We would like to invite you to join us for the tapestry weaving experience of a lifetime. Joe and I have planned a week of creativity, education, nourishment and relaxation, perfect for any experienced or aspiring tapestry weaver. Click on the Weaving SpringWild Retreat tab above for more information and/or keep on reading!Taos rainbow

Growing up in Taos, I sometimes find that I take for granted the beauty and artistic draw of this small Northern New Mexican town. Once I stop and look around, there is no doubt why this jewel has drawn creatives and free spirits from around the globe throughout the last century.
From the Mable Dodge Luhan days, 1920-60’s, where Mable created a space for her talented friends (D. H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name a few) to retreat and explore their creativity. On to the days of the Taos Moderns, 1940’s, when the area became a mecca for artists of all mediums. To the days of the Taos Hippie, 1960-70’s, where the Sterling Smiths (one of the many communes in Taos at that time) spent their days of communal living creating beautiful concho belts and squash blossom earrings, selling them off of impromptu blanket “galleries” in the plazas of Taos and Santa Fe. To the 1990’s when Taos became a destination for art collectors searching out historic and contemporary works of artists of the area. To today when you can still find famous artists painting their masterpieces on the sidewalks of downtown Taos, while local musicians play live on the stage of Taos Plaza.

My family settled in Taos during the time of the Taos Moderns. With backgrounds in the fine arts, color and design, my grandparents, Malcolm and Rachel Brown, moved to Taos to raise their family, live off the land and explore their artistic creativity. The beauty of Taos Valley, the simplicity of life, the cultural richness and the utopian visions of the area kept them both here to live out the remainder of their days.

After the kids had grown Malcolm and Rachel parted ways, yet remained close friends and continued their lives in Taos. My Grandpa created his hand-built masterpiece of a home with visions of the communal lifestyle and living the good life, while creating his collection of grand abstract oil paintings. My Grandma, delving deep into the world of textiles, built a mecca for fiber artists world-wide, while creating contemporary works of art using warp, weft and tapestry weaving as her medium.

Springwild

Since I took over my Grandma’s business, Weaving Southwest, over six years ago, I have had dreams of bringing weavers to this region and showing them our beautiful world, the way we Taoseños see it. When my Grandpa passed, about a decade ago, my family sold his home to an amazing couple, Dan and Diane, who appreciated and preserved the beauty of the estate my Grandpa had created, SpringWild. Upon meeting Dan and Diane, about a year ago, and visiting SpringWild for the first time in ten years, it all came together. We decided to put together our first ever weaving retreat, held at SpringWild, giving the weavers a rare taste of the Northern New Mexico experience. After a year, or even decades, in the making, we are truly excited to invite you to our first ever weaving retreat, Weaving SpringWild!

**********************************************************************************

During this week together we will dive into the world of the Taos Moderns, exploring your personal creativity through tapestry weaving with the guidance and support of myself, Teresa Loveless, while experiencing living off the land, in the utopia that is SpringWild. You will be living in somewhat of a communal sense, with a shared bathhouse and family style meals. Spending your days weaving on Walking Looms with the finest hand-dyed wool yarns. Your “studio” will be a canopy covered Walking Loom in the grass fields of SpringWild, with four opens sides, allowing for you to fully enjoy the beauty of your surroundings; Taos mountain, Red-winged Blackbirds singing in the willows, summer storms rolling in over the mesa, to name a few. If you have never smelled the summer rains, that is reason enough to pack your bags.

The day you arrive at SpringWild you will be greeted and shown your room. The rest of the afternoon you can spend exploring the grounds or taking a self-guided walking tour of Taos. In the evening, once everyone has arrived, we will all gather for a Welcome Feast. Everyone will get to know each other while Joe sets the table with dishes he has created from the freshest local foods around. We will wrap up the night with a viewing of the documentary Woven Stories, a glimpse into the textile richness that is Northern New Mexico. You end your day, crawling into your cozy bed, with views of the New Mexico summer sky and thoughts of the wonderful day you’ve had and excitement of the day to come.

