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Vicky took her first spinning class after the birth of her youngest daughter, then, a weaving class, and she was “hooked!”
She’d always wanted to open a fiber arts store, so after retiring, Vicky did just that along with her husband, Michael, a retired biology teacher. And she named it Grandma’s Spinning Wheel.
When I asked Vicky how the shop got its name, she replied with a grin “from my oldest daughter, an attorney who suggested it to honor her grandmother,” then added wryly, “but she’s never sewn a button on.”
10 ½ years after its opening, the shop is the largest and best stocked fiber arts supply shop in the West. The kaleidoscope of colors and choices of yarns, needles, threads, hooks, notions, and the like must feel like a kid in a candy store to a serious crafter. And yes, you can even buy spinning wheels.
Everything imaginable is here including silk fibers from India and China, wool from Australia and New Zealand, bamboo from China, and yarns hand-woven by Vicky herself.
But, we’re not coming in to buy yarn today. We’re here as Vicky and Michael are hosting two incredible ladies teaching Navajo Weaving. For six years now, two sisters, fifth-generation internationally-known Master Navajo Weavers, Lynda Teller Pete and Barbara Teller Ornelas, have instructed students on the art of Navajo Weaving.
Twice a year, participants from all over the U.S. attend a three-day workshop at Grandma’s Spinning Wheel, learning about the world of Navajo weaving and culture. They work on pre-warped Navajo Upright Looms and at the end of the workshop, leave with a 6-by-8 inch tapestry with a design and color scheme they’ve personally selected.
Classes are so popular that 2018’s seats are already sold out. It was through a felting class at Vicky’s shop that she and Barbara Ornelas first met. And like the weaving class, students get to know one another and share personal stories along with their love of the craft.
Vicky learned of Barbara’s fascinating background, and the rest is history. Barbara and Lynda’s work means everything to them. And there’s a great deal of emotion in the artistry of their finished pieces. Their craftsmanship reflects a pride of the family tradition and by teaching others, part of their Native American culture is passed on.
The sisters were raised in New Mexico and the family is best known for their spectacular Two Grey Hills pieces with high weft counts, heavily influenced by Navajo traders like her father. The style is identified primarily by a double-diamond layout and intricate geometric design using natural colored, carded and hand-spun wool from family-raised sheep.
The sisters possess more than 75 various looms, all handcrafted by family members. It’s the size of the loom that dictates the size of the finished product. They also teach at the highly renowned Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Native American Arts Program in Southern California.
The smiles on the faces of the class participants and patrons coming into the shop to purchase their supplies certainly tell a story. A story about lovers of the craft who because of shops like Grandma’s Spinning Wheel are able to create magnificent handiworks that can be passed down to other generations as well.
Or, as Vicky says, “Like me, they can teach their own children or grandchildren how to crochet, knit, spin and weave.” Then, the story truly lives on.