Dessert in the desert

I just got home from my last travel teaching trip for the year. It is fun to visit different places and meet new people, but there is nothing quite like home. Especially for an introvert. 

I taught tapestry techniques in Las Vegas, NV and Las Cruces, NM. I was fascinated by the desert landscape and the amazing plants I saw in both places, even in the city. I enjoyed hearing all the different ideas the participants had about fiber and tapestry weaving. And I'll admit that I enjoyed the warm weather (even though the people there thought it was freezing at 65 degrees).

The Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild met at the house of a member, Maurine Adrezin. She has a plethora of talents, but I found her needle felted dolls wonderful. She offered to teach me this skill, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to go back to learn it. After a day of teaching I'm simply too tired to absorb anything else.

Needle felted dolls by Maurine Adrezin.

Needle felted doll by Maurine Adrezin.

Needle felted dolls by Maurine Adrezin

Maurine's studio was full of other marvels including a large line-up of band looms with projects in process. Most of these were from patterns by John Mullarkey who has also taught for this guild. Given a few more days there, I'm sure Maurine would have had me weaving one of these.

Tablet weavings by Maurine Adrezin.

Belinda brought this flax spindle to show me. It is so gorgeous. It was made by Hershey Fiber Arts. I don't know if I could spin wool on it and maybe I wouldn't want to, but isn't it beautiful? I am always fascinated by new tools and beautiful wooden ones are the very best. I have thus far resisted purchasing one, but maybe I'll figure out a reason I'd want to make linen some day, right? (don't enable me.)

The tapestry weavers did a wonderful job. Elaine was new to tapestry weaving. She did a great job picking up all the basic techniques in a short period of time. Look at those selvedges! Pretty good for a first tapestry. This was also the first time I'd had someone using a Harrisville Lap Loom. I will admit that I liked this loom if you need something really simple. It is smaller than the Schacht School loom and the sett on this loom is 2 pegs per inch which means you can easily warp it at 8 epi as she has here. (The Schacht School Loom has a sett of 6 epi which is too wide for worsted weight yarn and doubled at 12 epi is too difficult for beginners.) Of course I recommend a tapestry loom that has tensioning ability, but this works fairly well for small things.

Kathi Meisel has done quite a lot of weaving. She started off down a path that my training never would have allowed in my own weaving (can you spot it?) and I let her go. Tapestry weavers can be way too uptight about their rules and I am learning to watch what happens when I or my students try something different. Turns out her piece was wonderfully creative, she wove much more than this in the three days, and she is going to add a mouse jumping over the candle. I'm excited to see how it turns out.

I think this may be the smallest class I've ever taught.

I'm not going to lie.

Only having 7 students is kind of a miracle. They were all friends and I don't think they ever stopped laughing.

Here is the whole gang.

Belinda, Rebecca, Kathi, Marilyn, Maurine, Elaine, (front) Beverly, Vicki. Photo: Al Adrezin

I flew from Las Vegas to El Paso to teach for the Mesilla Valley Weavers in Las Cruces, NM. It felt really good to be back in New Mexico. Anyone else recognize that moment where you cross the state line into NM on a freeway and suddenly there are billboards everywhere? Perhaps one day New Mexico will have a billboard law like most other states seem to, but I doubt it'll be soon. The billboards are the moment I know I'm home again. Las Cruces reminded me of my hometown, Gallup.

Red, green, or Christmas? (put your answer in the comments)

After a long day of flying and driving from El Paso, I was so grateful to my host, Lynn Breckenridge, for not only providing me with a marvelously quiet guest house all to myself, but for leaving me a bottle of New Mexico Pinot Grigio and a box of chocolates. It was like a little piece of heaven. (Also, there was cable and I might have watched a few too many episodes of Shark Tank.)


I stopped by Quillin Fiber Arts, Las Cruces' LYS and met the weaving master and owner, Dedri Quillin. She helped sponsor the workshop and became a fast friend. Anyone who can run a successful yarn shop and possesses so many fiber talents is bound to be someone I'll get along with.

Quillin Fiber Arts, Las Cruces, NM. With owner, Dedri Quillin.

Some of the offerings at Quillin Fiber Arts in Las Cruces, NM.

Dedri dyes a lot of the yarn for the shop herself. I have been experimenting with sock yarn for an upcoming weave-along (watch the blog for it!) and was delighted to find that she had some of the lighter colors that I needed for this project. (She has an etsy shop. Get some!)

The guild told me that the workshop would be held at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, but I didn't really think about it while packing. If I had, I would have packed my railroad hat and some overalls. One day at lunch I watched a lengthy switching of cars process here in the train yard. 

Outside, big trains. Inside, model trains.

Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

Las Cruces Railroad Museum.

The Mesilla Valley Fiber Guild was another wonderful group. I was teaching beginning and intermediate tapestry techniques. There were 12 in the group and they were mighty patient as I worked with people at different levels.

Color gradation weaving by Lynn Breckenridge

Maurine and Jan. Don't miss Jan's vest. Yes, that is an antler sewn onto it. There was a lot of laughter in this group and I'll admit that a large percentage of mine was caused by Jan.

Maureen and Jan. Mesilla Valley Weavers.

A few participants were willing to share some of their past work. Jan Thune had done a project where she wove small memories of her travels in New Zealand and Asia. They were marvelous. She wove many of them on this little loom.

Jan Thune's loom (Quillin Fiber Arts carries these)

Travel weavings by Jane Thune

Jan's pillow says, I'd rather be traveling.

Linda Giesen also brought some of her work to show the class. It is always wonderful to have tapestries to show, share, and discuss. Her forms are so sensual and these tapestries of sand dunes are restful and engaging. There was some mohair in this piece which gave the dunes a wonderful aliveness.

Linda Giesen, tapestry

Linda Giesen, tapestry


I gave a lecture called Sand in my Shoes about my tapestry career at the public library on Thursday evening. I had a nice audience but somehow this was the only photo I took. I was a little shocked to see one of these that was still operational.

I really enjoyed the desert plants in and around Las Cruces. I grew up much farther north where it is higher and colder. There are many types of cactus in Las Cruces. And there are also crops of pecans, chile, and cotton. I asked where the water comes from and was told, "the aquifer." It reminded me strongly of my trip to Palm Springs when I drove down to the Salton Sea and the Imperial Valley. Food grown in the desert.

Chile fields in front, pecan trees behind. Las Cruces crops.

They grow cotton in Las Cruces, NM. Who knew?

Chile. (Yes, that is how you spell the name for this vegetable in New Mexico. It is trademarked.) Las Cruces.

Also, cochineal... this is volunteer cochineal on the prickly pear cactus near the house I was staying in.

Not blood, cochineal. Las Cruces, NM. My apologies to that particular bug.

This is one marketing approach. This was a hotel I drove by every day. Obviously other people stop for photo ops too.

A little weaving in the El Paso airport which was marvelously empty.

Airport weaving in El Paso. Lighter colored variegated yarn is from Quillin Fiber Arts in Las Cruces.

These were the last two guild workshops I'm going to be teaching for awhile. Those of you who have invited me to come and teach in 2018 have already heard that I am taking a break from this sort of traveling to teach. I am going to take next year to focus on improving my online classes, expand my online offerings, and weaving a very large tapestry. I will be teaching at least three retreats, so if you want to work with me in person, that would be the way to do it next year. You can follow the retreat planning and be ready for registration on THIS page and get advanced notice by signing up for my newsletter. The retreats sell out quickly every year.

Happy weaving!

View of the Organ Mountains outside of Las Cruces, NM at sunset.