Come home. Do you ever hear that? …as if you have been away too long? The nudge is to return to your faith roots. Enjoy the refreshing that comes in the presence of the Lord. It’s good to be where you know you belong.
Do you know that New Mexico has a guide to rural fiber arts destinations across the state? Last week, Steve and I dusted off the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails, driving 1,100 miles through mountainous deserts and lush Rio Grande River valleys. We reveled in views of God’s creation, like cottonwood trees in brilliant yellow, and the Sandia mountains turning purple and watermelon pink in the setting sun. We visited interesting studios and shops all along the way, and encountered weavers who are true artisans.
Four Pointers for Your New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails Adventure:
1. Call ahead. Some of the stops are one-person studios, attached to a residence. Some places have changed their hours or days of the week that they are open. We drove two hours one day to visit a special shop, only to find a note on the door that said they were closed that day of the week. 2. Ask good questions. I like to ask a weaver a question that only another weaver would ask. Instead of introducing myself as a fellow handweaver, I like to let them figure it out by the questions I ask. 3. Wear something handwoven. My handwoven cap opened the door to conversation with other weavers. 4. Resist adding to your stash. I knew that I would have the opportunity to purchase beautiful yarn, but I decided in advance not to add to my stash. I gathered information instead; and now I have more resources to choose from when it is time to order yarn.
My Favorite Stops:
Albuquerque Sacramento Mountain Weavers (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Kelly Stewart
Located in historic Old Town, this shop has a Glimåkra Standard loom (like mine). Among other things, Kelly has woven rag rugs from strips of soft leather.
Edgewood Robin Pascal Fiber Artist
Robin’s studio is nestled in a scenic hillside covered with trees and wildlife. Her handspun yarn proved irresistible to me. This is where I broke my own rule of not adding to my stash.
Arroyo Seco (just north of Taos) Weaving Southwest, Teresa Loveless
Amazing tapestry weavings on display! Teresa is the granddaughter of acclaimed tapestry weaver and author, Rachel Brown. Teresa carries her grandmother’s legacy by teaching tapestry techniques to interested students. There are Rio Grande walking looms in the teaching studio, where you do all the weaving standing up, not sitting. Who knows? You may see me taking a class from Teresa. Her passion for tapestry weaving is contagious.
Ranchos de Taos Old Martina’s Hall Restaurant, Tapestry Exhibit (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails) Art Through The Loom Weaving Guild Show, August 20th through February 28th, 2015
This outstanding tapestry exhibit is not to be missed if you are anywhere near the vicinity! Downstairs and upstairs, every room in this restored, old dance hall is adorned with exquisite pieces of traditional and contemporary woven tapestries by nineteen different artists.
Chimayó Trujillo’s Weaving Shop (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Carlos Trujillo
The first thing we saw when we entered the shop was a huge, rustic Rio Grande walking loom. Carlos was at the loom, weaving. He clearly loves designing at the loom, using unique color combinations in traditional designs. His grandfather built this impressive loom. Two women in an adjacent room filled with looms allowed me to watch over their shoulders as they wove traditional Chimayó patterns. One of the women showed me the small, narrow loom they now use for weaving coasters, and told me, “This was the loom Carlos learned to weave on when he was a little boy. As he grew, blocks were added to raise the loom to fit him.”
Chimayó Centinela Traditional Arts, Irvin Trujillo
Irvin allowed me to watch and ask questions as he wove in the massive weaving room in the far end of the shop. It was inspiring to watch this master weaver at work. I found Irvin to be unpretentious, even though his expertise is astounding. You should see his intricate tapestries that hang in the showroom of the shop! Weaving is second nature to Irvin, who has been creating with wool on a loom since he was a young boy.
Magdalena Cat Brysch Creations Studio
Cat’s nine looms are clothed in colors that describe the terrain and sky of this beautiful mountainous desert. She took the time to explain each loom’s fabric to me, as I marveled at her skill of blending colors in the warp.
If you go as far as Magdalena, you might as well go another 56 miles to Pie-o-neer in Pie Town, New Mexico. The green chile stew is fantastic, but if I had known how good the hot-from-the-oven double cherry (tart and sweet) pie would be, I would have skipped the stew and ordered two slices of pie! Steve said the same about his slice of warmed peach pie. It was a great way to end our Fiber Arts Trails adventure.
Ordinary has never appealed to me. I remember some outfits I wore as a girl that were far from ordinary. For example, I had a corduroy cape with a Peter Pan collar, that had slits for the arms. I wore a corduroy brimmed cap to match, with a striped feather on the brim. Did I know any other ten-year-old girl wearing such a thing? No, not really. But I thought the outfit looked “cool” and stylish.
When I make a rag rug, I am not aiming for ordinary. I like the idea of making a rug that no one has imagined before.
Graph paper and 24 Prismacolor colored pencils. The first scribbles look silly to me, but if I keep going, design ideas keep coming and it turns into play. One idea morphs into another, and I soon have too many designs to use on this rug warp. I am weaving double-binding rag rugs right now. My favorite one is always the one I am working on. And then I start a new design… and that one becomes my favorite. Rag rugs are especially rewarding to weave because of the abundant design options. The saddest part for me is coming to the end of the warp. Maybe I need to put on longer warps…
Becky pulled out her fiddle and handed it to me, and she sat at her old upright piano, ready to play. Believe it or not, I played fiddle tunes (not bad for a ‘cellist) while her fingers danced the keys. And that is how Becky Ashenden and I finished up our recent conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Vävstuga. More Swedish Classics gave me a chance to learn a few things I had been especially eager to try, like smålandsväv, jämtlandsdräll (you may know it as crackle), and pick-up band weaving with a backstrap and rigid heddle. It was wonderful to sit and have a chat with Becky at the end of the week to talk about various aspects of weaving. Click HERE to read the first part of our conversation.