stars

Each morning you will rise to the smell of fresh coffee and home-baked pastries, followed shortly after by a home-cooked breakfast, a-la Joe. You will spend the remainder of the day weaving your heart’s desire, only to be interrupted by a delicious, nourishing family-style lunch. You are free to weave all day, or if you need a little more inspiration or a break from the loom you can venture into town to enjoy the museums and galleries or go on a short drive to take in some of Taos’ breathtaking sights. Once the day has come to an end, you will head out on your own or with a pack of your new friends and enjoy an evening on the town, finding dinner at one of the wonderful restaurants Taos has to offer. A few of the early evenings, before you head to dinner, will be spent at SpringWild, enjoying appetizers and a short presentation from one of our local fiber icons. On our final night together, we will all gather in the evening for a Farewell Feast to share our experiences of the week and show off our creations. The following morning, we will fill you up with one last breakfast and send you on your way, inspired, nourished and rejuvenated, for the journey home and months to come.

As I am sure you can tell by now, Joe and I will be your hosts. Joe will cook you incredible meals with fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses sourced from local farms, including our own. I will be there to guide you through your weaving process and help you with any creative or technical challenges. Dan and Diane, the owners of SpringWild will also be around to guide us through the adventure of living at this unique property. We will be visited by Brook and Roxanne, our two employees and experienced weavers. Both of these incredible and knowledgeable women wove for my grandmother at Weaving Southwest for many years. They will offer insight and inspiration of their own to all of the weavers that come to join us. Our little daughter, Elsi Rae, will be stopping by on occasion, I am sure, to further brighten up our days. We are also gathering together some of the most wonderful fiber folks around to come and inspire you during the evening presentations.

This retreat is geared towards any level of tapestry weaver. As this is not a class, I recommend knowing the basics of Southwestern-style tapestry weaving. If you don’t have this right now, not a problem… I can recommend a little homework to get you well on your way before the retreat begins. We will be weaving on Rio Grande Walking Looms, so you will be standing all day. This is much easier on your body than weaving on many other types of looms. So, as long as you are in relatively good condition, weaving for 5-8 hours shouldn’t be a problem at all, even for those with minor back problems. If you have a health concern that you believe would be an issue, let us know before you sign up, so we can make sure this will be a wonderful experience for you. Your “studio” will be equipped with everything you need for the entire week, including a huge selection of our beautiful hand-dyed yarns.

springwild-sign

This may be an experience you want to have on your own, however if you have someone who you would like to bring along (that would share your bed) and doesn’t weave, they are more than welcome! If you would like, we can help to arrange activities for them to help to make sure their experience in Taos is just as magical as yours.

There is a lot more information in the remaining sections of this website (see the Weaving SpringWild Retreat tab at the top of the website). Please read everything thoroughly and let us know if you have any questions at all. Space is very limited, so if you would like to join us, please let us know as soon as possible. Experiences like this don’t come along every day… who would have thought you would be able to be transported back in time to experience the life of the Taos Moderns?

Would you like to receive fiber related Information & Inspiration from us? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!


After warping all the looms at Woods Hall and spending a little time exploring Madeline Island, we were ready to go! We had several students from the island and a few that came from afar, to take our five-day Southwestern-style Tapestry Weaving Class. Some of them had decades of weaving experience, while others were complete beginners.

We spent the first day of class tying up looms and prepping yarns, then dove into several days of tapestry weaving! The photos below will walk you through this wonderful experience. Enjoy!

Ciao,
Teresa

MI WH Class Yarn

The studio all ready for the students to arrive!

MI WH Class 1

The studio after a few days of weaving.

Cindy madeline island

Cindy, of Fly Away Farms on Madeline Island, incorporated building techniques, ojos, hatching, pic-n-pick and wavy line to create this beautiful freeform weaving. I love her choice of colors! You can see the progression of her weaving throughout the days in the photos on the left.

jim madeline island black

This was Jim’s first tapestry! He focused on vertical joints and angles, while incorporating some building and shuttle work. He had a strong beat, creating a nice tightly packed weave. There is one photo for each day, leading to a fantastic finished sampler.

Kate Madeline Island

Kate started out with building techniques, creating a sort of landscape with a moon. She progressed into angles and hatching, weaving a a set of mountains with a moon behind clouds. (Oddly enough, this portion looked almost exactly like the full moon over Taos Mountain just a few days later.) She finished the class off by exploring vertical joints. This was Kate’s first tapestry!

