Homespun Gains New Meaning

Over forty years ago, the United States Information Agency (USIA) funded a documentary preserving the Appalachian traditions of spinning and weaving. Over the years, the colors may have faded, and the clothing may be a bit dated, but this film is a treasure that celebrates our handspinning heritage. Homespun is now available on YouTube courtesy of the National Archives.

Sharon Hudgins transformed a box of mementos from the filming of the 1970s documentary Homespun into a wall hanging. Photo by Sharon Hudgins

Sharon Hudgins transformed a box of mementos from the filming of the 1970s documentary Homespun into a wall hanging. Photo by Sharon Hudgins

Homespun Gains New Meaning

In 1975, Sharon Hudgins and her husband Tom made an award-winning film titled Homespun, for the U.S. Information Agency, about the crafts of spinning and weaving in the southern Appalachian Mountains. After the project was finished, Sharon packed away the leftover film and sound footage, along with samples of the handspun wool shown in the film. For the next several years she lived in Europe and Asia, working on other projects (see Sharon’s article, “Alexandra Ivanovna’s Distaff” in the Winter 2004 issue of Spin Off, and the two-part article on her European wheel collection, in the Winter 1991 and Spring 1992 issues).

Upon returning to the United States, she was inspired to pull out her mementos of the film and do something with them. Tom built a frame loom three feet wide and four feet long—the same proportional dimensions as a frame of 16mm film—and painted it black. Sharon pounded in ninety nails evenly spaced across the top and bottom of the loom to hold a linen warp. Then, starting at the bottom of the loom and using filmmaking as her metaphor, she created the weft by alternating the raw wool and handspun fiber with the leftover 16mm film and magnetic sound tape. Working her way to the top of the loom, she ended with a row of exposed and edited film crowned by two rows of white 16mm film header displaying the title “Homespun” and the filmmakers’ names.

The finished piece now hangs on a wall in the Hudgins’ home, surrounded by several textiles and textile tools that she collected during their travels abroad, a visible reminder of her textile journeys through life. Although the film Homespun is now out of circulation and housed somewhere in the archives of the U. S. government, the memory of the film lives on in the unique weaving that hangs in Sharon’s house in Texas.


The Spin Off Spring 2005 issue’s “As the Whorl Spins” featured this story about Sharon Hudgins and her husband Tom’s unique weaving. For more about the making of the film Homespun, see the follow-up article in Spin Off Winter 2017.

—Elizabeth


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