Tag Archives: Navajo Churro

Fiber travels in New Mexico, part II

I mentioned in my previous post that I visited Tierra Wools in tiny Los Ojos, New Mexico.  Rather than paraphrase, this is the beginning of the description of their wool Shangri-La on their website’s about page (go there and read more later):

“Tierra Wools is a spinning, hand dyeing, and hand weaving workshop and a retail store. We buy carry local wool, and weave the yarn into beautiful weavings which are sold from our workshop in Los Ojos, a small village in rural Rio Arriba County in northern New Mexico. The enterprise is operated by Los Ojos Handweavers, LLC, a limited liability company owned by the growers, spinners and hand weavers that produce its goods, as well as supporting investors.”

I visited them around a decade (or a little more) ago, and at the time, it was a full house of wooly weaving and dying frenzy.  Sadly, it seems to have slowed down a bit and the weavers now work on commission, though the shop still offers classes and workshops.  And on Saturday, April 27th, they are having their annual Spring Harvest Festival with sheep shearing demos and other treats.  I can only imagine if such a studio was plunked down in a heavy DIY urban area, they’d have to fight people off with loom parts.  But I suppose it also wouldn’t be the same – the location is what this wool is about.  Much of the wool comes from just a few miles away as well as the dyes.  The colors in the yarn are reflected in the landscape and the products share the same rugged beauty with the surroundings.  Not to mention it offers a source of income in a place where there are few people but I imagine, fewer jobs.

While there, I stocked up on some of the gorgeous Shepherd’s Lamb organic wool products.  The wool comes from Antonio & Molly Manzanares from nearby Tierra Amarilla, who also sell their wooly beasts in meat and pelt form.  The color range of their yarns and rovings is stunning and some of the yarn lines are dyed with natural dye plants indigenous to the area.

I had selected a few skeins of sturdy Navajo Churro rug wool, but decided to buy two bags of brown and grey-brown roving instead.  The stuff apparently felts/fulls like a dream as well, so it might be the first time I end up fulling my spinning – until now, I feel like handspun is somewhat spoiled by fulling unless you’re making fulled singles, but this has the feeling of becoming something truly practical and hard-wearing, like dense nearly impenetrable mittens, or a hat with some sort of brim, or maybe an outerwear vest if I can eek out enough, but my history with vests is a little troubled…

Churro roving  Churro roving-detail

On the softer side, I picked out some organic Rambouillet yarn in DK weight.  I got two skeins of yellow which was dyed with Indigo over Chamisa, and one skein of green dyed with Osage Orange over Indigo.  I love that Osage Orange was used – it was one of my favorite trees growing up and always seemed so out-of-place exotic, nearly tropical, and the fruit is nicknamed “monkey balls.”   Who doesn’t love a monkey?  Balls!  But apparently though the fruit is inedible, it wards off pests so people put them in basements and cupboards.  But I digress, I really wanted more yarn and I was out-of-characterly very attracted to some tealy blues and lavenders, but I resisted.  I don’t as yet have a plan for this, though I’m leaning toward something shawlette-ish.

Shepherd's Lamb

New Mexico yarn

That wasn’t the most flattering shot of Northern New Mexico, though I do love ruins and murky colors, so I’ll leave you with a few more.

Northern New Mexico

I love this road – it’s the perfect antidote to the crowded East (except you have to be careful of the occasional elk).  This is also fairly close* to Tierra Wools.  The landscape of the north is more conducive to grazing sheep and other livestock.

New Mexico boney pile

A pile of bones, but not a boney pile.

New Mexico litter

Litter is bad, but vintage litter is cool.

Plaza Blanco

Another good day of hiking amongst amazing rocks.

New Mexico rock tree

Is it a giant rock, or tiny tree?

New Mexico rest stop

And I love these rest stops with private landscape viewing boxes – you can picnic free of wind and sun while watching dust devils snake below the mesa – just watch out for rattlesnakes.