Missy madeline island

Missy played around with building, shuttle work, ojos and hatching to create this beautiful water/sky (and islands) scene. Missy has taken several classes with me before and each time I am amazed by the beautiful work she creates!

Nancy Madeline island

Nancy, owner of the Pinehurst Inn in Bayfield, took the ferry to class every day. (Wonderful!) She started out her weaving by exploring building techniques and progressed into angles. By the end of class she had incorporated vertical joints, pick-n-pick, wavy line and ojos… resulting in this stunning sampler.

Phil Madeline island

And then there is Phil (lol)… one of the most patient people I’ve ever met. If you take a look at the photos to the left you can see the progression of Phil’s weaving(s). Day 1: Loom tied up and butterflies ready to go (It’s Phil’s 75th birthday!). Day 2: Loom #1 isn’t getting a good shed, a piece of the loom breaks, I transfer his warp to a new loom, finally deciding to cut off the first section and start fresh in the morning. Day 3: The weft its not covering the warp because the sett is different from the last loom the warp was meant for (trying to salvage the first set of tapestry was a bad idea!), we cut it off and re-thread at lunch and he precedes to weave some beautiful angles. Day 4: Phil progresses into different angles, triple-dovetail ojo’s and hatching (the loom is working beautifully… thank goodness!) Day 5: Phil decides he has learned all he can from me (smile), gets wind that there is a loom for sale, takes the ferry to the mainland drives an hour or so further, picks up the loom, brings it back to the island and finishes up the day with a quick warping tutorial. Not a bad Birthday trip if you ask me! But you should probably ask Phil…

Susan Madeline Island

Susan’s beautiful choice of color and quick understanding of technique reflected her years of weaving experience. She played around with angles and single dovetail while incorporating pick-n-pick and hatching to create this beauty of a sampler.

Traudi Madeline island

Traudi broke up her sampler into bands, incorporating different techniques in each to create the designs she wanted to explore. Using wonderful “southwestern colors”, she played around with angles, vertical joints and shuttle work to create this fantastic sampler. I especially love the the little roadrunner she incorporated into the top of the piece on the last day!

MI WH Class Dinner

One of the evenings after class we had a wonderful barbecue on the lawn at Woods Hall!

madeline class woods hall

All of our students gathered with their weavings after class! Left to right: Jim, Kate, Traudi, Susan, Missy, Nancy, Cindy and Phil.

MI WH Class Phil Loom

Phil and his new loom!

madeline island weavings

A closeup of each student’s weaving. Left (top to bottom): Jim, Missy, Traudi, Cindy. Right (top to bottom): Kate, Susan, Nancy, Phil.

Would you like to receive fiber related Information & Inspiration from us? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!


Source: Taos Magazine
Date: May/June 1998

Weavers Paradise
Rachel Brown has created a wonderland of wool at Rio Grande Weavers Supply
by Melody Romancito

“It has always been a priority to make Rio Grande Weavers Supply a place filled with visual delights,” said Rachel Brown as she stood in the middle of her showroom, her arms gesturing to encompass all of the color and activity surrounding her. “It has to be as much a work of art as each skein of yarn, each loom or each tapestry. And from what people tell us, we have succeeded.”

Weavers Paradise

Dyeing yarn outdoors in 20 lb lots (Photographs by Pat Pollard)

Brown opened Rio Grande Weavers Supply 1985 as a source for better-designed looms, spinning wheels and other tools of the weaver’s trade, including several types and textures of multi-hued, hand-dyed yarns.

Weavers, both professional and beginner, and those simply interested in the history and techniques of spinning, dyeing and weaving wool, find Rio Grande Weavers Supply an informative visual and textural paradise. Here one can view fine weavings being created on a state-of-the-art Rio Grande Loom, experience a hands-on demonstration of a Rio Grande Spinning Wheel or simply admire the eye-dazzling array of colors and styles of yarns that are used in the making of hand-dyed rugs, apparel and tapestries.

One-third of Brown’s floor space is devoted to Weaving/Southwest, her fiber arts gallery that represents twenty of New Mexico’s finest tapestry artists. Artists often work right in the Rio Grande Weavers Supply studio creating rugs, blankets, pillows and a variety of custom orders for interior designers and homeowners.

