Taos Wool Festival

Taos Wool Festival 2013

I enjoy going to the Taos Wool Festival the first weekend in October every year.
 I like seeing all the critters.
Okay, this one wasn't exactly part of the festival. He was just down the street.
Navajo churro sheep waiting for her turn to be sheared
Alpaca are so adorable

I enjoy catching up with my fiber friends, acquaintances, and idols at the festival. I always visit the booths of Fred Black, Bettye Sullivan, and Taos Fiber Arts (aka Julie and Ashley Cloutman). This year I added Cat Mountain Fiber Arts to the list of booths to make sure to visit (see my blog post about Kimberly HERE).
Fred Black's booth--He also sells his work at Taos Fiber Arts and Tierra Wools
Bettye and Alex Sullivan's booth, Walking Rain Studio. Bettye also sells her work at Weaving Southwest.
Taos Fiber Arts booth--check out their shop in Taos!
Cat Mountain Fiber Arts--check out Kimberly's store in Alamosa, CO!
And of course there were some beautiful things for sale.
Here is a rug woven by Bettye Sullivan which won a first place ribbon.
The big news though is that I didn't buy any yarn. Not. One. Skein. 
Amazing, right? I'm not sure what came over me, but I didn't come away with any treasures. There were plenty there, but none called to me enough to add to the stash. I think, to be perfectly honest, I had my heart set on another skein of yarn from Brooks Farm Yarn in Lancaster, TX. And they weren't there. Nothing could fill the void in my heart (except perhaps a Fred Black rug which I didn't have the ready cash for).

There are two reasons I try not to miss a Taos Wool Festival:
Number One...
 And Number Two...  Because I am a:
(which quite frankly leads to all kinds of issues and odd behavior including hiding your stash in the piano bench and feeling an irresistible urge to touch the angora bunny fiber even though I don't spin at all).

The festival continues tomorrow in Kit Carson Park. Go and pet some angora bunnies.

Cat Mountain Fiber Arts

A few weeks ago I was leaving downtown Alamosa, Colorado and I saw a sign on the sidewalk for The Yarn Gallery. My slipping memory dug deep and remembered that this place was only open on Fridays and I am rarely in downtown Alamosa on Fridays. So I re-parked the car and went up. I was so delighted by what I found that I returned the next Friday to take some photos and talk to Kimberly some more.

Kimberly Perkins runs a small yarn shop and studio on the second floor of an old Masonic building on Main Street. Her main business focus is her hand-dyed yarns which she sells a great deal of at fiber festivals all over the United States. Her online store is HERE. She has some patterns on Ravelry also. Look for Cat Mountain Fiber Arts or kimberlyknitter.
She hand-dyes kits for patterns in Knit, Swirl! by Sandra McIver (as well as many other projects!). There are photos of the patterns in this book on Sandra's website at www.knitswirl.com. The knitting is done with a worsted weight yarn and a lace weight and the effect is of a transparency in the thin yarn. The patterns are knitted largely in one piece and they look like a lot of fun.

Kimberly was knitting one of them up with her beautiful yarn when I was there. It will be stunning once it is finished and blocked.

The yarns needed for these patterns are in various weights and Kimberly dyes them in one hank. The effect is rather magical.

They contain various fibers including merino wool, silk, alpaca, bamboo, and nylon (there are some colorways with metalic thread).
The yarn is dyed one part of the skein at a time. In this photo the yellow is wicking up one of the fibers. She will turn the skein and dye another portion of it another color which results in a beautiful blending where the two colors meet.

White fiber ready for dyeing.
The Yarn Gallery carries other yarn also as well as some knitting supplies so if you're heading through Alamosa on a Friday (or certainly if you live there!), go take a look. Kimberly had some enchanting yarn she spun herself that had beads in it. I am looking for the right project to add some of that to the stash begin knitting that right off!

Look for Kimberly Perkins at Taos Fiber Marketplace in April and at Taos Wool Festival in October. I know I will!

