Pointers for Exploring New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails

Do you know that New Mexico has a guide to rural fiber arts destinations across the state? Last week, Steve and I dusted off the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails, driving 1,100 miles through mountainous deserts and lush Rio Grande River valleys. We reveled in views of God’s creation, like cottonwood trees in brilliant yellow, and the Sandia mountains turning purple and watermelon pink in the setting sun. We visited interesting studios and shops all along the way, and encountered weavers who are true artisans.

Cottonwood trees in New Mexico at their golden peak.

Cottonwood trees at their golden peak along the Rio Grande River.

Four Pointers for Your New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails Adventure:

1. Call ahead. Some of the stops are one-person studios, attached to a residence. Some places have changed their hours or days of the week that they are open. We drove two hours one day to visit a special shop, only to find a note on the door that said they were closed that day of the week.
2. Ask good questions. I like to ask a weaver a question that only another weaver would ask. Instead of introducing myself as a fellow handweaver, I like to let them figure it out by the questions I ask.
3. Wear something handwoven. My handwoven cap opened the door to conversation with other weavers.
4. Resist adding to your stash. I knew that I would have the opportunity to purchase beautiful yarn, but I decided in advance not to add to my stash. I gathered information instead; and now I have more resources to choose from when it is time to order yarn.

My Favorite Stops:

Albuquerque
Sacramento Mountain Weavers (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Kelly Stewart
Located in historic Old Town, this shop has a Glimåkra Standard loom (like mine). Among other things, Kelly has woven rag rugs from strips of soft leather.

Majestic mountains and colorful cottonwood trees in New Mexico.

Majestic mountains and colorful cottonwood trees set the scene for exploration along the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails.

Edgewood
Robin Pascal Fiber Artist
Robin’s studio is nestled in a scenic hillside covered with trees and wildlife. Her handspun yarn proved irresistible to me. This is where I broke my own rule of not adding to my stash.

Handspun and hand painted yarn by Robin Pascal.

Too pretty to pass up, I came home with some of Robin Pascal’s beautiful handspun wool/silk, and a little skein of her hand painted cotton flake yarn.

Arroyo Seco (just north of Taos)
Weaving Southwest, Teresa Loveless
Amazing tapestry weavings on display! Teresa is the granddaughter of acclaimed tapestry weaver and author, Rachel Brown. Teresa carries her grandmother’s legacy by teaching tapestry techniques to interested students. There are Rio Grande walking looms in the teaching studio, where you do all the weaving standing up, not sitting. Who knows? You may see me taking a class from Teresa. Her passion for tapestry weaving is contagious.

Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, NM. Beautiful tapestries, yarns, and looms inside!

Enjoying the cool air in Arroyo Seco, Steve and I stand outside one of our favorite stops on this adventure.

Ranchos de Taos
Old Martina’s Hall Restaurant, Tapestry Exhibit (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails)
Art Through The Loom Weaving Guild Show, August 20th through February 28th, 2015
This outstanding tapestry exhibit is not to be missed if you are anywhere near the vicinity! Downstairs and upstairs, every room in this restored, old dance hall is adorned with exquisite pieces of traditional and contemporary woven tapestries by nineteen different artists.

San Francisco de Asis, serene historic chapel in Ranchos de Toas, New Mexico

Serene historic chapel, San Francisco de Asis, is across the street from the renovated old dance hall, Old Martina’s Hall. We enjoyed an impressive tapestry exhibit at Old Martina’s Hall.

Chimayó
Trujillo’s Weaving Shop (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Carlos Trujillo
The first thing we saw when we entered the shop was a huge, rustic Rio Grande walking loom. Carlos was at the loom, weaving. He clearly loves designing at the loom, using unique color combinations in traditional designs. His grandfather built this impressive loom. Two women in an adjacent room filled with looms allowed me to watch over their shoulders as they wove traditional Chimayó patterns. One of the women showed me the small, narrow loom they now use for weaving coasters, and told me, “This was the loom Carlos learned to weave on when he was a little boy. As he grew, blocks were added to raise the loom to fit him.”

Chimayó weaving is a craft carefully handed down from one generation to the next.

