Conversation with Teresa Loveless of Weaving Southwest

Weaving Southwest has a vibrant history in northern New Mexico that has influenced weaving traditions far and wide. I recently took advantage of this treasure trove of experience in a class taught by Teresa Loveless, the granddaughter of Weaving Southwest pioneer, Rachel Brown. I hoped to sharpen my tapestry skills by learning a fresh approach, and I was not disappointed! Teresa’s attentive teaching style brims with encouragement, making every student exceed their own expectations.

Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

Weaving Southwest student accomplishments.

Teresa Loveless on the right with her five happy students from the class “Habitat, A Study in Verticals.”

Join me as I sit with Teresa in the park across from the shop to talk about her dreams and aspirations…

Fast forward twenty years. What would you like to be known for?

I have an interest in preservation of culture, and seeing that carried out through textiles. Preserving culture through textiles worldwide is a hidden passion of mine, and I’m working on ways to make that happen.

This sounds like a big dream.

Yes, it is a big dream that I have given a lot of thought to. With modern technology there is great potential. Technology makes it possible to pick out every little niche of fiber in the world and pull it all together in a classy and educational way.

What can be done to preserve cultures through textiles?

You could go to little villages or communities, and through today’s technology, bring them all together and preserve entire cultures. In Before They Pass Away, photographer Jimmy Nelson documents some of the most secluded tribes in the world. And he put them together in an incredible photo book, with their beautiful textiles draping all over them. That book was part of the inspiration for my dream.

Your grandmother taught you how to weave; and your mother taught you jewelry making. And now you are passing weaving on to your very young daughter. What are your thoughts about people passing what they know on to their children and grandchildren?

I grew up in this family of artists and inventors, and they were weavers and jewelers and everything in between, and I did it all. I wove and I made jewelry. It was normal. It was my life. When I went away and realized that not everyone brought their loom to college, or that making a silver ring is not something everybody can do… that was eye opening.

For me, it is all about passing it along. Teach your kids to do what you do. Even if they think they’re going to go off and do something else. I was going to go be a scientist. And then I came back. Clearly, I’m not a scientist. I’m a weaver.

Because it was passed on through my family, and because of my incredible grandmother, I am able to help preserve culture. I am helping to preserve beauty through textiles.

What about your daughter, do you think she will become a weaver?

Pass on the tradition, pass on the skill, and pass on, hopefully, the love for it. But my daughter loves bugs more than she likes yarn right now, so maybe she’ll be the scientist, who knows?

Weaving Southwest in New Mexico

Weaving Southwest pickup truck depicts the down-to-earth approach of the shop. Highly accomplished, yet unpretentious.

Tell me about your sweet spot. Are there times when you think, “I was made for this?”

I’m doing it here, like the class we just finished. I love teaching. I love being able to share what I know, what was passed on to me. It doesn’t matter how much someone knows or doesn’t know when they come. From afar, weaving does look a little confusing, but if you get the feel of it, if you understand the warp and weft and structure… Oh, the things you can do!

You enjoy simplifying things for people, don’t you?

That’s it, definitely! It doesn’t have to be hard. There are all sorts of technical terms, but weaving does not have to be difficult. Seeing people blossom, from, “Oh my gosh, which is warp, which is weft?” Or, “Do I do a single dovetail here?,” to realizing you can do a single dovetail wherever you want, …but you don’t have to. There are so many options. If you go into it with confidence you’re going to be able to produce incredible work!

You seem happy to see your students flourish…

Oh, yes. When I see my students happy, then I’m happy!

Thank you for taking time with me. It has been fun to get to know you more!

Absolutely! Thanks!

Study in verticals from class at Weaving Southwest in NM.

This study in verticals is hung horizontally just above the work table in my weaving studio. Makes me smile.

May you dream big.

Very happy weaving,
Karen

2 Comments

  • Liberty Stickney says:

    Hi Karen
    I love this post, I hope you had a wonderful time. It sure looks fun, I’ve never been to New Mexico, but maybe I will have to go someday soon.
    I am wondering about your recent post about linen scarves, I have been watching for an update to see how they came out after you washed them. Did I miss that one or is it coming up sometime soon?
    Love all your posts and wait for them to come up in my inbox!

    Thank you for all you do for us.
    Liberty

    • Karen says:

      Liberty, you are so sweet! We did have a wonderful time. New Mexico is worth the visit. You will see interesting landscapes with color that shifts according to the weather and time of day.

      Thank you for asking about the linen scarves. You haven’t missed anything. I have a few “irons in the fire” right now, and the linen scarves are in the queue. You might see them next week.

      It’s really great to know you keep coming back!
      Karen

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Is My Weft Showing?

In warp-faced weaves, like this band, the warp is what you notice. When the weft is placed correctly, it is not seen at all, except at the selvedges. And even then, when the weft is the same color as the outermost warp end, as it usually is, the weft thread blends in and is virtually invisible.

Glimåkra two-treadle band loom.

Four strands of aqua cottolin (cotton/linen thread) are threaded together to form the “dots” in the center of the woven band. Brown weft matches outer warp ends. Glimåkra two-treadle band loom.

The weft is doing its best job when it remains out of view. You could say the weft’s purpose is to make the warp look good. Consistency is the hallmark of a high quality woven band. I aim for that by pulling the weft snug, but not too snug, on each pick. If the weft thread is visible between warp ends, it’s a sign that the weft is not properly placed.