This is exactly how I feel about yarn stores... (and bookstores too if you must know)

Note: 4/20/13
Here is a photo of the finished sweater as seen at Taos Fiber Marketplace.

Taos Wool Festival 2012

What would the first weekend in October be without the Taos Wool Festival? I currently live about 90 minutes from Taos, IF the gorge bridge is not closed for painting, repaving, random un-explainable reasons, or because someone jumped AND if San Antonio mountain's weather allows us to pass (sometimes it is a Lord-of-the-Rings-like scene with wizard-created blizzards, struggling hobbits, massive snow drifts, and avalanches--okay, San Antonio isn't really avalanche territory. The mountain hasn't killed me yet, but it has come close twice).

I did some great finishing work on the way down... (Thanks to dear Emily who agreed to drive. This is a great blessing for a knitter.)
 I should have known it was going to be a wildlife sort of day today. I saw a great blue heron on my short dog walk this morning and on the way to Taos, we saw a lot of tarantulas crossing the highway...

They migrate this time of year... or more specifically the males migrate when they look for a mate. Some quick internet research also indicates that they perish soon after. It makes me feel a little better about the one we saw too late.

Other wildlife included the alpaca (always so adorable), llamas, pygora goats, angora bunnies, and churro sheep.

And some of the greatest wildlife I saw was in Ellen Sibelius's booth. The creativity of fiber people never ceases to amaze me. Here is a Ravelry link to Ellen's creations. They are really quite astounding. This is a dragon in green and a baby dragon coming out of an egg in the middle. She had your basic farm animals (cow, sheep) and then all kinds of other creations (a wooly mammoth!, a biplane, whales, elephants, buffalos). I think this woman laughs a lot on a daily basis. 

Tapestry was represented by the Sullivans and Fred Black. I didn't get a photo of Fred's beautiful rugs. Alex and Bettye Sullivan had a booth as usual. It looks like the Alex, Bettye, and Fred are all showing at Tierra Wools now (Los Ojos, NM--a great place to visit if you are near Chama!).

There was a lot of beautiful yarn there. I resisted some of this, though it was not easy. My brain kept telling me that I already had beautiful yarn at home and that I didn't need to take home this also. I just bought a blue silk blend at String Theory and until that was used up, I didn't really need any more. I made it all the way home without this yarn, but Emily may have to hide the car keys tomorrow to keep me from driving back to the festival to get some of this.
This is, of course, not weaving yarn. Tierra Wools had the most beautiful churro yarn for weaving.
But tapestry being what it is (a very time-intensive pursuit that doesn't lend itself to changing materials often at least in my practice), I left these hanging also.

Taos Fiber Arts was there with their great yarn and roving. And after visiting the festival we stopped by their shop on Ranchitos Road.
There is a yarnbombing going on in Taos at the moment and TFA has decorated their own portal with bikinis.

 And the big guns were behind the building in the courtyard. Whoa Nellie!

Julie and Ashley Cloutman (the mother/daughter team running TFA) were at the festival, but they had some great people holding down their store. They have a beautiful gallery room with replica blankets, examples of jerga, and this fantastic replica loom where this woman was weaving jerga. You can see many more photos of this gallery and loom in an earlier blog post I wrote about Taos Fiber Arts HERE.

Taos was packed today. The farmers market was going on and we had to circle a couple different parking lots to find a space to park. At one point we were driving very slowly behind a couple walking with big bags of stuff, hoping they wouldn't notice the dark blue Camry lurking 100 feet back. Alas, after stalking them following them for an eternity a few minutes, it was clear they were not leaving but just dumping off their loot and walking off to search for more. When we finally did find a place to park, this was parked right behind us. I knew we were in for a great day...

As Julie and Ashley say,

El Rito Studio Tour and learning to let go a little bit...

Saturday morning Emily and I headed over to El Rito, NM, a small town 15 miles north of Abiquiu and about the same distance west of Ojo Caliente.  I lived in this little town for about 3 years and was excited to return and see some of the old friends there.  Sara and Sierra were happy to tour us around El Rito for their annual studio tour.