Chimayó weaving, a skilled craft, is passed on from one generation to the next.

Chimayó
Centinela Traditional Arts, Irvin Trujillo
Irvin allowed me to watch and ask questions as he wove in the massive weaving room in the far end of the shop. It was inspiring to watch this master weaver at work. I found Irvin to be unpretentious, even though his expertise is astounding. You should see his intricate tapestries that hang in the showroom of the shop! Weaving is second nature to Irvin, who has been creating with wool on a loom since he was a young boy.

Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

Rio Grande River in New Mexico is the subject of many woven tapestries. Artisans often find creative ways to interpret this beauty.

Magdalena
Cat Brysch Creations Studio
Cat’s nine looms are clothed in colors that describe the terrain and sky of this beautiful mountainous desert. She took the time to explain each loom’s fabric to me, as I marveled at her skill of blending colors in the warp.

Weaving studio in little sleepy town in New Mexico.

Surrounded by mountains, the little sleepy town of Magdalena is home of an active weaving studio. The scenic views that Cat enjoys every day influence her selection of colors and textures in her weaving.

Pie Town
If you go as far as Magdalena, you might as well go another 56 miles to Pie-o-neer in Pie Town, New Mexico. The green chile stew is fantastic, but if I had known how good the hot-from-the-oven double cherry (tart and sweet) pie would be, I would have skipped the stew and ordered two slices of pie! Steve said the same about his slice of warmed peach pie. It was a great way to end our Fiber Arts Trails adventure.

Pie Town, New Mexico - best pie ever!

Nothing like a really good slice of homemade pie!

New Mexico scenery.

Scenic desert after dessert.

May you go on explorations and adventures.

Your traveling weaver,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Bev says:

    I love the picture of you and Steve in your hats outside the Weaving Southwest studio. You two seem to fit right in. What beautiful fall photos you took along the way! Blessings to you, Karen!

  • Helen Hart says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your trip and writings. I have been to a few of these places–I so appreciate your photos and want to go back. Helen in Cheyenne, WY

    • Karen says:

      Helen, it’s always fun to see how other weavers do things, isn’t it? I think it’s fascinating to visit other studios, and see a wide variety of weaving styles. I always learn something!

      Karen

  • Melanie Sharp says:

    Thanks for posting this. I was just in Taos earlier this month for the Wool Festival, and of course, had to make it to Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco as well. Fun little town, isn’t it? I hope you got to have icecream at the Taos Cow next door to Weaving Southwest!

    • Karen says:

      As a matter of fact, Melanie, I did! I had delicious veggie pot pie at the Taos Cow for lunch, and caramel pinon ice cream for dessert. Very tasty!
      One of these years, I would like to make it to the Taos Wool Festival…

      Karen

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Quiet Friday: Double-Binding Rag Rugs

Ordinary has never appealed to me. I remember some outfits I wore as a girl that were far from ordinary. For example, I had a corduroy cape with a Peter Pan collar, that had slits for the arms. I wore a corduroy brimmed cap to match, with a striped feather on the brim. Did I know any other ten-year-old girl wearing such a thing? No, not really. But I thought the outfit looked “cool” and stylish.

When I make a rag rug, I am not aiming for ordinary. I like the idea of making a rug that no one has imagined before.

Double-binding rag rug on loom.

Autumn Clouds rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Rag rugs on the loom.

Black and White and Red rag rug on the loom.

Simply red squares rag rug.

Double-binding rag rug on the loom.

Black and White.

Nearing the end of Black and White and Red rag rug.

Black and Red Squares rag rug on the loom. Karen Isenhower

May your ideas be far from ordinary.

Your friend,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Fran says:

    Very lovely rugs, Karen! I like the white background ones, myself. (from this distance.)

    • Karen says:

      Fran, Thank you for letting me know what you think!
      I’m glad to hear you like the white background ones since that is something new that I am trying. I’m eager to see what it looks like when it’s off the loom.

      Karen

  • Helen Hart says:

    Wonderful work. May I ask if there is a pattern in one of the rug books etc? Like yur weavings very much.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen,
      I’m very glad you like what you see here! I start with ideas from books, and then I adapt them to suit the designs that I have in mind.

