Growing up south of Black Mountain, the only child of a widowed father, Eula Mae Lavender picked up countless useful skills during her childhood. She kept house and helped with the farming. She learned canning and preserving. She learned how to make molasses, using a press run off of the first electric generator in the community. She learned to keep account books, and even learned draftsmanship, a skill that she employed years later in drawing up the blueprints for her own house. She learned how to drive a car on the hair-raising, twisty turns of Highway 9, then a single-lane track. She also learned to be an expert craftswoman with needle and thread, yarn and crochet hooks.
Lavender’s first quilting lessons came from her mother, who passed away when Lavender was fifteen years old. Later on she took an interest in crocheting. “I decided if other people could crochet,” she remembers, “so could I. So I bought a ten-cent needle and a ten-cent magazine with patterns,” and she proceeded to teach herself how to do it. Now in her eighties, Lavender continues to be a highly industrious person, spending most of her waking hours every day but Sunday crocheting and quilting. Even when her health forces her to take to the bed—she suffers from arthritis—she brings her crocheting. She told her family, “If you ever see me lying down and I’m not crocheting, it’s because I’ve got one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel.”
In her home-shop on Route 9, Mrs. Lavender has for sale hundreds of quilts in a variety of beautiful traditional patterns. She still does her own piecing, but because of arthritis, a friend quilts the tops for her. She sells crocheted afghans, caps, ponchos, and capes, and Christmas ornaments, as well as stitched teddy bears. Her crocheted doilies and table runners are wonders of intricacy. These she makes in an improvisational way, building the patterns of stars and flowers and pineapples in whatever design catches her fancy.
Eula Mae Lavender sells her quilts and crochet items from her home, which is on Route 9, seven miles south of the Black Mountain exit off of Interstate 40. Those seven miles are an exceptionally pretty stretch of western North Carolina scenery, but one must keep a careful eye on the road and a foot on the brakes, because the road is winding and narrow.