Husband and wife David and Anne Allison are weavers whose mastery of traditional and historic patterns and styles has developed over decades of researching and practicing the arts of spinning, dyeing, and weaving. They use natural fibers and older traditional patterns, some dating from the 1700s, to create a variety of items, including table runners and place mats, tea towels, and clothing. Both are in demand to demonstrate their craft and display their work.
David’s grandfather was a weaver who participated in a family weaving business for many years. When David was growing up in Old Fort, his grandfather showed him how to weave on a loom. “I was so little, I couldn’t reach the treadles,” David remembers. His grandfather would work the treadles, while David ran the shuttle back and forth. “I just picked it up that way,” David says.
Anne’s great-grandmother was a spinner and weaver; both grandmother and mother passed on lessons in sewing and knitting. Anne was given a needle and thread at a very early age and has always worked with fiber. In the 1980s, she took a spinning class, which opened the door to the process of making fabric; from the processing of flax into linen thread, spinning a wool fleece into yarn, using natural dyes for a rainbow of colors, and weaving the yarns to produce an heirloom fabric.
David’s interest in weaving waned while he was a teen, but was rekindled while helping Anne set up their first loom. They now have seven looms, three spinning wheels, and an entire weaving house separate from their home.
Their interest in history has informed their work with textiles, and they participate in many historical activities, often demonstrating at the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort, Vance Birthplace in Weaverville, Hickory Ridge Homestead in Boone, and other sites throughout the Southeast. The Allisons work weekends at the Biltmore Estate as craft artists. They have been members of the Village of Yesteryear at the State Fair in Raleigh since 1997, and they demonstrate and display their work at the Mountain State Fair in Asheville. They are also active at French and Indian War and American Revolutionary events and the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain. “Our experience with living history and actual use of colonial materials has led to production of textiles that are not only authentic, but very functional,” says Anne.
David is a retired computer programmer, a career that has helped him in setting up looms and tweaking traditional patterns. The Allisons do all their work by hand, including the set-up, threading, and repairing of their looms. They purchase the majority of the yarn that they use, but they also accept commissions for pieces made with hand-spun yarn.
For the Allisons, their craft much more than a pastime. “We enjoy sharing what we have learned and feel strongly that we connect the past to the future while maintaining the craftsmanship of the old ways,” Anne says.
David and Anne Allison are available for demonstrations, classroom programs, private lessons, and workshops. They will set up looms for museums and historic sites, and offer lessons for the sites’ employees. They also accept custom orders.