- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D. (AP) - Tri-State Museum’s gift shop in Belle Fourche offers for sale the handmade woven rugs crafted by 102-year-old Thelma Davis, who is legally blind. The funds earned from the sale of the rugs are donated to the museum.

“I like to do art things. As long as someone gives me the material, I busy my hands,” Davis said. “It keeps me out of trouble,” she added with a laugh.

Davis is a retired third-grade teacher who taught in Spearfish for the majority of her teaching career, the Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/1FiVWlO ) reported. Her daughter, Sherry Petera, gathers materials from those wishing to donate and purchases fabric at yard sales. Petera prepares the strips needed to be threaded through the tool used to weave the number of strips together, and Davis takes it from there. She makes at least one rug a week and sometimes more.

“I have a hard time keeping up with supplying the material sometimes,” Petera said.

Davis has been making rugs for about 10 years. She retired from teaching when she was around 70 years old, and she and Petera had seen a commercial on television offering a training kit to learn this type of rug making. Petera herself is a retired teacher from the Belle Fourche School District. She ordered the training materials, and the two teachers taught themselves a new skill.

“We learned together in my home,” Petera said.

Davis is totally blind in one eye, and she can barely see from the other. She can tell light and darker colors, and she said she can make out where the strips are. Her hands just know how to do the rest.

“It is a very natural thing to do,” Davis said. “I have done some weaving, so this is similar,” she added.

On a recent Friday, she was making her first rug out of double-knit material. She said the double-knit was a little more difficult to work with, but Petera wanted to give this type of material a try. She was almost completed with the new style of rug, and it was flawless. The coloring was a melody of soft and denser peach colorings. Davis saw it as a tan and said it was the first rug she ever made that was all one color. The light and darkness wasn’t enough for her to be able to identify that is was even there.  

Davis usually uses torn sheets or other cotton-like materials.

“I enjoy doing it,” she said. When told her rugs bring a price tag of $20 at the museum, she said, “That’s a lot of money!”

Davis’ rugs are also sold at Tri-State Bakery Fabrics in Belle Fourche. The proceeds from the rugs sold at this location go to the Methodist Church in Spearfish to assist with missionary work.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

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