Craft enthusiast found hobbies through passion for genealogy

Published 9:26 am Saturday, February 7, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye Cathy Broyles, left, trims a piece of caning as Robin Cooper and Elaine Walker look on.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Cathy Broyles, left, trims a piece of caning as Robin Cooper and Elaine Walker look on.

A journey to trace her family’s roots led one local woman to discover a new passion – weaving.
Now, nearly 32 years later, Cathy Broyles, of Limestone, shares her passion and knowledge with others.
“I used to do genealogy,” Broyles said. “It got to where knowing who my ancestors were wasn’t enough. I wanted to learn about their lifestyle.”
Broyles then began taking classes and workshops, learning about traditional skills such as weaving and candlemaking.
Weaving baskets and chairs became her favorite of these traditional skills, but she found it very difficult to find an instructor for the art.
“I looked for 18 months or almost two years to find someone to teach me,” Broyles said.
Many of the community elders who knew the skill were not able to venture out to teach someone, but they were not eager to invite a stranger into their own homes, she added.
Finally, a relative suggested she contact the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office. It was there that Broyles first met Barbara Holt in 1983 and finally learned to weave.
“It was the 27th of March when I learned to do my first chair,” Broyles said. “I did learn to do the seven-step caning first. That is the lacy pattern with the small canes.”
Over the years Broyles continued practicing and her love for weaving grew. Making baskets is her favorite form of weaving, but Broyles said she also enjoys restoring chair bottoms.
“In 32 years I’ve made 3,112 baskets,” Broyles said. “I can’t tell you how many chairs I’ve saved from going to the dump. I just don’t know the number.”
Broyles travels around to yard sales and flea markets looking for old chairs to restore. She has her own business weaving baskets and chairs, and has worked with local antique shops to restore old chairs.
“My daddy collected hammers, my mom collects clocks and I collect chairs,” she said with a laugh.
To help share her passion for weaving and to help keep this traditional skill from disappearing, Broyles also teaches others to weave baskets and chair bottoms. One of the reasons she teaches others, she said, is because she remembers how hard it was for her to find someone to teach her.
Broyles held a workshop on chair bottoming at Sycamore Shoals State Park on Jan. 31 as part of the park’s Traditional Arts Workshop series. As part of the workshop, participants brought a chair or stool and Broyles assisted them in learning how to weave a herringbone pattern for the seat using caning strips.
“I try to do a workshop here every year,” Broyles said. “I just like to encourage people to do this.”

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