Anyone who knows my wife or who has read the blog for very long is well aware that Miss Terry loves the fiber arts. Spinning, weaving, crocheting, or knitting, she’s never happier than when she has her hands on wool, silk, or any other fiber. So when readers told us about the Mora Valley Spinning Mill in Mora, New Mexico, we put a visit there on our bucket list.
Steeped in history and surrounded by natural beauty, the Mora River Valley was home to Jacarilla Apaches for centuries. The first European visitors were Spanish conquistadors who traveled through the valley in the 1600s. They were followed by French fur trappers in the 1700s. By 1835 there were three thriving settlements in the valley and the town of Mora became the most significant stop between Santa Fe and Taos.
The Santa Fe Trail passed through the valley and Fort Union was established in 1851 to protect travelers along the route from marauding Indians and outlaws. The demands for wheat flour by the fort and Santa Fe Trail travelers sparked an agricultural boom in the Mora Valley and for decades it was known as the Breadbasket of New Mexico. Ranchers and sheepherders settled in the valley and spinning became another source of income.
Today the Mora Valley Spinning Mill, housed in a historic old mercantile building on Mora’s main street, State Route 518, preserves the legacy of old time artisans. Here visitors can purchase beautiful rugs and other woven creations, as well as shopping an amazing collection of mill-spun natural fiber yarns. These include knitting yarns to weaving yarns (for both warp and weft), and all things in between.
The gallery has several looms on display and it is not uncommon to see weavers practicing their craft.
Visitors can also tour the spinning mill, which specializes in spinning yarns from heritage breeds of sheep. Each breed has qualities specific to its fiber that create yarn and roving with different characteristics to serve different purposes.
One of only a handful of small custom fiber processing mills in the country, the mill handles fiber for small local ranchers as well as artisan yarn businesses across the country. The fiber sold in the gallery comes from donations and spins-for-trade from local and regional farmers and ranchers.
Our tour guide was a delightful woman named Deana Hanna, who is a spinner herself. She explained how the raw fleece comes in, is cleaned and dried in oversize dryers or on open air racks, and is then run through a series of vintage carding machines to comb and separate the fiber from foreign matter.
Then it is dyed or left natural, depending on the customer’s need. This is done outside in large stainless steel vats over an open fire. Once dried, it is combed into roving before it’s spun into yarn of different textures and weights. Then it is plied before it is wound onto bobbins on these complicated looking machines.
It was all very interesting to see, and the people working at the mill were all happy to stop what they were doing to explain the different steps in the process to us.
We spent a couple of hours at the mill and learned a lot about their operation and about the many kinds of fibers they can process. If you’re traveling through northern New Mexico, make plans to stop and visit the mill. And if you’re into knitting, crocheting, or weaving, bring your checkbook, because there is so much yarn to choose from that there is no way you’re getting out of there without buying something!
Hours vary depending on the time of year so call the Mora Valley Spinning Mill at (575) 387-2247 before you visit.
Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Stillborn Armadillos, the first book in my John Lee Quarrels series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.