      Here are some of the books I use as resources, that include double-binding (or double-faced) rugs:

      The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell, p.96, “Checked Fabric.” This is not a rug, but I have used this draft to weave rag rugs, using a sett of 8 epi.
      Swedish Rag Rugs 35 New Designs, from VävMagasinet, p.36 and following.
      Happy Weaving, from VävMagasinet, p.64-67.
      Rag Rug Handbook, by Janet Meany and Paula Pfaff, p.73-75

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Karen

  • Angelique says:

    Beautiful rugs! I especially like that top one, what a great and unusual pattern. I haven’t done any rugs — I’m inspired to try now!

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Tools Day: Colored Pencils

Graph paper and 24 Prismacolor colored pencils. The first scribbles look silly to me, but if I keep going, design ideas keep coming and it turns into play. One idea morphs into another, and I soon have too many designs to use on this rug warp. I am weaving double-binding rag rugs right now. My favorite one is always the one I am working on. And then I start a new design… and that one becomes my favorite. Rag rugs are especially rewarding to weave because of the abundant design options. The saddest part for me is coming to the end of the warp. Maybe I need to put on longer warps…

Designing double-binding rag rug patterns.

Colored pencils and graph paper help get ideas flowing for double-binding rag rug designs.

May you come up with fascinating designs.

Happy Designing,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Sara Jeanne says:

    Hello Karen!
    The double binding rag rug technique is a wonderful way to experiment with color combinations, isn’t it? Have a wonderful colorful day!
    Your ‘Vavstuga’ pal,
    Sara Jeanne

    • Karen says:

      Hello Sara Jeanne, thank you so much for showing me what the possibilities are with double binding! Before that, I was already fascinated with double binding, but I only had a small idea bank.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Helen Hart says:

    Hi, I enjoy your blog. This type of rug weaving sounds interesting. I have several rug weaving books. Can you tell me which book you got this pattern from? Thanks so much. Helen Hart

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen,
      I have seen double-binding rag rugs in several books, especially in some of the Swedish weaving books. I’m not near my books right now, but I can send you the names of some of them at the end of the week.
      For my double-binding rugs, I have adapted what I’ve seen in books to suit my preferences, but the drafts are all similar.
      Karen

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Another Conversation with Becky Ashenden of Vävstuga, Part 2

Becky pulled out her fiddle and handed it to me, and she sat at her old upright piano, ready to play. Believe it or not, I played fiddle tunes (not bad for a ‘cellist) while her fingers danced the keys. And that is how Becky Ashenden and I finished up our recent conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Vävstuga. More Swedish Classics gave me a chance to learn a few things I had been especially eager to try, like smålandsväv, jämtlandsdräll (you may know it as crackle), and pick-up band weaving with a backstrap and rigid heddle. It was wonderful to sit and have a chat with Becky at the end of the week to talk about various aspects of weaving.  Click HERE to read the first part of our conversation.

Handwoven curtains frame the view at Vavstuga student quarters.

Handwoven curtains on windows in the Vävstuga student quarters frame the New England autumn view.

And now, enjoy this second part of my conversation with Becky…

What part of the weaving process especially energizes you, Becky? Planning, measuring warps, dressing the loom, weaving, finishing?

It might be a surprising answer. I really like threading; and I actually really like sleying. (Laughter) It is sort of mindless and repetitive. If the threading is not too complicated, I love the idea of listening to a book. I used to listen to a lot of recorded books while I was doing production weaving.

I do enjoy the physical process of the weaving, too. I think my brain thrives on the repetitive process. If my hands are physically busy, it helps my brain focus.

In what way does it help you focus?

My mind loves to wander. I can conjure up new classes, or new ideas if I am busy with something repetitive like weaving. And with threading, it is a peaceful time, and I can think. If it is a complicated threading, I focus on the threading; but that is engaging in its own way.

Sign on door to Vavstuga weaving studio.

Cheerful greeting as you enter the Vävstuga weaving studio. Even if you do not know any Swedish, you can guess the meaning of this word.

