inland fiber sea

October 09, 2023  •  6 Comments

The first weekend in October is a beautiful time in New Mexico, filled with abundant activities, including the 9 days of squeal and ooh and ah-filled moments during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  The city population expands easily by 100,000 people.  However, balloons were not the only featured stars of the weekend.  A plethora of events included the Abiquiú Studio Tour, the Taos Wools Festival, Indigenous Peoples' Day weekend celebrations, and a curated exhibit by Emily Trujillo of Centinela Traditional Arts in Chimayo, which opened on Friday and will run through April 1, 2024 at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art on Museum Hill in Santa Fe.  In addition, thousands of people head to the high country to see the gold and red of aspen trees.  

But I happily spent the weekend at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds for the Mountain and Valley Wool Association's 40th Wool Festival, as support staff for my husband, Fred, at his display space.  Photographic opportunities were in abundance and I took advantage of as many as I could.

As a casual observer, I could tell that many visitors were totally overwhelmed by the abundance and variety of fiber products, and an "inland sea of color".  Looking closer, one begins to sense the number of different skills present at the Festival.  Eric Wilson, a fiber artist from Cortez, Colorado, had (as his business card puts it) had hand-spun yarn, crochet and knit goodies, handprinted yarn and roving, and lastercut notions. Watching him work throughout the weekend, I would guess he spent a minimum of eight hours spinning a very fine yarn.  I asked if his foot and leg get tired.  His answered "You get used to it."

You can see how fine the wool is between his thumbs in this photograph.


Minna at Lana Dura renders wool into felt, using natural wool colors.  

The festival truly is a celebration of animal fiber, and the llamas and alpacas are always show stoppers, particular for children.  I finally got a simple answer about the visual differences between the two statuesque and beautiful animals.  Llama are taller but their ears look more like bananas, while the alpacas are shorter and have pointed ears.  The llama below is a magnificent creature, designed for roaming the pampas of South America.  With their long necks and flexibility, they are able to reach food wherever they find it.  



I loved this alpaca and its top knot, ever curious, always mewing to the world as if saying,  "Hmmm, what is going on here?  Is there something to eat?  Do I know this person?" 

Sheep shearing was also a featured element of the festival, and Tom Barr - an institution in sheep shearing around New Mexico and southern Colorado - has a skill like no other.  Upper body strength and flexibility are essential here, as you can see by his positions working with the sheep while shearing.  He has one of the sheep's legs in his left hand while shearing under parts with his right.  His knees are keeping the animal under control as well.

I always worry a bit about the horns...

Another thing I pondered as the Wool Festival ended Sunday afternoon, is how incredibly flexible all the vendors are.  From using all the fiber they can in any way they can, and not wasting a thing. to taking apart their exhibits, it was like a tribe of plains Indians, moving their camps across the prairie.  The process is quick, efficient, and part of who they are.  Not something most people recognize when they attend a fair.  But the fiber community, in many ways, is like a family of like-mind people who believe in what they do.  


Thanks to Barbara F. R., Steve, Catherine, Christina W., and Char for commenting on last week's blog, and all of you who stopped by the exhibit space this weekend - friends old and new!  And kudos to the vendors for their creativity and sharing it with the wider world.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image©


Sara Woodburn(non-registered)
Thanks for all the photos and comments on this year's festival. You are so right about the community, all dedicated makers. Speaking of which, where is the master weaver Fred?
Congratulations to a successful Wool Festival and fun photos!
Steve Immel(non-registered)
I miss the wool festival and wish we could have attended. And I had the pleasure of watching Tom Barr and his crew shear the sheep on the Abeyta ranch in Mogote, Colorado on two occasions. My recollection is that an experienced shearer would shear a sheep inside two minutes without taking the cutter off the sheep. His workers were Amish I believe. I observe that the birthing, shearing and herding process has changed little in a hundred years based on photographs of Basque herders in Neveda and California's Central Valley near Fresno. The rich world of wool is timeless and evocative of simpler times.
Great pictures, Daryl. I love the alpacas and the guy with the spinning wheel!
What! Do pix of master weaver himself?
No comments posted.

January February March April May June July August (2) September (4) October (4) November (4) December (5)
January (4) February (4) March (5) April (2) May June July August September October November December