My best buds Sierra and Sara outside Julie Wagner's studio

A young artist's work at the El Rito Public Library where they also have an event called "Death by Chocolate".  I think it speaks for itself. (Thank you to the person who made a batch of gluten free brownies!  I increased my donation at that point!)

The gang with the Leer es Poder sign outside the library.

I used to live virtually next door to Martins grocery.  It closed its doors a few years ago and I miss walking through the dusty aisles marveling that you can get potted meat ALL over northern New Mexico.

We visited a friend and artist from my days of living in El Rito, Julie Claire.  Julie and I talked a little about her intuitive painting workshops which she does through her coaching business, Full Bloom Coaching in both Santa Fe and El Rito.  I have been intrigued by her process for years and hope to take one of her classes one day soon.  I think Julie can teach me to loosen up and let go of some of the things that inhibit my design process.  Tapestry is such a rigid medium in so many ways.  Once the design is finished, I pretty much don't deviate from the cartoon after I start weaving.  Yes, there are occasionally small changes I make as I go along--shifting a color or changing some highlights.  But the process to that point which includes a trip to Santa Fe to have a cartoon enlarged by a blueprint shop not to mention the days of dyeing to come up with the exact colors for the piece mean that I am unlikely to deviate from the design once it goes to the loom.  And weaving a tapestry can take months... following your pattern.  This process seems to lend itself to rigidity of the mind... and I would like to loosen things up a little bit.

In Julie's workshops as I understand it, you start with one large surface and start painting--and you keep painting on that surface.  Layers of pictures happen and you have to be willing to let the one you were working on go and let it change into something else.  And isn't that how life works anyway?

Taos Wool Festival 2011

Every year (if I possibly can), I go to the Taos Wool Festival.  Emily says this is because "that is where my peeps are."  I'm not sure if she is talking about the alpaca, the churro sheep, or the people (or maybe just the cinnamon almond vendor), but I do enjoy spending some time there every first weekend in October.

The Taos Wool Festival is run by the Mountain and Valley Wool Association and this was their 25th year.  Their mission is to promote Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas wool, animal fiber, and their products.  For more information, their website is HERE.

I usually buy a t-shirt... and I liked the logo a lot this year... but even though it was only Saturday afternoon, they were out of any shirts in my size in a color I liked, so I settled for this photograph.

Disclaimer: no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post... and there are some shots of a naked churro sheep so if that sort of thing makes you woozy, you might want to skip the rest.

There are lots of animals every year and I love seeing the angora bunnies.  This little girl settled in to get acquainted with this rabbit.

I think this one is giving me the bunny evil-eye.  Admittedly I was stalking him with my camera and I couldn't get him to hold still enough to get a clear shot that included his long shaggy ears which stood straight up.  The woman minding the bunny cages said he was an English angora (I could have that wrong, things were a little confusing at that point)... and his ears were a hoot!  He wasn't amenable to a photograph though.

There was a pen of Navajo Churro sheep and we did get to see one shorn (turn back now if you don't want to see the naked sheep!).  Churro are the prize sheep of the Navajo.  I recently watched the movie "A Gift from Talking God: The Story of the Navajo-Churro" which you can find out more about HERE.  It is a wonderful documentary about how the churro sheep were almost wiped out and brought back to use in this region of the United States. They are highly prized for their double coat and their low-lanalin fleece as well as for their meat.

I don't know the name of this sheep shearer, but he was fast and I didn't see any sheep blood flying either.  It amazes me how the sheep just lay there.  About 6 years ago I saw a traditional shearer in El Rito using clippers shear a sheep almost as fast as this man did with his electric set-up.  When the sheep is turned upside down, they just go limp.  Robert, the El Rito shearer, told me that it was hard-wired into their brain because they are prey animals and when they are flipped over they are most likely going to be killed, so their brains just shut off. 
The whole thing only took a couple minutes.

