There are so many similarities between living in Oaxaca, Mexico, and northern New Mexico. With the conquest, the Spanish brought the pedal loom and sheep to the Americas. Churro sheep, an Iberian peninsula breed and the first to be domesticated in the Americas, are especially sturdy. They survive, even thrive, in harsh climates and at high altitudes. This is the wool used by New Mexico Navajo to weave their famous rugs. This is the wool used by Oaxaca Zapotecs to weave their famous rugs.
As I drive from Taos, NM, to Pagoso Springs, Colorado, to meet up with Carol Estes and her family for camping, I pass through Chama, NM. Here, off the road almost obscured in a forest of pine trees, is Tierra Wools. I remembered it from my last camping adventure from two years ago. I wanted to make a stop to see what it was all about, zoomed by before I could make the turn. For a moment, I hesitated and considered going on, thought better of it, did a U-turn, and pulled into the driveway.
It was a hot day, and the barn door was wide open to let in any semblance of a breeze. Five people were learning to weave at treadle looms of the type predominant in Teotitlan del Valle, not much different from the ones introduced by the Spanish in these parts over five hundred years ago. They call them Rio Grande Valley looms here, much too localized for their historical impact.
As I stepped through the front door, I entered a world of color and texture, walls filled with skeins of locally grown Navajo-Churro sheep wool, hand or machine spun, and most dyed with natural plants and cochineal. It was astounding to find a shop like this in a town of 912 people. Tierra Wools pride themselves on making everything from local sources, and their history runs deep.
I share this with you because finding sources for native wool that is naturally dyed, where people are keeping their traditions alive, is important. If you are a knitter or weaver, perhaps some of these amazing skeins will entice you. They did me.
And, here’s what car camping looks like in the San Juan National Forest! My Subaru is equipped with a 20”wide x 66” long blow up mattress. Cozy for one small woman!