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 remembered, “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. Into her eighties, Lavender continued to be a highly industrious person, spending most of her waking hours every day but Sunday crocheting and quilting. Even when her health forced her to take to the bed—she suffered from arthritis—she brought 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 had for sale hundreds of quilts in a variety of beautiful traditional patterns. She sold crocheted afghans, caps, ponchos, and capes, and Christmas ornaments, as well as stitched teddy bears. Her crocheted doilies and table runners were wonders of intricacy. These she made in an improvisational way, building the patterns of stars and flowers and pineapples in whatever design caught her fancy.
Eula Mae Lavender passed away on November 25, 2014 at the age of 90.