Weaving Adventures in Taos, New Mexico
Often, when I profess my love for southern New Mexico to others up north, I hear them say, “Oh, I could never live there. I like having four seasons.” This is a common misconception folks seem to have about the desert. We do actually have four seasons, it’s just that the cold is much less cold than in other places, and in the case of spring it only lasts a few windy weeks before the temperature hits 80 again. While I happily admit that I love the weather down south, after years in Colorado I have to admit I was missing the sunny days and cold nights you get in the late winter and early spring. My husband felt the same, and so we decided to spend a long weekend in the beautiful town of Taos, New Mexico.
We stayed in an old adobe bed and breakfast that had once hosted Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe, and D. H. Lawrence among other great artists and thinkers. (The owner at that time, Mabel Dodge Luhan, was a rather interesting lady, and if you are a History Person like me I highly suggest reading a bit more about her life.) While our main goal was to enjoy the chilly weather and take in some snowshoeing (and if I’m totally honest, to wear my handwoven alpaca scarf that I love but was too warm to wear down south), I also wanted to make a side stop at Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, a tiny town just outside of Taos, and conveniently located on the way to our snowshoeing stop.
Those of you who are familiar with Taos probably know of Weaving Southwest and of the wonderful Rachel Brown. Rachel was an exceptional tapestry artist and weaver who not only designed beautiful works of woven art, she also designed a walking loom, based on the traditional looms used in the Southwest, and the Rio Grande spinning wheel. She was an innovative lady, and though she is gone, her shop still lives on with her granddaughter Teresa at the helm.
I hate to admit it, but while I am impressed by handwoven rugs, they were not previously on my “to weave” list. My little jack loom is not ideal for weaving thick woolen rugs, and while I love weaving with luxurious Merino and deliciously soft alpaca, I was not enthusiastic about weaving with coarser wools. Then I visited Weaving Southwest. The walls were covered in rugs, tapestries, and shelves of colorful yarn, most of which was Churro. Teresa happily showed me the weaving studio in the back filled with massive walking looms and the beautiful weavings on the wall, including one fascinating piece that showcased a very clever use of mohair and doubleweave.
I felt the yarns of Churro, which were much softer than I expected (Teresa explained that it was due to years of careful breeding by a woman named Connie Taylor) and the texture was intoxicating. I kept picking up skeins and petting them and listening to the gentle crunch as I squished the yarn and the fibers stuck together and released. I finally understood why people love those kinds of wools and the pure joy that comes from handling them. In that moment, I decided that I needed to work my way up to weaving a rug.
I’ve decided to start small and weave up a set of weft-faced mug rugs using some wools that I already have in my stash. I don’t know that I’m really a tapestry type of weaver, so I think I’ll design my first set in some diamond or goose-eye twills. I figure it’s best to start small and work my way up so I can learn the intricacies of the process and see how the cloth changes during each stage. Then, when I feel comfortable, I will design and weave my very first rug. While that thought makes me happy, I have to admit, what makes me really excited is the thought of trying something so very new and going on yet another weaving adventure.
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