But the heart and soul (or warp and weft) of Rio Grande Weavers Supply is Rachel Brown. As a weaver and tapestry artist Brown’s credits are long; her dedicated efforts in moving tapestry weaving from craft to high art have been widely recognized. In the world of wool and weaving she is celebrity, and was presented a lifetime achievement award at the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1993. The awards were presented to thirty-seven women in craft arts for “making a difference” in their fields.

Brown has been dyeing wool yarns with acid dyes since the mid-60’s when she developed a sequential method of dyeing. The dyes she uses are the same as those found in today’s finest yarntextile houses and are fast to both light and washing.

“Though we never set out to do this we have actually become color forecasters. We seem to anticipate new color trends in apparel and interior design,” Brown revealed, motioning toward the wall bins brimming with color-saturated yarn skeins.

Commercial yarns are often insufficient for the fiber artist seeking stylistic individuality through color and texture. It is the subtle depth of color created by slight variations in dyeing (referred to as the “abrash effect” by weavers and yarn experts) that gives yarns and finished pieces that special one-of-a-kind, gem-like quality.

“Whenever a weaver brings in something made with commercial yarns it just sticks out like a sore thumb,” Brown observed.

The variety of yarns available at Rio Grande Weavers supply include rug, tapestry, apparel and warp. Trading Post yarn is a specialty yarn that is tightly spun from both natural and commercially-dyed colors and used almost exclusively by weavers working in the Navajo style.

Another specialty yarn is the hand-dyed and natural New Mexico Churro yarn. Churro sheep were brought to the New World by Columbus on his second voyage. The king of Spain would not allow the Merino sheep to be taken from the country, so Churros, with their courser wool, were brought over. Churro wool was used to make the prized handspun Navajo and Rio Grande blankets of the 19th century. Many wool growers today are striving to bring back the Churro breed, now officially named “Navajo-Churro.”

Rachel Brown Rio Grande Wheel

Rachel Brown spinning on The Rio Grande Wheel

Brown is steadfast in her commitment to, and appreciation for, the weaver’s trade. “I’m often humbled when I see the work of other fiber artists,” she said. “There are so many talented weavers out there. Rio Grande Weavers Supply is dedicated to providing them with exceptional yarns, equipment and tools, no matter where they’re located. We pride ourselves in a 24-hour turnaround of mail orders. We are also delighted to help weavers who call us for advice,” she added. “Our sales people are all experienced weavers.”

Brown is known internationally as the author of The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book  which was published in 1978 by Alfred Knopf and is now in its tenth printing. She has been a force in the revival of weaving and wool production in the Southwest and helped found Tierra Wools, a Hispanic weaving cooperative in Northern New Mexico where she was a teacher and consultant for five years.

“I’m always torn between doing my own tapestry and running the shop,” Brown said. “I love the business aspect of it and am always trying to improve our marketing skills. We now have a network of three computers that does everything from accounting to mail order to tracking every skein of yarn, every artist and every customer.”

Weaving Southwest is located at 216B Paseo del Pueblo Norte. 758-0433 or 800/765-1272.

Would you like to receive free fiber related information & inspiration from us? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

* indicates required



Woods Hall Craft Shop was our final destination, after our long venture from the mountains of northern New Mexico to the grassy woodland shores of Madeline Island. I was invited to bring a little taste of our region, via a Southwestern-Style Tapestry Weaving Class, to a part of the world that specializes in multi-harness weaving and beautiful handwoven rag rugs. The class was to take place in the Weaving Studio at Woods Hall.

You can imagine my surprise, when I walked through their doors for the first (and second and third) time, greeted by stacks of incredible rag rugs, shelves of handmade pottery, racks of locally made quilts and clothing and a wall of local yarns! These were just the things that caught my eye at first glance. Once I began to explore more, I found handspun yarns, handcrafted soaps and candles, beautiful jewelry and even Rock People! The shop at Woods Hall is a dream for anyone who loves things handmade and the world of crafts.

