Pagosa Fiber Festival — Earth Day and beyond

The Pagosa Fiber Festival follows upon a month that saw the most robust Earth Day/Week celebration ever experienced in Pagosa Springs.

As important as that celebration is, if we stop there we have done little. It is what happens beyond Earth Day that matters and the Fiber Festival is part of that “beyond.”

The days of large ranches are over in this part of the country; the threat of overdevelopment, of suburban sprawl continues; the current economic downturn is a significant but not permanent disincentive.

The “boom and bust” cycle is not unfamiliar to residents of Archuleta County, even recent ones, and will, no doubt, recycle.

So what is the answer?

There are many. A big one is rethinking our growth policies; another is promoting conservation easements as the Southwest Land Alliance is doing. The answer pertinent to this article is developing myriad small farms that practice sustainable production. We have a farmers market and we have a geothermal greenhouse project. Both encourage small farmers who practice sustainable production of food.

The Fiber Festival does the same for small producers of fiber animals and the products made from their fiber, whether it be wool, alpaca, llama, angora, mohair or others. It does this by providing a venue where these small producers can display their products to the public. This means the festival is more than a fun event, it is another important step Beyond Earth Day on our way to reducing the size of our regional carbon footprint.

The Pagosa Fiber Festival also opens the season of fun in Pagosa Springs the last weekend of May. Events actually begin at the community center on Thursday, May 28, with two days of fiber arts workshops and include the annual Festival sponsored Navajo Rug Auction on Saturday evening. The auction features rugs made by Navajo artisans who in many cases raise their own Navajo Churro sheep for their strong and lustrous wool, ideally suited for long-lasting rugs.

During the days, festivalgoers should plan to spend their time under the big white tents in Town Park, enjoying the animals, the gorgeous fashions and home accessories handmade from their fiber, fun activities for youngsters, some very good food and, planners hope, the weather. Shopping is guilt free at the festival: dollars spent are helping the economy and the planet — a combination that is rarely achieved these days.

For those who are interested in learning how to work fiber, the Festival offers a variety of workshops. Here fiber enthusiasts learn a new skill or perfect an old one in preparation for creating handmade products for personal use or to sell. The role of the “cottage industry” is key in our search for sustainable economic activity.

The list of workshops is long and varied: World of Color– Yarn Design by Inspiration (Ruth Baldwin); Crochet a Silk Flower Neck Warmer (Tina Valles); Knitting with Beads/Japanese Kuhmihimo Braiding (Judy Ditmore); Wet Felting a Hat (Lois Burbach); Two/Handed/Two Color Knitting (Diane Braun); Long Wool Spinning (Diane Braun); Navajo Weaving Boot Camp (Mary Walker); Beginning Spinning (Linda Smith); Wet Felting a Nuno Scarf (Lois Burbach); Yarn Dyeing (Pam Ramsey); Needle Felting a Bear (Kim Perkins); Sculptural Knitting of the Southwest (Ellen Sibelius). Workshops are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, May 28 and 29. Information and applications are available online.

For dedicated fiber artists, the festival offers competitions and prizes in the Garment, Home Accessories and Handspun Yarn categories. Guidelines are available online.

The festival Web site www.pagosafiberfestival.org is available for information, guidelines and applications.

Alternately, for information on workshops and registration contact Nancy Wilson at (928) 567-6684 or spinllama@msn.com. For vendor or exhibitor space information, contact Barbara Witkowski (970) 264-4543 or ba_witkowski@yahoo.com. For general information about the Festival, contact Jane McKain at (970) 264-4456 or jemckain@centurytel.net.


Photo courtesy Lili Pearson
A young angora rabbit will soon grow into a furry ball whose angora fiber will be patiently combed our by its owner, Brenda Wanket, in preparation for spinning into yarn. Fiber-producing animals and the processes for dealing with the fibers are integral parts of the upcoming Pagosa Fiber Festival.