Virginia Boone braided rugs in Western North Carolina for more than sixty years, continuing to make them in her Asheville home until her late nineties. Although she had no idea how many rugs she made over the years, she did know that her rugs are in each one of the 50 states and at least seven foreign countries.
In 1945 Virginia was living in Canton, where her husband Ray Boone worked at Champion Paper and Fiber Company. Because the paper mill recycled and sold wool to women in the community, rug braiding was a popular craft. Virginia was staying at home expecting her third child when a neighbor helped her learn to braid the rugs, and she continued to develop her talent for designing rugs and combining colors, as well as creating techniques to make her rugs reversible. Soon word spread, and she was getting orders for her rugs. She also began teaching classes at the Canton YMCA. Because ladies could buy a bag of recycled wool for fifty cents, there was a lot of interest in learning to use it for rugs. Classes grew and students often dropped in at Virginia’s house for help with the rugs they were learning to make.
As classes continued to grow, they were moved to Haywood Community College, where Virginia taught for twenty-five years. A classroom was provided at an old school building, where tables were pushed together to accommodate the students’ projects. Room was also available for storing rolls of wool which had been torn into strips in preparation for making the rugs. After Ray retired, he enjoyed going to classes with Virginia and helping the students lace their rugs together. He also made a device which helped students hold the braids like an extra set of hands. Both Virginia and Ray enjoyed the friendships generated with their many students.
When the Village of Yesteryear began in the old barn at the North Carolina State Fair Grounds, Virginia was sometimes not able to leave her family, but always found one of her students to go and demonstrate rug braiding when she could not exhibit and demonstrate her own work. For many years, she attended the Village of Yesteryear in the Holshouser Building at the State Fair in Raleigh, and also the more recent Heritage Village at the Mountain State Fair in Asheville. Virginia prepared hundreds of braided key chains each year to give to children who visit her exhibit. In the last ten years of her life, she teamed up with her niece, Mary Ann Dotson, whom she taught to braid rugs many years before. She and Mary Ann worked together out of their homes and at both state fairs to teach others and create interest in the history and creativity of rug braiding. While each enjoyed her own unique style of rug design, they also worked together to create original designs for handbags, pet beds, and other items using the same braiding process.
Virginia passed away on April 26, 2011 at the age of 97.