My next surprise was a beautiful pottery studio, where locals are invited to come create their works and take classes to improve their skills. Then we headed up the stairs to the weaving studio. I had no idea what to expect. As I rounded the corner, a smile spread across my face… I was in love! Looms after loom after loom filled the beautiful open space. Large windows on either side of the studio let the light filter in, casting rays of sunshine onto the beautiful wooden machines. To me this was an absolute treat, knowing I was going to be able to spend the next few days warping and playing with all of these different makes and models, from a sweet little homemade counterbalance to a huge Öxabäck with more treddles than I had ever seen!

Throughout my stay on the island, I learned a lot about this amazing jewel of a weaver’s paradise. Started by the church in the mid 1900’s, Woods Hall serves as a place for the small population of year-round residents to gather in the cold, isolating winters, creating community around crafts. In the summer, the retail craft shop serves as a tourist attraction, where locals are able to sell their crafts they created over the winter months. Genius!

Below are some photos of this incredible place. If you fall in love like I did, you can also visit the Woods Hall website by clicking here. Enjoy!

Woods Hall

Woods Hall

The two-story studio space of Woods Hall, attached to the shop. Pottery on the first floor, weaving on the second.

The two-story studio space of Woods Hall, attached to the shop. Pottery on the first floor, weaving on the second.

MI WH Shop 1

A beautiful display of rugs and a loom that the local weavers use.

Shelves of stunning pottery.

Shelves of stunning pottery.

MI WH Shop 3

Stacks of handwoven rag rugs. (We couldn’t resist and brought a few home with us!)

MI WH Shop 4

A rack of quilts with more rugs in the background.

MI WH Shop 5

Natural yarns made from sheep raised at the local Fly Away Farm.

Hand-spun beauties, also from Fly Away Farm. (I had to get one of these too!)

Hand-spun beauties, also from Fly Away Farm. (I had to get one of these too!)

Beautiful handwoven shawls and scarves (this photo doesn't do them justice).

Beautiful handwoven shawls and scarves (this photo doesn’t do them justice).

Rock People! Wonderful little sculptures created by a local man.

Rock People! Wonderful little sculptures created by a local man.

Rock People... These were just fantastic!

Rock People… These were just fantastic!

The view as you reach the top of the stairs leading to the weaving studio!

The view as you reach the top of the stairs leading to the weaving studio!

More studio shots... I just couldn't get enough of this place!

More studio shots… I just couldn’t get enough of this place!

MI WH Studio Warping 1

I spent two days warping the looms for class…

MI WH Studio Warping 3

With lots of help from Elsi Rae…

MI WH Studio Warping 2

Mostly in the way of encouraging kisses.

MI WH Studio Warping 4

I think she loves looms as much as I do!

MI WH Turtle

My breaks consisted of observing a little turtle Grandma found for Elsi…

MI WH Deck

…and gazing over the beautiful Lake Superior from the studio deck.

MI WH WSW Yarn

Ready for class! Our Rio Grande Yarns, ready for the students to arrive!

Ciao,
Teresa

PS Having been in fiber my whole life, I was amazed that I had never heard of Woods Hall. It made me curious about what other hidden fiber gems must be out there. Is there another one that you know of? Please leave a comment if you have. I would love to hear from you!

Would you like to receive fiber related Information & Inspiration from us? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!


As you may know, my mom, my daughter and I just got back from an incredible trip to Madeline Island, Wisconsin. Throughout all of my travels, I had somehow never made it to that part of the world. If one would have asked me what was in Wisconsin, I would have probably said cheese, cows and grassy farm land. Though they do seem to have a plethora of these things, there is so much more.

I guess no one had ever really told me of the beautiful North Woods (though I had heard mention of it in Bob Dylan’s songs), nor of the amazing islands that speckle Lake Superior just off the coast of the mainland. I had never thought of the area as home to the Chippewa, where they live alongside moose, fox, deer, bald eagles and timber wolf (to name a few of the incredible animals of the area). I had never known where wild rice grows or how it is harvested.

To say I was in awe, as we drove north from Minneapolis to Bayfield and boarded the ferry to Madeline Island, would be a bold understatement. We passed through miles upon miles of the lushest farm land I had ever seen, dense forests of lichen covered trees, to arrive at the shore of the grand Lake Superior. We took the last ferry to the island, arriving slightly after dark. After a good night’s rest, we woke to the sound of Canada Geese and the smell of a fresh dewy morning. As I walked outside to sip a cup of tea, while gazing over this foreign (to me) body of water, I was struck with a sense of amazement. How could I have never heard of this place before? This was just the beginning of of awestruck moments that filled my week to come.