Speaking of classes and ideas… When I took Vävstuga Basics, some people in the class had been weaving for years. Why do you think people who already know how to weave come to your Basics class?

They know how to weave one way, and they may have been taught by other people. But, they don’t know how to weave the way I teach to weave. The Basics class gives the opportunity to learn how I do it from start to finish.

In other words, you teach things that they will only learn here?

People tell me they want to know how I do things. They ask me, “How do you dress your loom? And how do you handle a shuttle, get good selvedges, fix broken threads, understand drafting, and keep good records?” Well, that is my Basics class, where I share a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. I was taught extremely well, the old-school way, in Sweden. I have also developed my own shortcuts that I share with students.

How does it work to have students with various levels of experience in the same class? Might a beginner feel out of place?

No matter who comes to my Basics class, I cater to who is there. For those who are advanced, I give them something beyond what they have experienced already. I always give as much of my knowledge and experience as students are interested in and can absorb.

I also make the class work for a beginner. So, a beginner should not be intimidated at all.

Even someone who has never put a warp on a loom, or someone who has not been successful doing it on their own?

One thing that helps the beginner is simply that the warps are put on by everybody together. No one person is going to be left behind or put on the spot. The warps will go on; and, they will go on smoothly, because I oversee it. Students can partake in whatever amount of the process they can absorb.

Vavstuga More Swedish Classics - finished projects!

Gorgeous results from More Swedish Classics. Becky enjoys the students’ accomplishments.

It must be interesting to see what a beginner can accomplish in just five days.

Some people who come to Basics, who have not woven before, take to it like a fish to water. It makes sense to them, and they whip through everything. I have seen absolute beginners weave beautiful things. And they’ve never touched a loom before!

It might be more challenging for people who are used to doing things a different way. But I say, “Try this.” “Try holding your shuttle this way,” or, “Try stepping on the treadle this way.” It might be a completely different loom for them.

Does it matter what type of loom someone has at home? Does it make sense to come to Basics if they don’t have a loom like one of yours?

A lot of people are used to jack looms. So, another reason to come to Basics is to experience the looms we have. Come and learn how to use them firsthand from someone who has had decades of experience using these looms.

We have Glimåkra looms, both counterbalance and countermarch. There is a tie-up system that I developed for the countermarch which is unique. This is something that I teach in Basics. This method makes the countermarch tie-up very easy for the body. You spend as little time as possible under the loom. The sheds are accurate the first time.

I can attest to that. Your tie-up system makes it a breeze for me to set up my countermarch loom at home.

That simple tie-up system makes a huge difference. It opens up the world of being able to do multi-shaft weaves.

These Scandinavian looms are old-style looms. Originally, this loom design came from China. It moved across Asia, and then through Europe over the centuries. Big old barn looms are basically the same thing. A big frame loom with a hanging beater.

Does the hanging beater make a difference? What advantages do your students have by being able to weave on Swedish looms here?

The hanging beater is something that makes the weaving happen, almost by itself. It takes the physical work load, the body wear and tear, off of the human being.

The difference between weaving on a jack loom and on one of these Swedish looms is huge. Many people come my Basics class worried and concerned, saying, “I’ve never been able to weave for more than twenty minutes at a time because my back can’t take it.” And then, at the end of the week, they say, “I can’t believe that I wove for three days straight, and I don’t hurt!”

So, if someone is curious about weaving in general, or Scandinavian looms in particular, this would be a good chance to try it out.

This is the opportunity to explore weaving, and discover the possibilities. They can try it out on our looms, without the commitment of changing looms at home.

And have fun while they’re doing it.

It is the fun, the meeting other people, and the camaraderie, that makes it special. It is a whole social experience that is an absolute blast. Eating good food together… The social part of eating meals together, having a good time, laughing together, adds so much to the experience.

Mealtime at Vavstuga, with handwoven tablecloths and napkins, of course.

Tablecloths and napkins this time. Handwoven, of course. Table runners, placemats, napkins… It is always interesting to see how the table is dressed.

I think the enjoyment around the table helps us relax, making our studying and weaving time that much more effective.

People are not having other things to worry about. Your brain can focus and absorb as much as possible.

What is your primary goal for Vävstuga Basics?

