Weaving a new life
To most, weaving might seem like an outdated skill or an obscure hobby. But to one Fredericksburg resident, it’s a way to give hope to military veterans with disabilities.
Charlotte Allison, who has been weaving since 1983, was introduced to the Semper Fi Fund through her friend’s son, John Mayer, who lives in Fredericksburg.
“We were thrilled when we found out about this,” Charlotte said. “My husband, Wayne, and I have always loved helping people.”
The Allisons had been on several trips to help people overseas in Ethiopia and Cambodia, but since they’ve retired, they’ve tried to steer their focus toward local efforts.
The Semper Fi Fund is a nonprofit organization and its program, “America’s Fund,” was set up to help provide financial assistance and lifetime support to veterans and the families of the veterans who are critically ill or injured.
“All of the members have a disability of some sort from their service, and we help them start, either crafting, so they can have something to do that’s positive in their free time, or we help them start a small business, usually home-based,” Mayer said. “Or we help them get the skills they need so they can get a job they really want to do.”
Mayer, who directs a Jinx McCain Horsemanship program and an Apprenticeship program for Semper Fi, heard about Charlotte’s skill and thought it would be a great way to get veterans to learn a unique skill they can do with their hands. The weaving workshop falls under the Apprenticeship program.
The Allisons’ spinning and weaving shop is an extension of their house. Inside are four types of machines: a counter-march eight-shaft loom, an eight-shaft table loom, a 20-pattern shaft, eight-shaft counter-march draw loom and a single unit, eight-shaft counter-march draw loom. It took a lot of hard work, but Charlotte said she was so thankful for Wayne’s efforts.
“Wayne built my studio for me. He harvested the wood from an old barn in East Texas and brought it over and made a little paradise for me,” Charlotte said. “We wouldn’t be in here if not for him.”
Krista Nelson and Lawrence Hudson are two veterans who had decided to take part in the program. They had been introduced to the program while working with Mayer in a horsemanship program in Montana.
Nelson, who had knitting experience, loved the idea of learning a unique skill. Since joining, she’s been amazed at what she’s learned and what she’s been able to create.
“I always like learning new stuff and this is one of those skills that I feel could become a lost art,” Nelson said. “After learning more about it, I discovered that I could make the most impressive and most beautiful things with this. It’s a craft.”
Nelson said she appreciates Charlotte’s efforts in setting this up, as it takes so much work to do so.
“Charlotte does everything, from making her own thread and her own yarn,” Nelson said. “There’s so much that goes into setting this up and it takes almost a whole day.”
Nelson had some back injuries and had some struggles mentally after her service.
“When you get out of the service, you can feel quite lost and, many times, feel you’re without direction,” Nelson said. “This kind of gives you hope again. Maybe you don’t even know what you like to do anymore, but, for me, this has expanded things that I kind of liked with knitting when I was younger, and it showed me how much I could really make.”
Hudson, who suffered a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, was severely injured during an explosion in Iraq, wasn’t sure how well he would recover. However, he enjoyed horsemanship, as it got him out of the house and mingling with others.
Hudson didn’t know what he would gain from weaving, but he decided to give it a try. Now, he’s hoping to not only keep doing it as a hobby, but also use it for a small business.
Charlotte has seen a lot of growth out of both Nelson and Hudson and was overcome with joy about how her unique skill was able to do so much good for people.
There’s no plan to stop this program as of now. She hopes to use this skill as a way to keep helping veterans as long as she can.
Mayer wanted to let people know that this organization is available to any veteran in need of assistance. Weaving and horsemanship aren’t the only classes offered, as Mayer said they offer a wide variety of workshops, including photography, woodworking and blacksmithing.
To learn more, call Mayer at 830-992-9581.