Navajo Rug Auction one of many highlights at Fiber Festival

For the second year, the two-day Pagosa Fiber Festival will take place May 30-31 in Town Park. Festival organizers say it will be hard to miss the big white tents. The fiber arts workshops will be at the community center on Thursday and Friday preceding the festival. The festival-sponsored, annual Navajo Rug Auction will be held at the community center at 5 p.m. Saturday.

A natural fiber connection exists between the Pagosa Fiber Festival and the native weavers who produced the much prized Navajo rug — the festival supports the fiber arts and the Navajo artisans practices the art. Several years ago, festival organizers realized that the festival was a natural venue for the product of this effort — the beautiful and durable Navajo rug. A visit to the Navajo reservation produced the necessary contacts and the annual auction is the result.

The public is invited to look at and handle the rugs, and ask questions of the native experts and auctioneer who will be available for that purpose and are ready to talk about the different traditions and the attributes that determine price. All are welcome, including those who come for the education and a possible future purchase.

The rugs will be on display Saturday at the community center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; registration is from noon to 5 p.m. when the auction itself will begin. The auction will include a select group of rugs created from Navajo Churro yarn. The rare Navajo Churro sheep is making a comeback from near extinction with 3000 currently registered animals and its fiber is finding its way back into traditional Navajo rug weaving. Its long, silky and strong fleece is very much prized by Navajo weavers for creating the very best rugs and, or course, the most expensive.

Meanwhile back at Town Park, a wide variety of attractions make the festival a treat for the whole family. In the big livestock tent, all kinds of interesting animals abound — alpacas, llamas, angora goats which produce mohair and angora rabbits which produce angora, several different types of sheep and the unusual Scottish Highlander Cattle. Outside, mohair goats, alpacas and sheep are relieved of their winter accumulated fiber during the shearing demonstrations. In the big vendor tent, fiber fashioned into every conceivable form — hat, glove, scarf, sweater, ruana, rug, pillow, etc. — attracts the eye, especially the feminine eye interested in fashion. Other demonstrations show the many different ways to work with fleece - spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting and felting.

For the third year, the festival will sponsor a Fiber Arts Competition and a Yarn Competition, complete with judges, prizes and ribbons. Fiber artists are encouraged to get creative and enter their creations in one or more art form category – Weave, Knit, Crochet, Lockerhook or Felt. Both garments and home accessories are welcomed. Spinners are invited to enter a skein of their prized handspun yarn in either expert or novice classes. Entries are accepted between 9 and 10 a.m. Saturday and will be on display after judging is complete. Both competitions require a $2 entry fee. Specific guidelines are available on the festival Web site.

A new event begins this year: The Sheep to Shawl Competition. This event is sure to impress beginning fiber artists and the general public as well. This is how it will go: Teams will compete in this traditional fiber competition beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, with judging at 3 p.m. During that time, teams consisting of one weaver, four spinners and one floater will begin with a prewarped loom, a drum carder, spinning wheels and raw fleece. The objective is to card and spin the raw fleece into yarn and weave the yarn into a shawl that must be at least 20 inches by 72 inches. Spectators will be treated to some very skilled fiber work.

For those who are interested in learning how to work with fiber, the festival offers a variety of workshops and first-class teachers including Navajo teachers. 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.

The festival Web site, www.pagosafiberfestival.org, is available for all 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 264-4543 or ba_witkowski@yahoo.com. For general questions about the festival, contact Jane McKain at 264-4456 or jemckain@centurytel.net.


Photo courtesy Pauline Benetti
The annual Navajo Rug Auction will be held at the community center at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 30 as part of the Pagosa Fiber Festival. The two-day festival will take place May 30-31 in Town Park. The public is invited to inspect the rugs, and ask questions of the native experts and auctioneer who will be available for that purpose, ready to talk about the different traditions and the attributes that determine price.