Bessie Underwood brings skilled handcrafts to Black Belt Folk Roots Festival

By Mynecia Steele

Ms. Bessie Underwood of Mantua often participates in the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival. Although, she does not visit yearly, the community recognizes her for the skilled handcrafts she brings to the festival.
Underwood says that she visits the festival as often as possible.  She works on her projects and crafts year round. This allows her to have a variety of items available when the festival comes around. Her handcrafts include, but are not limited to, crocheted scarves, afghans, throws and wreaths. Underwood also makes specialty crafts, at request, such as Alabama and Auburn football themed blankets.
Underwood says that she often sells her pieces for much less than they are worth.  Considering the money, time and hard work that Underwood invests in her projects, not to mention that quality of the products, she practically gives away her crafts just to see the joy they bring to others.
She says that she comes up with designs for her projects in her mind. She only learned to read crochet patterns about five years ago, but she learned to crochet long before then. Her first grade teacher, Mrs. Billups, taught her to crochet. Over the years crocheting has become second nature to her. “Sometimes I wake up at night because the Lord has put a design on my heart, and I just have to get up and make it,” said Underwood.
Underwood gained an interest in selling her crafts at the festival after visiting with her neighbor, Mrs. Odessa Rice, who also participates in the festival.  While visiting, Underwood noticed the many baskets and quilts that Rice had been making.  After learning that Rice was preparing these projects for sale at the festival, Underwood thought that would be a great way for her to share her work, as well.
Aside from selling her crafts, Underwood attends the festival to fellowship with the community, enjoy the different foods and she loves listening to the blues performances.
Come out and support Ms. Bessie Underwood, and the many other vendors, at this year’s Black Belt Folk Roots Festival.
This event is free and open to the public, as always. It will be held Saturday, August 27, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., and the following Sunday, August 28, 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. For more information contact: Carol Zippert at 205-372-0525; email:

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