And now, enjoy this second part of my conversation with Becky…
It might be a surprising answer. I really like threading; and I actually really likesleying. (Laughter) It is sort of mindless and repetitive. If the threading is not too complicated, I love the idea of listening to a book. I used to listen to a lot of recorded books while I was doing production weaving.
I do enjoy the physical process of the weaving, too. I think my brain thrives on the repetitive process. If my hands are physically busy, it helps my brain focus.
In what way does it help you focus?
My mind loves to wander. I can conjure up new classes, or new ideas if I am busy with something repetitive like weaving. And with threading, it is a peaceful time, and I can think. If it is a complicated threading, I focus on the threading; but that is engaging in its own way.
Speaking of classes and ideas… When I took Vävstuga Basics, some people in the class had been weaving for years. Why do you think people who already know how to weave come to your Basics class?
They know how to weave one way, and they may have been taught by other people. But, they don’t know how to weave the way I teach to weave. The Basics class gives the opportunity to learn how I do it from start to finish.
In other words, you teach things that they will only learn here?
People tell me they want to know how I do things. They ask me, “How do you dress your loom? And how do you handle a shuttle, get good selvedges, fix broken threads, understand drafting, and keep good records?” Well, that is my Basics class, where I share a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. I was taught extremely well, the old-school way, in Sweden. I have also developed my own shortcuts that I share with students.
How does it work to have students with various levels of experience in the same class? Might a beginner feel out of place?
No matter who comes to my Basics class, I cater to who is there. For those who are advanced, I give them something beyond what they have experienced already. I always give as much of my knowledge and experience as students are interested in and can absorb.
I also make the class work for a beginner. So, a beginner should not be intimidated at all.
Even someone who has never put a warp on a loom, or someone who has not been successful doing it on their own?
One thing that helps the beginner is simply that the warps are put on by everybody together. No one person is going to be left behind or put on the spot. The warps will go on; and, they will go on smoothly, because I oversee it. Students can partake in whatever amount of the process they can absorb.
It must be interesting to see what a beginner can accomplish in just five days.
Some people who come to Basics, who have not woven before, take to it like a fish to water. It makes sense to them, and they whip through everything. I have seen absolute beginners weave beautiful things. And they’ve never touched a loom before!
It might be more challenging for people who are used to doing things a different way. But I say, “Try this.” “Try holding your shuttle this way,” or, “Try stepping on the treadle this way.” It might be a completely different loom for them.
Does it matter what type of loom someone has at home? Does it make sense to come to Basics if they don’t have a loom like one of yours?
A lot of people are used to jack looms. So, another reason to come to Basics is to experience the looms we have. Come and learn how to use them firsthand from someone who has had decades of experience using these looms.
We have Glimåkra looms, both counterbalance and countermarch. There is a tie-up system that I developed for the countermarch which is unique. This is something that I teach in Basics. This method makes the countermarch tie-up very easy for the body. You spend as little time as possible under the loom. The sheds are accurate the first time.
I can attest to that. Your tie-up system makes it a breeze for me to set up my countermarch loom at home.
That simple tie-up system makes a huge difference. It opens up the world of being able to do multi-shaft weaves.
These Scandinavian looms are old-style looms. Originally, this loom design came from China. It moved across Asia, and then through Europe over the centuries. Big old barn looms are basically the same thing. A big frame loom with a hanging beater.
Does the hanging beater make a difference? What advantages do your students have by being able to weave on Swedish looms here?
The hanging beater is something that makes the weaving happen, almost by itself. It takes the physical work load, the body wear and tear, off of the human being.
The difference between weaving on a jack loom and on one of these Swedish looms is huge. Many people come my Basics class worried and concerned, saying, “I’ve never been able to weave for more than twenty minutes at a time because my back can’t take it.” And then, at the end of the week, they say, “I can’t believe that I wove for three days straight, and I don’t hurt!”
So, if someone is curious about weaving in general, or Scandinavian looms in particular, this would be a good chance to try it out.
This is the opportunity to explore weaving, and discover the possibilities. They can try it out on our looms, without the commitment of changing looms at home.
And have fun while they’re doing it.
It is the fun, the meeting other people, and the camaraderie, that makes it special. It is a whole social experience that is an absolute blast. Eating good food together… The social part of eating meals together, having a good time, laughing together, adds so much to the experience.
I think the enjoyment around the table helps us relax, making our studying and weaving time that much more effective.
People are not having other things to worry about. Your brain can focus and absorb as much as possible.
What is your primary goal for Vävstuga Basics?
The goal of Basics is to cover everything someone needs to know to be able to weave on their own. I want to give everybody the tools to do that.
I love that I can take everything I learn here and do it all on my own at home. Or, I can just come here and have the pleasure of weaving in good company.
Some people come because they are interested in learning the techniques that I teach, or to see if are they interested in this type of loom. And other people come to see if they are interested in weaving at all. They may want to learn how to do this; and then, they can come here and weave. Maybe they don’t have the space, or the money to buy the equipment, or to have a stock of yarns. But they can come here and weave.
We welcome students who come for all these different reasons!
Becky, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is always interesting to hear what goes on behind the scenes at Vävstuga!
I enjoyed it, Karen. It’s been my pleasure!
(I noticed that there is space available in upcoming Basics classes. That is good news!)