Counting Taos sheep


As a relatively recent transplant to New Mexico, I’ve learned that one develops personal rituals and traditions to make the high desert lifestyle all the more meaningful.

Fall is one of the peak seasons for celebration in El Norte; Santa Fe has Zozobra, Taos has San Geronimo Day at Taos Pueblo. From here on, the focus is winter, so fall is a Taoseño’s last chance to relax and enjoy before it’s time to buckle down in earnest for the onslaught of ski season and the holidays. The chile roasters are spinning, trucks traipse up and down the highway weighed down with firewood, ristras are made, piñón is noshed. These are the hallmarks of fall in Taos.

I, over the past five years, have learned to count the minutes to the Taos Wool Festival. For fiber geeks that include knitters, weavers, spinners and others, it’s like Christmas in October.

Somehow, with painstaking penny-pinching, I manage to save about $150 over the course of the year— or, as I refer to it, “the other 11 months” — to partake in the Wool festivities.

The greatest thing about Wool Fest (other than the fact that admission is always free) is that even a thrifty knitter like myself can manage to find jewels in the fest’s labyrinth of stalls that offer high quality yarn from all over the West on a sliding price scale.

My stash is usually enough to get some carefully chosen yarn for one major knitting pattern or a series of smaller projects for a year of busy needlework.  I’m a big advocate of DIY; something Taos seems to specialize in. As a kid, my mom made a lot of my clothes and, in my opinion, just about everything is better homemade. Just as vegetables never taste as good as the ones you grow, no scarf or hat or sweater is ever as loved as the one you puzzled over for weeks to complete in time for snowfall.

Last year, I made out like a bandit with enough autumnal-hued mohair to make a pre-woodstove-weather wrap (which may become an absurdly long scarf; it’s too soon to tell).

The other fantastic thing about the festival is that it’s an easy way to learn new techniques and broaden your fiber horizons. Last year, fiber community mammoth Ravelry was in attendance, and I lost half a day in a loom workshop run by seasoned tapestry makers. I also had to be talked down from buying a colony of angora rabbits and the shears it takes to harvest their gossamer locks (to call it “soft” would be a criminal understatement).

Regardless of what surprises await, my reward will come on a dark, miserable January morning when I put on my latest soft, comforting, handmade item and march out into the cold unscathed.


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