — Copyright © 2019