Many of us own this book. For many of us, me included, it was the first weaving book we ever owned. I still pull this book out and look things up. I turned to this book the first time I wove a weft-faced anything, a saddle blanket for my father. I flipped through its pages, wanting to try everything, to know everything.
Later I took my first dye class from Rachel Brown at what is now called Southwest School of Art. I knew nothing about dyeing, but that class sparked a desire to know more. Now that I actually do my own dyeing, I realize that Rachel taught us a rather unconventional method that she used to obtain her beautiful, multicolored skeins. We took a skein of yarn, twisted it up tight, tight, tight, and then stuck it back into itself like you always do with a skein. The tight twisting essentially caused an ikat effect. After the tightly twisted skein obtained the desired color, it was removed from the dyepot, untwisted, and twisted again to expose a different region. Then it was dyed in a second color, which was added to the same dyepot. This process was repeated until the skein suited your fancy.
In her book Rachel explains a very efficient method of dyeing that conserves water, starting with the lighter colors and moving towards the darker colors, all in the same water. It takes planning, but it’s well worth it.During Convergence a couple of years ago, I took this picture of Rachel and her granddaughter Teresa. Beside Teresa is the Rio Grande wheel, which Rachel is responsible for developing, along with the Rio Grande walking loom.
I didn’t really know Rachel, but from what I understand, Rachel was a huge advocate for fiber artists in New Mexico. I know of weavers who saw their first loom at Weaving Southwest, and knew they had to become weavers. It’s amazing how much influence this one woman has had in our weaving world. She will be missed.