As a popular art form, traditional or "folk" crafts have a certain appeal that few other objects in American life have. Unselfconsciously created by local--usually rural--artisans, they characteristically have a charm and forthrightness missing in many of the fine arts.
Equally important, we like to think that folk crafts harken back to an earlier, simpler time--an era of small town insularity before the intrusion of machine-manufactured goods and other commonplaces of the industrial age. In the North, this era ended before 1880. In many areas of the Southeast, on the other hand, continued isolation and agrarian self-sufficiency ensured that domestic activities like quilting, basketmaking, and coverlet weaving would persist longer.
Actually, the present generation is not the first to "discover" southern crafts, although the sentiments and meanings attached to such objects are contemporary in nature. As early as 1896, Dr. William Goodell Frost, president of Berea College in Kentucky, established a yearly "homespun fair" expressly to preserve and promote mountain handweaving.