Humility is the hidden weft that holds relationships together. Humility preserves relationships. We must never let selfish ambition or conceit be our motivation for anything. “Me first” has no place in healthy relationships any more than weft is meant to be seen in warp-faced weaves. We are at our best when we make those we love look good.

May you know when to stay out of view.

At your service,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Colleen says:

    Excellent, excellent analogy! I will be thinking of this often. Now a question. Since you sit at the side of this loom so you can’t see the tape from the end, how do you maintain an even width?

    • Karen says:

      Colleen, That’s a great question! The first answer is practice, practice, practice. Secondly, some people advise measuring the width frequently, or using a template to measure as you go. I do neither. I strive to pull the weft just right, and get the “feel” of it. Not very scientific, but the more I practice, the more even my bands become.

      Karen

  • linda says:

    Karen is a great weaver and has lots of the answers; may I recommend a book everyone who weaves should have. “A Key To Weaving” by Mary Black. anyone who strives to be a master weaver will quickly learn this is the book they will find ALL the requirement weaving patterns in. Like most masters level projects the weaving masters requires one to weave all the different weaves in a variety of colors, setts, materials, and sizes then a master piece ( something not written before). Mary Black’s book has all the basics for each weave structure, so it can be expanded upon. Karen’s site is WONDERFUL and insightful. Thank you Karen. LPJ, linda

    • Karen says:

      Linda, Thank you for your kind words.
      I think I’ll go pull that book off my shelf and thumb through it again…

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Weaving Southwest Habitat Class

I just spent three days at Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, studying tapestry techniques with Teresa Loveless. It was a great experience! “Habitat, a Study in Verticals” is a fun and informative class, with exceptional personal attention given to each student. The looms are Rio Grande walking looms that were designed by Teresa’s grandmother, Rachel Brown. You weave standing up!

Spectacular rainbow near Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

This stunning double rainbow over the mountains greeted us on our first evening in Arroyo Seco. Images like this inspire countless artisans in New Mexico.

The emphasis for this class is vertical joins in weft-faced plain weave tapestry. Teresa uses memorable words and phrases that help students remember techniques. Just ask me about threads kissing! Besides the vertical joins, we also practiced other tapestry and shuttle techniques, including pick and pick, color gradation, and hatching. Finishing techniques, like sewing in loose threads, stitching slits, braiding fringe, and blocking the finished piece were covered at the end of the last day.

Rio Grande walking loom at Weaving Southwest.

Standing in front of the Rio Grande walking loom I used at Weaving Southwest, after weaving the first portion of my design.

Weaving Southwest class.

Five students in the class each have a loom.

We had a fabulous selection of Weaving Southwest’s own rug wool in rich, fabulous colors. To take advantage of the hand-dyed wool’s unique features, I chose background colors that had an almost variegated appearance.

Color gradations in tapestry class at Weaving Southwest.

Color gradation with three shades of red, using “wavy lines.”

Tapestry class at Weaving Southwest.

Pick and pick, creating vertical stripes of color, is one of my favorite techniques. Maybe I will make an entire wool rug using pick and pick.

Tapestry class at Weaving Southwest

Just enough time to add some hatching at the end portion of my piece. Fun!

I will show you my finished piece in an upcoming post. And I will share a personal conversation I had with Teresa, talking about her big dreams.

May you learn something beautiful.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

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Understanding Linen

What is your experience with linen? I know weavers who love it, and others who completely avoid it. Linen has remarkable qualities. Strength, durability, natural beauty. It took me several attempts, though, to become comfortable using linen as warp. Linen has indeed given me more than my share of broken warp ends! But truly, those struggles have been part of the learning process. The more I weave with linen, the more I love this natural fiber. I am beginning to understand how to work with it, instead of against it. In fact, weaving these lace-weave scarves with single-ply linen warp and weft has been a joy. And only two broken selvedge ends this time!

Linen lace weave scarves as they wind onto the cloth beam.

Linen lace-weave scarves as seen on the cloth beam. Fringe between the scarves is left unwoven. The separated stripes are caused by the hemstitching at the end of one scarf and at the beginning of the next one.

It takes effort and experience to understand some things. The love of Christ is like that. The love of Christ is extraordinary. It takes inner determination to discover the beauty of this unconditional love. Some things are simply worth the effort.

May your understanding increase.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

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Tools Day: Tapestry Frame on Display

There is nothing that hinders cello practice more than a good old cello case. Out of sight; out of mind. Many years ago I discovered that if my cello sits out in the open on a cello stand in the corner of the room, I am much more likely to practice. The same is true of weaving on my tapestry frame. By hanging the tapestry frame in a corner of our living room, I have a continual reminder to weave. And we get to enjoy a living piece of artwork in the room–artwork that grows a little each day.

Tapestry diary of little houses.

Steve made this simple holder for my tapestry frame. The 3/4″ x 1 1/2″ (2 cm x 4 cm) pine has two dowels, and is fastened to the wall with countersunk screws. The holder practically disappears behind the tapestry that it puts on display.

Pine holder for small Freja tapestry frame.

Pine board has two dowels on which to set the tapestry frame.

Tapestry frame holder.

Accessibility is the secret to daily tapestry practice. To prevent the tapestry frame from being accidentally knocked off its holder, it is placed in a corner of the room that is not in a walkway.

Super simple tapestry frame holder.

Tapestry frame holder is attached to the wall with two countersunk screws.

Small tapestry diary of little houses.

Tapestry diary for July is a village of little houses.

May you have reminders to practice your art.

In progress,
Karen

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