The goal of Basics is to cover everything someone needs to know to be able to weave on their own. I want to give everybody the tools to do that.

I love that I can take everything I learn here and do it all on my own at home. Or, I can just come here and have the pleasure of weaving in good company.

Some people come because they are interested in learning the techniques that I teach, or to see if are they interested in this type of loom. And other people come to see if they are interested in weaving at all. They may want to learn how to do this; and then, they can come here and weave. Maybe they don’t have the space, or the money to buy the equipment, or to have a stock of yarns. But they can come here and weave.

We welcome students who come for all these different reasons!

Vavstuga's More Swedish Classics

Class is over for “More Swedish Classics.” It is fun to see everyone’s woven efforts across the table.

Becky, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is always interesting to hear what goes on behind the scenes at Vävstuga!

I enjoyed it, Karen. It’s been my pleasure!

~~~

(I noticed that there is space available in upcoming Basics classes. That is good news!) 

May your experiences make you smile.

Weaving instead of fiddling,
Karen

4 Comments

  • Eileen Crawford says:

    Thank you for this in depth interview with Becky, a truly unique individual who is a blessing for all who make the effort to go beyond their comfort in meeting their personal creativity goals. Your interviews truly reflect her focus on teaching, which is entirely different than some classes that are “taught” by an expert who is not a “teacher”.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for the feedback, Eileen. I’m pleased to hear that Becky’s valued teaching style comes through. That’s what I was hoping to portray.

  • Devorah says:

    Great interview and beautiful pictures!

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Another Conversation with Becky Ashenden of Vävstuga, Part 1

I recently returned to Vävstuga for More Swedish Classics, with high hopes for a week of excellent weaving instruction. I was not disappointed! Come with me behind the scenes for a visit with Becky Ashenden, the personable instructor who finds pleasure in sharing her wealth of experience and knowledge. Sitting in her New England country home, we had another meaningful conversation. Picture Becky smiling, chuckling, pausing for emphasis, and even gazing off as she dreams big. (Here is last year’s Conversation with Becky Ashenden, Part 1, and Part 2.)

Vavstuga Weaving School in lovely autumn.

Looking like a quaint cottage on the outside, Vävstuga Weaving School holds more on the inside than you might imagine. Besides endless yarns and tools, it holds dreams ready to be explored.

In this first part of the conversation, Becky and I talk about weaving for pleasure, and how to relate to students. We also did some dreaming about a big future project. In the second part, coming later this week, I ask Becky what part of the weaving process she enjoys the most. Her answer may surprise you! You will also get the inside scoop on Vävstuga Basics.

Shelburne Falls Bridge of Flowers, next to Vavstuga Weaving School

Acting as a preview of the colors and textures inside the weaving studio next door, the famous Shelburne Falls Bridge of Flowers is delightful. The view is a perfect compliment to the woven beauty coming from the looms inside the weaving cottage.

Do you get to weave for personal enjoyment?

I always seem to weave under some kind of pressure. I wove for production in my past; and then, as I started teaching, I always needed to be prepared for the next class. Going through my mind is, “What’s going to sell, or what class is going to sell, what are people interested in?”

Recently, I did a runner in halvkrabba. It’s a pick-up technique that I wasn’t sure I would like. But then, I really did enjoy doing it. It was riveting! The patterns are different every time.

Since that was preparation for a class, it sounds like you enjoy weaving, even when it is under deadline pressure. You do get to cover a variety of weaving techniques that way.

When I was younger, the physical labor of throwing the shuttle fast and repetitively was a pleasure; and it still is, actually. If you are in the right frame of mind, weaving plain weave yardage is a sheer physical pleasure. But, if you are a little bored, it helps to weave something that keeps your brain engaged. A pattern that is different every row, even a little different across every row, is so engaging. For some of the pick-up projects that I’ve woven, I have never had time go by faster, and it really has surprised me!

Jamtlandsdrall (Crackle) comes off the loom at Vavstuga!

We did it! The teacher is just as excited as the students when the woven efforts come off the loom. This is jämtlandsdräll (also known as crackle), a unique weave structure that was fun to weave. Stretching for me, literally, but fun nonetheless.

Fortunately, those who come to Vävstuga benefit from what you learn, because you like to share what you know!