And oh, holy hell, when looking up some of the abundant links in this post, I just found that there is an established “Fiber Arts Trail” in New Mexico, including a route dedicated to the Northern area.  I am ashamed to say that though I am somewhat of a professional researcher, I utterly failed in looking up anything about this before I went… Next time, right???

*About 40 minutes away, which might as well be next door out there.

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Fiber travels in New Mexico, part I

I was in a few states of the great American Southwest for the last couple of weeks.  I hiked, visited family, ate lots of green chile, visited Tierra Wools (more on that another time), and I had greatly desired to spend some time with a cashmere rancher friend of my mother’s, but sadly got sick and spent the last four days of my trip in bed, waiting for hours in feverish chills at a busy clinic full of babies with diarrhea, or lurking about the cold house feeling too crappy to knit (I took along that blasted sock) and without anything new to read (not to mention no internet or boob-tube).

I love New Mexico – it is a hard place to live, and I respect that – I would love to call it home, but will enjoy it in visits instead.  The land, or more precisely water, can’t really handle any more residents – especially those who plunk a large vacation or retirement home down on pristine but dry land and expect to live like they did in the East or South.

Luckily in the days leading up to my assault by poison mucus on ears and sinuses, the weather was gorgeous.  Mountain meadows are my favorite places on the planet…

New Mexico 2013 264 - Copy

…as well as dramatic rocks and moonscapes on earth.

Bisti

And luckily a couple of my sick days involved wind, sleet, snow and rain so I didn’t feel as bummed about not being able to hike otherwise.

New Mexico sleet

But I admit, I was most excited about meeting Nestor.

Nestor portrait

He’s a guard llama on the cashmere ranch (you can see one of his inquisitive charges in the background).   I did get to meet him briefly, as well as the resident Maremma sheepdog Homer…

Homer close

Homer far

He’s a fiber producer in his own right and a giant friendly (though not when protecting) beast.  I’ve been interested in the breed since seeing them in Abruzzo, Italy a few years ago (more on that later too) so it was nice to finally meet one and rub his thick coat.  Alas he is the only four-legged furry there I snapped since I thought I would be returning, but the pictures of Nestor as a younger man are courtesy of my mom from an earlier time.

She brought back a baggie of Nestor a few years ago – maybe it was an ounce or two.  That, along with some Navajo Churro was my first time dealing with unprocessed fiber.  I didn’t have any carders or combs at the time so I fluffed out the fibers by hand the best I could.

Nestor

This was also among my first spinnings on my new-to-me-then wheel.  I think it is about a sport to worsted weight and I didn’t get much – I think I was going to make it into wrist warmers, or very short mitts.  I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to knit it with some wool yarn for better memory and elasticity.

Nestor yarn

But then as with many things, I didn’t decide about it right away and time passed.  The following year my mother called up to ask if I wanted a big Nestor load?

Of course I said YES.

washing nestor-small

This was back in the days when I had a glorious basement and the harvest gold dryer that came with the house.  It was also winter, or maybe just cold and damp outside when I set out to wash him.  Luckily we replaced the windows in the house too so we had several old screens that were perfect for dealing with wet fiber.  I think he finally finished drying a week later.  Then it happened again – I sat on it.  My dilemma is either spinning it all at random like my initial batch for a marled color, or roughly separating out two or maybe three colorways – white/light grey, grey, grey-black and then have the option of doing color work or stripes with the knitting.  I need to re-weigh it too, so I’m not quite sure how much I have, and then I may waffle again about adding wool during the spinning or later with the knitting….

My ears nearly exploded on the flight home, and by the way the assholes at United aren’t “allowed” to give you the cups with warm paper towels in them anymore – if both of my hands weren’t clamped tightly over my ears at the time, they probably would have gone to the sneering flight attendant’s neck.  Needless to say I’m now even harder of hearing and slogging along with more and stronger meds and the thought of watching the spinning wheel go round and round isn’t going to happen for the next 10 days or so, so Nestor will have to wait some more.

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