A DREAM COMES CALLING
After the two married in 2008, they moved to Darlington, and Ty went to work plowing, planting and harvesting with Wes and Frankie. Tracy couldn’t find a job as a graphic designer but took a position as an insurance agent. “It really helped me get familiar with a new town and new people and find my way in Darlington,” she says.
After several years in insurance, she went to work for NewSpring church in Florence, where she worked for almost eight years. Then the dream of Covered in Cotton came calling.
On long road trips in the early years of their marriage, Tracy and Ty would imagine the farm’s possibilities, how they could share their love of the land with others. “We had always talked about how cool it would be to take something we grow on the farm and market it directly to the consumer,” Tracy says. “We sold all our crops to brokers.”
But add three kids to the mix and life gets a bit hectic. Imagination took a back seat to reality — until Tracy’s dream in December 2017.
“I woke Ty up and told him,” Tracy says. The excitement she was feeling rubbed off on him as well. They started putting pen to paper, figuring out how to turn that dream into a reality. Going from cotton in the field to a finished product is a complicated process. “We knew how to grow cotton,” says Tracy, “but there were a lot of things we didn’t know.”
They wanted to use the cotton grown on their farm, but they had already sold their yield for the year. They contacted the broker and ended up buying the cotton back for more than they had sold it for. They found a yarn spinner in nearby Thomasville, North Carolina, that does small runs who taught them about spinning and helped them through the process.
They reached out to Harold Pennington ’89, a fellow Clemson alumnus who runs Weavetec in Blacksburg, South Carolina, a company founded in 1987 by his father, Harold Pennington Sr. ’65. “We met Ty and Tracy in 2018,” says Harold Jr. “Tracy reached out to us, looking for a supplier to weave decorative throws.”
“We told him what we wanted to do — we knew that piece of the puzzle was the most important,” says Tracy. She and Ty drove up to Blacksburg to meet Harold and his wife, Laurinda. “We talked a long time, got set on designs, and they took us to lunch,” says Tracy. “We were friends instantly. The Clemson connection — that makes a difference. We left there knowing they were the right people and the right company to work with.”
Harold was also able to connect Tracy with other suppliers integral to the process. The Woodards also left that initial meeting with three designs for throws, named after Tracy and Ty’s children: Tate, Tyson and Tobin.