Some of our projects for Vävstuga Treasures, like krabba and halvkrabba, and the monks belt pick-up, are so much fun!

Does all of the planning come easy for you?

Often, the most stressful part of a project for me is when I’m starting to weave something before I really know what it is going to look like. I don’t know what the colors are. I have to choose a pattern; I have to decide what to do about the details. And then, I weave a little bit, and I think, “Just go for it.” But, the uncertainty is still there.

This is where Becky teaches Vavstuga drawloom classes.

Becky, in her handwoven yellow dress, playfully poses in front of the house where she grew up. She has turned the house into her drawloom studio. The studio has an impressive collection of looms and stunning examples of weaving on display. Wouldn’t you love to take the Drawloom Basics class?

Becky, if you had a week or two to weave for your own pleasure, what would we find you working on?

I’ve never had that opportunity, so it is hard to say. What would I want to do just for myself?

Yes, just for yourself.

I would like to sit down and take the time to look at all those beautiful old Swedish books that I have, and see what strikes my fancy. I see things fleeting by, and say to myself, “Oh, I’d love to do that!” I need to go back and pull out those books, and look through them.

I suppose things I would do for myself are things that I have not done yet. There are heaps of them! There are other techniques I would like to try.

Can you think of anything in particular that you want to try?

One thing I know I do want to make is a big coverlet with big rya knots. I have seen pictures of these. There might be a pattern in the rya, or maybe it would be all white, pretending to be a sheep fleece. The ground that I would weave it on would be some kind of bound rosepath, with the patterns. You’re weaving the patterned cloth the same time you are putting the fluff on. That is one thing that I want to do.

I look forward to seeing that interesting coverlet!

You appear to enjoy teaching as much as you enjoy weaving. How are you able to find a connection with each student, despite diverse experience levels in your classes?

I love to share anything that increases the enjoyment of the student. What is going to make this person enjoy their hobby more? What is going to make this other person into a better production weaver, so that they can earn more money with it, if that’s their goal? I ask myself, “What is their goal? Why are they doing this?”

I have observed that you understand the power of an encouraging word.

I’ll share whatever bit of knowledge I have. In some cases, it is how to hold your body better, or, how to hold the shuttle better. In other cases, it is finding a way to relieve their stress. They may be stressing out about what colors to put together. I may not know what colors to put together, either. But, I can give an encouraging word, saying, “Those two colors are good.” It makes them relax. And, if they relax a little bit, they can be more creative.

Your drafting sessions are an important part of the classes I have attended here. I always leave knowing more than when I came.

I try to give as much little bits of information as possible, knowing that some of it is going to go over the tops of their heads. But, one little piece of information is going to sink in for somebody. I throw some things in because I know some of the students are advanced, and they might be bored by the simpler things. Other people in the class may not get it, but that one advanced person is going to appreciate it.

Becky Ashenden teaching More Swedish Classics at Vavstuga

Becky shows woven examples of everything she teaches. This provides an exceptional hands-on understanding of concepts taught in the drafting sessions.

Maybe you should write a book.

Because of the many students I have taught, I feel like my eyes are open to what might be of interest to people. I would love to write a book sometime.

What area of expertise would you like to write about?

Over these years of developing curriculum, I feel like, well, that is the book right there. I have been working on it; it is a lifetime work. I have a lot of the ideas and the teaching materials. I have the curriculum.

I think you could write your own weaving course. Your book could be an updated resource for current day weavers.

I would like to. I hope I live long enough. I would really have to focus on it, and not be responsible for a whole school at the same time.

I know you do have a full plate of responsibilities right now.

But, I am working on the book ideas in the meantime. All of my students are an inspiration to me. What do they want to learn? That is going to determine what else gets put in this book. It is going to push me to learn new things. I would love to see it all compiled in a book. It would be a blast to do that!!

Stay tuned for more to come in Part 2…

(Click HERE and HERE to see a few more pictures from my week at Vävstuga More Swedish Classics.)

May you dream big dreams.

More Happy Weaving,
Karen

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