Here he is after being let back into the churro pen.  I'm pretty sure at this point he was thinking, "Whoa, something is radically different..."

There were alpaca, which are my favorite.  This one was crying and the handler said they make the whimpering noise when they are distressed.  By Saturday afternoon he had probably had too many people taking photos of him.  Sorry dude.


And there were dogs everywhere.

And of course we can't forget the actual fiber booths.  There were marvelous tapestries and rugs by Fred BlackBettye Sullivan, and Alex George Sullivan.  When I got to the Sullivan's booth, the person wearing Bettye Sullivan's name tag was definitely not Bettye (and I had NOT had a margarita yet).  It was Julie Cloutman of Taos Fiber Arts who was running the booth for the Sullivans that day.  Julie was sporting a fantastic pair of knitted (or they could have been crocheted, the artist is multi-talented) earrings.  The artist was the offspring of the people running the felting booth next door.  Here are the earrings and Julie with the artist himself.  I regret that I do not know his name, so if anyone does, please comment and I'll credit him!  He did win a ribbon in the youth competition for a rather conceptual piece of crocheting which was a long chain with loops--aptly titled "Scarf".

10/9/11: And Martie of Taos Sunflower  just told me that the young artist is Chakotay Mitchell, son of Merce Mitchell of Pure Felt.  Thanks for the information Martie (your yarn shop was my very very favorite for so long, but I sure understand the need to do other things!) and to Chakotay for his great fiber art!

There were marvelous signs, and of course fantastic amounts of fiber.

I'm kind of sorry it is over for the year.  I didn't buy any yarn.

October in New Mexico

Colors at Cumbres Pass on the border between NM and CO.

I am starting to get back into the swing of work and weaving after the trip to Europe. I earn my keep by working in the public schools in rural NM. I am currently staying in Chama and this week is THE week that the colors are changing.

I love hiking long trails, and often, especially after school (work) has started again for the year, I wish I was out on the trail somewhere. I have seen a few SOBO CDT thru's in Chama lately and wish I could spend the day listening to their adventures.

Despite the burning of a trestle this summer a few miles out of Chama, the Cumbres and Toltec railroad is still running. They are busing people up to Cumbres pass (shown here at sunset) and running from there.
I also have managed to get some dyeing done the last two weekends. I am hoping that once I start weaving the next two pieces, I will find that these colors are okay. Here are a few shots of my dye set-up. I certainly hope for my own dye studio one day, though this works for now. Carports are great things.

Taos Wool Festival was also this weekend. Emmy and I went yesterday and visited the alpaca, llamas, and angora bunnies. There was also some good yarn for sale as usual. Since I just bought a suitcase full of knitting yarn in Germany, I didn't buy anything this year at Wool Fest (can you believe it?).

Taos Wool Festival

I spent last weekend and part of last week in New Mexico. It was the Taos Wool Festival Saturday and Sunday and I greatly enjoyed seeing all the great yarn, animals, and talking to the people who love fiber. I managed to get out of there Sunday having only bought two skeins of yarn--a silk/wool blend that should be lovely for something knitted. There were many booths, a little weaving, and all kinds of animals including alpaca and lots of angora bunnies. There were people spinning and knitting all over the place. And the festival was busy even though it was cold and overcast for New Mexico in October.

I also visited my friend Emily and her family in Dixon, NM. Her husband is a farmer and his specialty is chili. He was working on hanging these ristras all across the front of their house.

I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday taking a tapestry weaving class from James Koehler in Taos. James is always ready to challenge me and this class was no exception. I enjoyed learning some new gradation and hatching techniques as well as being part of a group of tapestry weavers for a few days. It was a quick class, but I did manage to start a small tapestry. While I was there I stayed at the Columbine Inn in the Taos Ski Valley. I highly recommend the place! It was quiet (off season) and beautiful. I was able to hike right from the hotel. I did have to scrape ice off my car in the mornings and there was snow on Wheeler peak. The colors are changing fast and winter is on her way.