Time Required: varies, depending on your interest in wool and knitting
Getting there: driving only (about 2.5 hours from Albuquerque, about 1.5 hours from Santa Fe
Other Notes: see bottom of post for address and link
Taos, New Mexico. I visited this well-known (but somehow still tiny) town on a beautiful, clear day, and maybe that’s why my memory of it is so crisp and sharp. The cloudless sky was of the iconic blue hue that one sees in Conde Nast magazines, and the crisp, cool air was strange and pleasing.
Three friends and I took a day trip to the little city of fewer than 6,000 residents for the Taos Wool Festival, an annual celebration of knitting, a pastime that seems to have made a bit of a resurgence, likely thanks to lots pretty pics of fuzzy and colorful crafts on Instagram and Pinterest.
Before we could peruse the rainbow rows of wool, we needed to eat. Two of our friends were from the area and had been waiting “all year” to go to a Michael’s Kitchen and Bakery. We hung out with big cases of dreamy pastries while we waited in line for about half an hour, but it was clear that we were in the kind of place where waiting a little was just a fact of life.
I got heuvos rancheros with—others who have been in New Mexico will find this detail important—green, not red, chile. They were extremely delicious and I ate every bite. Looking back at their menu, I am enjoying thinking about what I want to order next time. Will it be the Poor Man’s Benedict (two eggs any style, nestled between shaved ham and chile and crowned with melted cheese on a toasted English muffin)? A Spanish-style omelette? Or maybe Michael’s Favorite (in-house cinnamon bread dipped in rich egg batter, grilled golden brown and then topped with strawberries and whipped cream)?
Anyway, now that we’re all drooling, let’s move on to the Wool Festival. I am openly not enthusiastic about knitting, and the prospect of visiting the Taos Wool Festival wasn’t really first on my list.
But, my concerns of “wasting” a day of a trip by doing something not that interesting were eliminated as soon as we walked in, where a row of colorful tents stood, and a pen of llamas finished out the row. It was clear that this craft festival was focused more on creativity than simply on wool. (But, before letting all the creativity seep in, I basically beelined for the llamas, and watched them unwittingly entertain passersby.)
The people at the Wool Festival were, in addition to being from all walks of life, extremely interesting and like nothing I had ever seen before. I was surrounded by real New Mexican cowboys, not just men wearing hats and big belt buckles with bulls on them for looks, half-Native and full-Native locals who wore on their faces and in the very folds of their skin more of the truth of America than I’d ever feel, and flowy granola women with long skirts and long hair who really did mix the dye from scratch to create the unique color that now illuminated their hand-spun wool. Semi-styled hipsters laid in the grass with abandon and shoeless hippie children played with dogs, played with each other, and ran their fingers through the soft fabrics that decorated the tents.
Recalling the many vendors at the Festival brings a smile to my face. Many made what you would expect at a festival dedicated to wool: hats and gloves and scarves and sweaters. But others had spun Christmas ornaments, ties, cat toys, and even tiny, detailed 3D “paintings” of scenery displayed on an easel.
I had wandered away from my friends, each of whom had their own points of interest to
draw them, and bought a pink wool hat and wore it despite the warm sun, then sat in the grass myself.
My friends eventually appeared and sat down next me. I was extremely happy to have seen this part of life about which some people could get so excited. One friend had spent $100 in wool and the other had spent $60 and bought a pair of gloves. Their faces were flush with excitement about the project ideas they had.
We drove to our friends’ home in Albuquerque as the sun began to set over the desert. I admired my hat in the mirror, happy to have a souvenir from the profound little city of Taos.