Category Archives: Oaxaca rug weaving and natural dyes

Travel for Texture and Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop

Natalie and her mother Olga traveled north from Guatemala, through Chiapas and came to Oaxaca to take a natural dye workshop with Taller Teñido Natural. We scheduled a two-day program for them to go deep into Oaxaca’s traditions for using natural plant materials, including indigo, fustic and wild marigold plus the cochineal bug to create glorious color.

Natalie is a textile designer from Washington, D.C. and writes the blog Travel for Texture.  Here is her post A Wooly Mexican Rainbow about the workshop experience, as well as her travels through Guatemala and southern Mexico.

And her photos are to dye for! During the two days, Natalie and Olga made 18 different colors and went home with formulas and a palette of sampler yarns.

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Please contact me to schedule your own customized natural dye workshop for one, two or three days when you are in Oaxaca. It’s a great way to experience the local culture. Cost is based on number of people participating!

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Looking for Secundino and His Textiles, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

On Monday around noon, I pick up Ester at her brick bungalow nestled under the shadow of Picacho, Teotitlan’s holy mountain.  We drive down the cobbled hill, across the small bridge over the Rio Grande, now a trickle in the dry season, to get Janet, an expat friend who lives here during the winter months.

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We are on our way to visit Secundino, Ester’s eighty-seven year old father who still weaves cloth in the old serape style.  His blanket weight wool is soft, very soft, not suitable for rug use. He uses undyed sheep wool that he cards, cleans and spins himself. His is a lost art.

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Ester says he has a couple of textiles finished and for sale, so we are eager to see them.  Secundino only produces about six pieces a year.

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We arrive midday to discover that the rugs are gone, bought up by an exporter. Secundino is not at home. He is out in the countryside in his fields of corn. Though we are disappointed, we make the best of it, stay to visit with Ester’s mother, sisters and nephew with his pet chicken.

This is another opportunity to use my just acquired used wide-angle Tokina 11-16mm lens. I’m liking the results!

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Secundino was the drum major in the village band for decades leading the way in all the processions.  His drums hang like trophies on the wall above his bed. Ester tells us that he joined the village band this year at Las Cuevitas and the family was so happy he could take part again.  A mended broken hip and advanced age doesn’t hold him back.

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We hope Secundino will keep weaving and we’ve put in our order for another one of his wonderful textiles.

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Two years ago, Secudino was the subject for our portrait photography workshop. We have space this year for you, starting January 30, 2015.

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Jess Schreibstein Writes About Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca Weaving Workshop at Fringe Association

Fringe is a common thread for knitters, weavers, sewers and textile artists around the world. It’s a metaphor for finishing the edge, binding off, completion and embellishment.

Here’s what Jess wrote in Fringe Association, a blog for knitters.

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Jess wove this tepete (rug) in four days! A traditional Zapotec feather pattern with naturally dyed wool: cochineal, moss, wild marigold.

Jess Schreibstein came to Oaxaca for a wedding in May.  She wanted to experience something special beyond the wedding celebration.  So she contacted us about taking a four-day Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom with Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife, Lola, in Teotitlan del Valle.

A writer, artist, photographer, cook and founder of the D.C. Food Swap, Jess asked for customized dates that would fit into her travel schedule.  We were happy to make this arrangement for her that included lodging and meals at a local guesthouse.

Here’s what Jess wrote to me about her experience:

I want to thank you personally for organizing such a wonderful trip to Teotitlan and my workshop with Federico.  It was one of the richest weeks of my life, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity that you provided.  Thank you!

twitter: @jschreibstein
instagram: @thekitchenwitch
witchininthekitchen.com

If you would like a customized weaving workshop to fit into your travel schedule, please contact us!

 

Oaxaca Weaving: The Flying Shuttle Loom

The flying shuttle loom is a European innovation brought to Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Industrial Revolution. It joins the back-strap loom and the fixed frame two-harness pedal loom as one of the major three weaving technologies still widely used in Oaxaca today.

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The advantage of the flying shuttle loom is that it can create wider, lighter weight fabrics from cotton, perfect for long and wide tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, curtains, and shawls. Made-by-hand, it is semi-automated, but requires the design skill and judgment of the weaver.

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There are two neighborhoods that use the flying shuttle loom : Santo Tomas Xochimilco and San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Today, we focus on Xochimilco. Most textiles made with a flying shuttle loom use commercial cotton thread colored with chemical dyes, although sometimes you can find pieces made with natural dyes.

