In the age of online shopping and the closing of many popular chain stores, it is refreshing to come upon a local shop full of hand-crafted goods that speak to both creativity and quality. This era of craft everything is more than a trend. I believe we have had our fill of Walmart and Amazon and cheap, mass-produced goods, and we are returning back to a time when goods were made with intention, with integrity and with pride.
And even more than the quality of a hand crafted beer or pair of shoes, this craft movement beckons to something deeper in us than just the need for a well made product. We turn to hand crafted goods because we connect with the spirit that goes into anything created from the heart. When I sit down to a unique and inspiring meal, it is more of an experience than simply eating what is before me. When I pull out my hand crafted Italian driving mocs, I always pause to admire the patina that the leather has developed over the years. I am connecting with the energy that the maker infused into their handiwork.
This concept was made even more real a few weeks ago when I happened upon a local spinning mill and yarn shop. My husband and I were traveling from Taos back to Texas and were passing through Mora, NM when I spotted it—the Mora Valley Spinning Mill. Of course my husband knows that we must stop for fiber, and so we pulled into the small parking lot off of the main street.
Leaving him to check emails on his phone, I walked through the front door of the shop that was propped open. I immediately stopped. It was like something out of a yarnie fairy tale. The sun was filtering in through the many large shop windows, and a cool breeze wafted in behind me through the front door. All was quiet. The chipped stucco walls were lined with wooden shelves full of various types of bagged fibers. The fragrance was barn, sheep and outdoors all rolled into one heady aroma. The shopkeeper looked up from her crafting and called out a friendly hello. She seemed to understand my awestruck look and quietly returned to her project.
I wandered over to be closer to all the fibers and what appeared to be bins full of yarn—and oh the milled spun yarn! Bin after bin of all the sheep in every natural color, I had never seen so many ranges of grays, browns, creams and blacks. I must have petted, squished and sniffed them all.
Lost in my fiber daydreams, I heard a small voice behind me. “The local shepherds bring in the fleece, and that is what we spin from.” I turned to see the shopkeeper with a knowing smile on her face.
My response, “I’ll take them all.” Her eyebrows went up, and I remembered my husband sitting out in the car and probably growing antsy at this point.
“Okay, I’ll take a sweater’s quantity of this one!” pointing to a beautiful worsted oatmeal blend of 60% romney and 40% alpaca.
As she was bagging the yarn and writing my ticket, I closed my eyes tight trying to imprint that moment into my mind forever. It was the rustic antiquity of the building, the earthy aromas, the ridiculous quantities of fresh fiber brought in only days ago. It was not merely a yarn purchase; it was an experience of the collective energy from a community of makers. And that experience is what makes the end product almost sacred, if you will.
Thanking the shopkeeper, I reluctantly left but not before taking one last glance over my shoulder and one final whiff of the sweet sheepy fragrance. I climbed back into the car while my hubs suspiciously eyed my bulging bag, but he didn’t have to ask what I had bought.
When trying to decide on the commercial yarn or the hand-crafted yarn, I would encourage you to consider the hand crafted. While maybe not as economical, the hand-crafted product is full of energy, passion and intentionality. My purchase that day supported shepherds, a mill and a shop. I understand the need for inexpensive yarn—like when you are gift knitting for people who don’t get what you just did for them or for high use garments like baby clothing or socks. But I would rather have one hand knit sweater out of locally sourced and milled yarn over three sweaters from commercial grade yarn because I understand the happiness and energy that comes from a true hand-made product. I guess you could say hand-crafted is heart-crafted.