The tradition of the Rio Grande Loom

Blanket weaving in progress

The tradition of Rio Grande weaving has its own type of loom, the walking loom, so called because the weaver stands on the pedals that work the shed. As the weaver operates the loom, he/she looks as if they might be walking.  (I think it looks more like sauntering, but we don’t call it the Rio Grande Sauntering Loom.) Years ago, I was given an old, quite authentic walking loom from Chimayo, a nearby community here in the Espanola Valley. This loom had big problems that I never solved, so I decided to use its very cool cast iron ratchets, pivots and dogs to create my own brand new walking loom. I got some local Ponderosa Pine lumber milled for the project from my friend Billy Moore who owns and operates a sawmill in the nearby community of Hernandes. (That photo Ansel Addams took, Moonrise Over Hernandes?  He shot that across the highway from Billy’s mill.) I then went for a visit to my old friends, Ervin and Lisa Trujillo, who are well known weavers working in the Rio Grande tradition, to see and measure a couple of looms that were made decades ago by Ervin’s father, Jacob. (My siblings and I grew up sleeping under blankets that my mother commissioned Jacob Trujillo to make.) All of the old walking looms that I have seen in use are made from sawmill cut dimension lumber, two by sixes, four by fours, etc. My loom gives the nod to this even though I shaped and sized the lumber myself. Looms take a lot of force and continual beating from, well, the beater beating in the weft, so they need to be strong in a way that they do not wiggle apart and fall in pieces around the weaver. This new loom is made with full mortise and tenon construction just like all the good, old Rio Grande looms I’ve seen. I can weave sixty inch wide pieces on this monster. 

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