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Mora County Notebook: Tapetes de Lana still a growing venture

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By Ruth Fort

When a person walks in the door of Tapetes de Lana’s gallery something new meets the eye. The looms for weaving are still there and the beautiful finished products from those looms  line the walls as usual.

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But you are now greeted by Rebekah Albert asking you if you would like some coffee, tea, cocoa or cappuccino from the newly added Espresso bar. Tapetes also serves pastries that have been bought locally. When the commercial kitchen has electricity it will be baking its own pastries — which will mean the hiring of yet another local person.

There are two people who man the Espresso Bar. They say the counter for the Espresso bar was made from the counter used in the Hanosh store many years ago.

Around the Espresso bar there are comfortable places for people to gather to sit on chairs and couches or at the little tables to enjoy the beverages and pastries they have bought. They can relax and visit with friends.

The staff is hoping to make it a gathering place for people to rest and enjoy each other.

Tapetes de Lana Weaving Center is a non-profit organization working with Rural Economic Development. It specializes in custom processing and unique yarns made from natural fibers.

In 1998, Carla Gomez, the present manager and consultant, and Rosa Gallegos, a young widow with six children, had a dream of bringing something new to Mora. Gallegos hoped to boost her income by learning to weave. Gomez found a program through the Department of Labor that would pay for Gallegos’ training. After they got set up and ready the department said that it had to be a non-profit organization in order for them to pay for Gallegos’ training.  

Gomez  modeled her non-profit after a friend’s non-profit. When she presented the paperwork to the state’s Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe the plans were accepted.

Tapetes initially offered classes in a vacant school house with no running water and a wood stove for heat in the village of Los Vigiles.

When Gallegos wanted to move back home to Chacon they looked for a place to house the project. They finally rented a back room from Michael Rivera at the old Hanosh store. Gomez says if it were not for Gallegos’ desire to learn to weave the project as it is today may not have happened.

From that humble beginning the present Tapetes de Lana has grown to the facility it is today.

Gomez and others applied for a grant to buy the Hanosh property to make the present Tapetes. They remodeled the store and began today’s weaving program. Many local people have learned to weave on the looms using the wool fiber that was supplied.

They were taught to warp (thread) the looms and then to weave the beautiful yarn into patterns. The products were sold in the gallery, and the weaver got part of the proceeds.

The group had dreams of starting the movie theater also but the dream has not matured. The theater that used to entertain and hire young people in Mora was called the Chief Theater.  Presently, they are using money raised at the coffee bar and other activities and grants to, at least, remodel the theater for gatherings and plays and eventually open the hotel.

Tapetes de Lana  now   employs 11 people to do the work in the plant that prepares the wool besides  those who are doing the weaving.

What used to be the Hanosh store is now a gallery with local art work displayed on the walls. Tapetes also sells an assortment of hand made pottery, jelly, salsa and many other items that it takes by consignment to sell for the people.

A back room, which used to house the Hanosh’s hardware, is now used for meetings and other gatherings. There will be a knitting class that will meet from 2 to 5 p.m. on Fridays and at present there is a Zumba Class that meets there Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A large building called the Mora Valley Spinning Mill was constructed to house the processing of wool that is used in the weaving. Workers take natural fibers raised locally and nationally to develop high quality yarns for knitting and weaving.

They card the wool then spin it on the large spinning machine (very different from the days when women spent hours on their little spinning wheels  in their homes). The fibers then  are dyed the beautiful colors that we see in the finished products. They are then hung up to dry. The water to do this process is recycled.

Recently, a new addition has been added to the processing building.

This addition will house a reception room for wool buyers and salesmen. Also in that addition is a dying and a solar drying room for the wool. 

As soon as the electricity is installed the Commercial Community Kitchen will be ready for baking and after sinks and refrigerators are installed it will be available for cooking when people need a commercial kitchen to prepare food to be sold. People who have been in Mora a long time will remember that house as the Hanosh home.

Another new addition will soon be added. A cement floor has been laid behind the processing plant to house machinery that has been bought from a business in Española. These machines process short fiber wool such as Rambouillet and Marino. That is another addition that will house machines that will have to be operated by local people.

Tapetes de Lana has a local advisory board of four members.  J.D. Weathers who is a member of the board is also volunteer executive director of the operation.

“I just want to remind the citizenry of Mora that we are a non-profit organization, not privately owned,” Weathers said. “This facility belongs to you, and we invite you to come in and take advantage of your facility”

The gallery is open on Saturdays as well as weekdays. They had good sales for November and December as local people and tourists stopped by to buy Christmas gifts and so forth. Members of the Science and Math Club, under the leadership of Monica Aragon, have spent a day there learning about the process in preparing the fiber and weaving. Other groups are invited to come to learn a new skill.

There is an opportunity for high school youth to work part time and learn the skill of weaving and preparing the wool. The yarn is also sold to different places across the nation. All the yarn that is sold in the gallery is sold at a 40 percent direct factory discount, a good thing for our knitters and weavers.

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may  be reached at 575-387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.