New Mexico has been the home of generations of weavers and spinners, working to make blankets and rugs from homespun wool. The state tourism office has identified handcrafters throughout the state and put together three separate Fiber Arts Trails, some of the sites follow the traditional methods and some produce more contemporary crafts. I had a work trip planned for Santa Fe last month and flew in a day early to visit old friends and find a few of the sites on the Trail.
I flew into Albuquerque on Sunday and the first stop was Las Vegas, New Mexico. My friends lived about twenty miles north of Las Vegas and there was a weaving shop listed in the Trail Guide in Las Vegas. However, the guide was out of date and this shop was no longer a weaving studio, but instead a coffee shop that had a single loom and was also closed on Sunday.
However, the shop was located in the Las Vegas' Historic Plaza. I walked around the plaza which had wonderful historic buildings facing the square, including the Plaza Hotel. I learned later that the Longmire TV series is frequently filmed on the Plaza and the filming of the sheriff's office is in the second floor of one of the buildings on the Plaza. Next stop, Canoncito de las Manuelitas.
Monday morning I headed out to see a few more spots on the Trail, first stop Mora, NM and the Tapetes de Lana spinning mill and retail shop in Mora. Tapetes is a nonprofit in the area established to help folks in this very poor, very rural area with employment at their small spinning mill and through selling handwoven rugs and blankets in the store in Mora. The wool comes from churro sheep, a breed that has been raised in this area for generations. In Mora, I purchased 3 skeins of wool for a rug workshop I will be taking in a few weeks. The other great thing about Tapetes is they also have a coffee bar, so I could refuel for the trip over the mountain to Chimayo.
Next stop on the Trail was Chimayo, to visit Ortega's Weaving Shop. This store and studio has been in business for over 100 years, weaving blankets, rugs and producing cloth that for vests and coats.
My last stop before heading to Santa Fe and the start of my meeting was in Espanola. Espanola is known as the heroin capital of New Mexico, not a place that would likely house a very large weaving nonprofit. The Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center is located in an old retail store building and full of looms, yarn, a dyeing kitchen. I would love to live close to this center, because it looks like the facility is frequently filled with weavers. I purchased 4-5 pounds of Pendleton blanket selvages at EVFAC for making rag rugs. I could buy these from Pendleton directly but I was able to pick colors and get the right amount for a rug and I didn't have to meet Pendleton's 30 pound minimum order. I liked them so much I drove the 30 miles back to the Center at the end of the week to buy another 5 pounds in a different colorway.