Below is the first in a series of photo essays I will be sharing with you. Nether my mom nor I are photographers, but I hope these images still inspire you to visit this amazing place. I can confidently say that throughout all of my travels (and there have been many), I have never found a place with as much beauty as Madeline Island. Enjoy!

MI Our View

The view from our place at The Inn on Madeline Island.

MI Boat

One of the many little boats that would pass by our place every day.

Our daily morning visitors. The parents would protect their little ones while they pecked eagerly through the grass.

Our daily morning visitors. The parents would protect their little ones while they pecked eagerly through the grass.

MI Tossing Rocks

Elsi Rae tossing rocks into Lake Superior.

MI Iceburgs

The last of the icebergs floating around the island.

MI Town Park 1

Heading down the walkway at Big Bay Town Park.

MI Town Park 2

The view from the walkway at Big Bay.

MI Town Park 3

Huge trees at Big Bay

MI Town Park 4

The view from the beach at Big Bay.

MI The Harbor 1

The Harbor

MI The Harbor 2

Boats awaiting their summer visitors.

MI Red Tug Boat

The sweet little red tug boat

An old school gas pump

An old school gas pump

MI Wood Carvers

Elsi’s favorite place to relax, Island Carvers.

MI Fox 1

Peaking over the fence at the local fox.

MI Fox 2

Yes, I said fox. In a sandbox.

MI Street

The main street in La Pointe

MI Tommys

Tom’s Burnt Down Cafe (this photo doesn’t do it justice… Google it to see more).

MI Museum 1

Loom on display at the Madeline Island Museum.

Photo: MI Museum 2 Caption: Sweater rug on display at the museum. Photo Link: http://madelineislandmuseum.wisconsinhistory.org/

Sweater rug on display at the museum.

MI Road

One of the incredible views from the road that circles the island.

MI Deer 1

A common sighting on the island.

Photo: MI Deer 2 Caption: More deer!

More deer!

MI Log Cabin

An old log cabin.

MI Trailer

An old trailer camouflaged by the lichen covered trees

MI Crane

One of our many wildlife sightings

Photo: MI Trailer An old trailer camouflaged by the lichen covered trees

And more wildlife… an snapping turtle!

MI Elsi Lake

Elsi playing in the (cold… remember the icebergs?) lake.

MI Beach

One of the many sandy beaches on the island

MI Plane

The island runway

MI Turtle 1

Teaching Elsi about the turtle Grammy found her

MI Turtle 2

Letting the turtle go in the harbor

MI Sunset

Our last sunset on the island

MI Ferry

Looking back on the island from the ferry

I would love to hear from you! Have you visited this area before? Or are you lucky enough to be from these parts? Do you know of another amazing place that just must be visited? Please leave a comment to let us know. Maybe I will be able to visit it too someday!

 

Would you like to receive free fiber related information & inspiration from us? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

* indicates required



Source: The Pueblo Star-Journal and Sunday Chieftain
Date: April 18, 1982

Spinning…New Mexico woman champions her art
By Mary Jean Porter, Scene Editor

Rachel Brown is not the spinner of fairy tales, not an old woman bent over a creaking wheel. She is bold and dynamic – much like the art she loves.

The Arroyo Seco, N.M., resident was in Pueblo recently to conduct a two-day spinner’s workshop at El Pueblo Museum. Surrounded by piles of sweet-scented wool and treadling the sleek wheel she helped design, she was the furthest thing imaginable from a fairy tale character.

Spinning Sunday article 1

Rachel Brown at her spinning wheel

Lean, with bright blue eyes and weathered cheeks, Ms. Brown looks like the Southwest which has inspired her work. She speaks softly yet knowledgeably and almost crackles with energy – energy she says she gets from spinning.

The spinner said her art has changed and is beginning to get the recognition it deserves. There is new equipment available to do the tedious work of carding, there are new wheels available that allow the spinner to spin various weights of yarn without changing spindles. Some wool growers, too, are beginning to cater to the hand spinner and are producing the long, course, clean fleece needed for hand spinning.

