It all started with my Grandma, Rachel Brown...
If you’re reading this page, it is likely you are new here... or maybe you just want to know more about who we are and what we do. Well, to be honest, our story is a long one, interwoven through more than half a century, multiple generations, several businesses, and an epic publication, all the while with our roots spreading throughout the fiber rich community of Northern New Mexico. This story starts with my grandmother, Rachel Brown...
Rachel moved to Taos in the 1940's, with a background in color and design from Radcliffe College. She worked for the welfare office here, visiting old adobe ranchitos throughout the foot hills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One day, as she left a particular home, one with an old walking loom taking up one of the rooms, and the owners’ sheep grazing the freshly irrigated fields, she pulled over to have lunch... a peanut butter and jelly sandwich she told me. As she sat there dreaming of weaving and watching the sheep graze, she said to herself, "I sure hope I live long enough to learn how to weave.”
Flash forward to the '60's, Rachel opened her first fiber shop, The Craft House in Arroyo Seco (just north of Taos). She dove head first into weaving, being completely self-taught. She took on students to help with the workload, keeping just steps ahead of them on their exploration of the fiber world. During those days, it wasn't like there was a yarn shop from which you could buy the latest yarns. It was more like the Trujillo's up the road had a flock of sheep they were shearing next month, let’s get the fiber and spin it up! What about color? Let’s learn to dye!
Soon, Rachel became known as the person to go to if there were fiber questions involved. People asked for handouts, covering the techniques she used at her shop. After a while, Rachel decided to close the doors of Craft House to write a book. My great aunt, Kristina Wilson, took over the space and turned it into Twining Weavers (that is an entire story in itself).
For the next seven years, Rachel researched, wrote and drew incredible illustrations for her book (mind you, this was long before the days of Google and the internet). She supported herself by spinning yarn for Kristina and Twining Weavers. In 1979, with the help of Alford and Knoph, she published The Weaving Spinning and Dyeing Book. This book that my grandmother typed up (yes, on a real typewriter), soon became one of the "bibles" of the weaving world.
Shortly after she published her book (early 1980's), she went on to open Rio Grande Weavers Supply, a local store and mail order business. During her research for her book, she realized there was a lack of quality weaving supply stores in the country. So, she started sourcing fiber, designing yarns, getting them mill-spun, creating color pallets and dyeing all of her own yarns. She designed some looms and a spinning wheel and had local woodworkers make them for her. She worked with larger companies like Ashford, Schacht and Glimokra, to insure that when you walked through her doors or sent in your check (yes, with an order form torn out of her catalog), you would be able to get the best weaving, spinning and dyeing supplies around.
This is where I come in... when I was a little one, my mom would drop me off at the shop and I would play in baskets of yarn, staring out the windows waiting for her to return. My grandma taught me to weave when I was two, on a little tapestry loom. By the time I was four, she gave me a treadle loom. I can still remember clear as day, following the numbers she drew out on a piece of paper and taped to the loom. "1&2, 2&3, 3&4, 4&1, repeat"... learning how to do my first twill. As I got older, I worked in the shop, fluffing mohair, making sample cards and putting stamps on postcards for show announcements. As soon as I was tall enough to weave on a walking loom (I think I was 13), I started weaving custom rugs for the shop. Throughout high school and during the summers of college, this is how I earned my spending money.
In 2008, after swearing I would never return, I ended up back in Taos. My grandma had sold the business several years prior, but for unforeseen circumstances, she had it back in her hands. I had intentions of painting houses and working odd jobs, earning just enough to head off and travel the world. My grandma hired me to weave a rug in the shop. With each bobbin I wound and each thump of that beater, I fell in love with Weaving Southwest again. My dad, the convincing man he is, sat me down one day to talk about my future. My thoughts were backpacking through Europe. However, within an hour or so, somehow with his tricky reasoning, I decided to take over the business. Though I don't think any twenty-five year old with absolutely no background in business and their latest endeavor being searching for frogs in the Amazon should be encouraged to take over a (un-seemingly) large business, I am so glad I did!
This is just the surface of the story (I told you it was a long one!). I will be adding more in depth writings soon (with tons of wonderful pictures!).
Since 2008, we have gone through a lot... loss of my grandma, relocation of our business, birth of our daughter... oh, and I haven't even mentioned Joe yet!
Soon we will have images with links to what Weaving Southwest is today... there is so much more to our story... stay tuned!