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Once, the neighborhood of Xochimilco was humming with the sound of the flying shuttle. The loom has a distinct, rhythmic sound, a beat, beat, as the weaver moves the handle back and forth, which operates the opening of the warp threads and the direction of the shuttle.  It is fast, and the weaver sways with the beat.

Today, I could find only a few weavers in Xochimilco still using this loom.

Trailing along with Susan, Carol and Norma Dos on a mid-week excursion there in search of textiles, we come across two workshops on either end of Calle Dr. G. Bolaños Cacho between the Iglesia Santo Tomas Xochimilco. One is at the corner of Avenida Venus and the other is at the corner of Macedonio Alcala. To find them, just listen for the looms. On the day we visit, the jacaranda trees are in full purple regalia!

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In my opinion, the finest quality is produced by Casa Jimenez Taller Textil. They have several locations.  The easiest to find is at the El Pochote organic market every Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., located in the patio of the 16th Century Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church.

The looms are located way up the hill at Calle 1 de Mayo #105 in Colonia Aurora.

But they have a small gallery closer to Conzatti Park in the Jardin Carbajal, a square near the corner of Calle Xolotl and Calle Macedonio Alcala. It’s just a few doors down from El Quinque, which I’m told, has the best hamburgers in town!

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See the turquoise tablecloth that she is holding in the photo above. That’s the one I got my son for a gift. The fringes are hand-tied, just like a rebozo. The weave is tight and even. The cost: well-under $40 USD.

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Basket Weaving Circle in Rug Weaving Village Draws Crowd

Beyond the stream they call the Rio Grande here, the women gather in a circle around the pine-shaded, packed dirt courtyard outside of Ernestina’s house.  They are learning how to weave with another sort of material, not the usual hand-spun wool that is traditional for Teotitlan del Valle, the famed rug weaving village.  They are using brightly colored plastic strips.

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This is palma plastica (plastic palm) says maestra Norma, who came from San Baltazar Guelavila, to teach. This is the new-age derivative of the traditional palm used for centuries by most villagers in this valley to make petate sleeping mats, food and storage containers.  The craft is slowly disappearing and few Oaxaca weavers now produce this traditional folk art.  See: Decline of a Craft: Basketmaking in San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca.

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The plastic strips will become handbags, coin purses, and placements that can be sold to tourists in the local morning market.  Another source of much needed income for women to have their own money, whether they are married or not.   This week’s lesson is an experiment in economic development — how to make a small business.  

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Ernestina organized the multigenerational five-day event and invited friends and relatives to participate.  The abuelas — grandmothers — are joined by daughters and granddaughters, nieces and cousins.  There is a baby tended to by a grandmother while mom learns.

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As I walked by Ernestina’s house, I noticed this unusual colorful activity and waved.  She invited me to come in to see what they were doing and asked if I would return with my camera to take photos.  Of course, I did!

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Norma’s town San Baltazar Guelavila, is known for it’s hand-woven baskets and is also an artisanal mescal-producing center.  It is in the mountains beyond Santiago Matatlan off the Carretera Internacional 190, otherwise known as the Panamerican Highway, which runs from Alaska through Oaxaca to the tip of South America.

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An experienced lifelong basket weaver, Norma told me she can weave three to five baskets a day.  She has fast fingers.  The beginners were happy to make even three baskets in five days.  The baskets will sell for between 100 and 150 pesos each.   That’s $7.50 to $12 USD.  The average working wage in Oaxaca is 100 pesos a day, so the women are happy if they can produce and steadily sell one basket a day!

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Ernestina hopes so.  But, of course, that depends on tourists visiting Teotitlan del Valle, and most come via tour buses and not as independent travelers.  They may stop at a pre-determined rug weaving gallery and then go on to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to see the archeological site or continue on to Santiago Matatlan for a mezcal tasting.  They will miss the 9:00-11:00 a.m. daily morning market, which is at the heart of this 6,000 person community.   And, miss the opportunity to buy one of these colorful, handmade totes.

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People here love intense color.  The natural materials are giving way to synthetics because of cost and convenience and personal taste.  Yet, as I pulled up a chair around the circle and sat a while, I was reminded of my own knitting circle back home in North Carolina and the comfort of good friends.  And, the revival of a traditional craft that can make the difference in women’s and children’s lives here.