Spinners are spinning wool from the Southwest, silk from China, alpaca from South America, cotton, flax and even dog hair. The art of spinning has become so popular that a Wisconsin spinners’ guild – which has more than 200 members – has a side guild of 26 members who spin dog hair.

“It used to be that spinners did not have the stimulation, the supplies weren’t available, nobody had wheels. That has changed. Spinning today is at the level weaving was 25 years ago,” Ms. Brown said.

That was when she moved to Arroyo Seco from New Hampshire, homesteaded land and began weaving and spinning. “I knew right away this was it,” she said about spinning.

“I do consider it my art form. I get energy from it. It’s very relaxing – I can’t stay away from my spinning wheel.”

She spins because she loves it but also because she wants to make the yarn she weaves. And to be sure it is the color she wants, she dyes all her own wool, sometimes using natural dyes.

When people began asking questions about her work, she wrote “The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book.” She also operated her own shop with eight apprentice wool dyers and worked with a Santa Fe equipment manufacturer to produce the spinning wheel she uses.

“One of the most valuable things I have to contribute is to try to dispel the fears they (beginning spinners) may have – that it is time-consuming and difficult. They can spin any way they want.”

To illustrate her point, Ms. Brown quickly spun a handful of silky multi-hued karakul sheep wool into yarn. “All it is is the drawing out and twisting of fibers,” she explained.

The revolving wheel did all the work, and in no time the thick gray-brown yarn was wrapped around the spindle and she was reaching for more wool.

“I want to make people realize it’s not for a little old lady sitting in the corner by the fireplace for weeks. We’re now spinning great big gloppy yarns for weavers to weave into rugs,” she said.

Ms. Brown said she can spin about three pounds of “jumbo” yarn in about an hour, and can spin the yarn for a 4 -by 6-foot rug in less than a day. Another two days at her loom, and she has completed the rug.

“Some weavers and spinners complain that they aren’t recognized. But it really is becoming a wonderful medium for artists to work in. I think there’s as much worth in a nice striped rug as in a fancy sculptural piece for a gallery.”

“’There are no politics in the world more important than spinning,’” Ms. Brown quoted Mahatma Ghandi.

“Ghandi spun an hour every day. He figured that was what it took to make the clothes to keep the economy going. So you see, it’s not just for dumb little old ladies.”

Would you like to receive free fiber related information & inspiration from us? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

* indicates required



Source: Rio Grande Sun
Date: July 21, 1983

During Santiago Fiesta…
Weavers Plan Open House
By Maria Varela

The historic T.D. Burns Mercantile Store in Los Ojos will be the scene of an open house Sunday for Tierra Wools, a spinning and weaving studio.

Weavers plan open house article

WARP AND WOOF – Acclaimed weaver Rachel Brown of Taos explains some of the principles of the use of traditional looms to members of Tierra Wools, a weavers’ studio located in the northern Rio Arriba village of Los Ojos. Members of Tierra Wools will hold an open house at the T.D. Burns-Mike Neal Mercantile all day Sunday in conjunction with the hundredth anniversary celebration of the founding of San Jose Parish. Revival of traditional weaving practices and the northern New Mexico sheep industry are among the goals of the weavers’ group and a related agricultural development corporation, Ganados del Valle. (Photo by Maria Varela)

Hosting the open house, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the mercantile, will be Ganados del Valle, an agricultural development corporation which has as one of its goals the revitalization of northern New Mexico’s sheep industry.

The open house will be held at the same time as San Jose Parish’s 100th anniversary celebration of the Santiago Fiesta, and the Burns Mercantile, which once was the marketing center for the sheep industry in northern Rio Arriba, was chosen as Tierra Wools’ new home for its historic significance.

“We have a lot of hopes for the weavers and spinners,” said Antonio Manzanares, one of the founders of the corporation and the Chairman of the Board of Ganados del Valle. “They seem to have the talent and commitment to make a go of the business.”

MAIL ORDERS

Tierra Wools plans to market primarily by mail order, both wholesale and retail, hand spun yarns in natural nad dyed colors, hand-woven pillows, wall hangings, decorator throws, purses, ruanas (ponchos), stoles and one-of-a-kind tapestry weavings.

