“I’m a recycler. That’s why I have a used bookstore here,” says Dorothy Black Cliff, owner of Read Again Books in Granby.
Dorothy might be a bookworm, but she caught the weaving bug ten years ago and hasn’t been able to shake it since. At the heart of her bookstore are tables stacked with watermelon-sized rounds of yarn, bags of commercially-discarded fabric called selvage, and an assortment of looms. Surrounded by used books, Dorothy repurposes old fabrics for her other business, Weaver Birds Rugs.
“Everything that I weave is made out of recycled materials. Even when I buy something new, like the selvage, that is discarded from factories. We’re so wasteful—you buy something and it doesn’t fit and throw it away, or it wears out and throw it away. But taking those items and cutting them up is a way to continue to reuse our resources.”
From these so-called scraps, Dorothy produces beautiful textured rugs. Scarves and sweaters? Just not her thing. Instead, she specializes in creating products for the home. T-shirts, jeans, and sheets find new life in Dorothy's hands. With these discarded materials, she brings modern creativity to a craft with an ancient roots.
“I grew up with old-fashioned rag rugs in my home and I like the old-fashioned part of it. It’s an authentic, old craft. It’s been around since primitive times, when they wove reeds and grasses. They didn’t have plastic bowls and things. They wove and did it by hand. That was weaving. They carried water, they made mats to sleep on.”
Dorothy first learned to weave from a childhood friend in her home state of Iowa. After just a week of lessons, she was hooked. Once she returned to Missouri, she bought a small table-top loom.
“I made a lot of rugs on that little thing,” she recalls. “Twenty-one inches is the widest it would weave.”
Five years later, she got her first floor loom. Today, she owns four floor looms and three tabletop looms. She broke into the commercial market by participating in craft shows in Sarcoxie, Butler, the George Washington Carver School, and the Carthage Maple Leaf festival.
“I like the open, outdoor places. I don’t like being crammed into a little ten-by-ten space,” she says.
When the Neosho Farmers Market was revived in 2015, the venue was just a natural fit for her. Every time she sets up a booth, she also brings a loom so that customers can watch her in action and even sign up for lessons. People are drawn to her products not just for their beauty and durability, but because they're reminiscent of simpler times.
“They’ll say, ‘Oh, my grandma used to weave.’ I think [nostalgia] is part of it, and the other factor is that they’re buying something locally and not something that’s mass-produced in another country and shipped over here. And the uniqueness. Nothing I make, no two looks exactly alike.”