Its location in the Burns store will provide the opportunity for the public to see spinners and weavers at work. The store will be the only retil outlet for Tierra Wools products in the state and all items sold out of the Taller (studio) are available at 25 percent discount.

The spinners and weavers who presently  make up Tierra Wools are Kika Chavez, Los Ojos; Rosalia Chacon, Llaves; Angie Serrano, Los Ojos; Molly Manzanares, Canones; Avenicia Martinez, La Puente; Laurita Martinez, Los Ojos; and Gregorita Aguilar, Los Ojos.

Members of the cooperatively owned and run Taller, after a period of apprenticeship are free to spin or weave at home or in the studio. Many of this group have been weaving at the community weaving center in the old school of San Jose Parish in Los Ojos.

“We owe a lot to the parish for providing the space and looms for the community,” said Angie Serrano. “Many of us would never have had this opportunity to go into weaving as a career if we hadn’t been exposed to it here in our own community.”

ALTAR PIECE

As an expression of their appreciation for the Church’s sponsorship of the community weaving center, Tierra Wools has commissioned member Rosalia Chacon to weave an altar frontal piece for the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of San Jose Church. The celebration will be a part of the annual Santiago Fiesta on July 23 and 24 in Los Ojos.

The large tapestry has been hand spun, hand dyed and hand woven primarily from fleece grown in the Tierra Amarilla-Chama Valley. The 38” x 67” weaving is bordered on either side with traditional Rio Grande stripes and features the historic church in the center. The group estimates that this one-of-a-kind tapestry would bring between $500 and $600 on the retail market.

Tierra Wools sought and received funds from small foundations in New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to provide start-up assistance for the cooperative and hire professional consultants.

The taller has retained Rachel Brown of Taos to train spinners and weavers as well as to provide design and marketing assistance.

AUTHOR

Brown is the author of “The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book” which has gained her an international reputation.

“The talent in this community is enormous,” said Ms. Brown, “and I consider this a unique opportunity to work with an organization taking an integrated, cooperative approach to the art of weaving. They have integrated the sheep growers into the same organization as the weaver and spinner. They work together to strengthen the sheep and weaving industries which traditionally have been a strong part of the area’s culture and livelihood. I think this is why they have attracted national interest from funding sources, government and industry leaders.”

Since May, Tierra Wools has purchased nearly 2000 pounds of wool, of which roughly ¾ has been from Northern New Mexican sheep growers. The weavers estimate that as yarn sales grow, they will need a minimum of 4000 pounds of fleece a year to keep the spinners supplied.

“We will pay a grower from $.95 to $2.50 a pound for clean, long staple wool,” explained Molly Manzanares, a spinner-weaver and member of the organization board. “We can use fleece from cross breeds, western white face and will pay a higher price for colored specialty fleece such as Karakul or Navajosa.”

BENEFITS

Gumercido P-Salazar of La Puente, vice-chairman of the board of directors of Ganados del Valley-Tierra Wools, described the economic benefits that the weaving and spinning cooperative brings to the sheep industry:

“Let’s say that Tierra Wools pays a grower $1.00 a pound for their fleece. When you add onto that the wool incentive which right now is at 135 percent, the grower received $1.35 on top of the $1 a pound. Beisdes that, you save the gas money on taking the wool out of state to sell it. This year we only received $.58 a pound for our wool.”

“It is more trouble to sell to the hand-spinners,” commented board secretary and grower Beth Rhodes. “The wool has to be free of burrs and manure. …and you can’t include the short wool from the legs, belly or from second cuts. It means that some of us will have to change a little in the way we manage our flocks and shear. But it will be worth it in the end. Not only will we get more for our wool, but our wool will be bought by an enterprise which is providing more jobs or income for the people here.”

SPECIAL LOOMS

Working with loom builder Cruz Aguilar of Los Ojos, Rachel brown has specially designed several looms based on the traditional treadle loom of the area but with modern improvements to speed up production. At least one of the looms will be on display for the open house on Sunday.

There also will be spinning demonstrations throughout the day as well as an exhibit of antique weavings traditional to the area. The group plans to have a limited quantity of hand spun yarns and weavings available for sale.

Would you like to receive free fiber related information & inspiration from us? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

* indicates required