Introducing Zayzelle. Dress Simply. Made in Oaxaca. Designed in North Carolina.

Zayzelle. Dress Simply.

One dress.  One size fits most. Many fabrics, textures. Affordable fashion.

Three years ago I cut a pattern and started sewing a simple dress that would take me through the day and into the evening here in Oaxaca, in North Carolina and wherever else I traveled. I chose linen and cotton. Pure cloth with fabric slubs and wrinkles that are part of the design. No ironing needed. Easy to wash by hand. Will line dry quickly.

I took them  with me to remote areas in Mexico, to Spain and then to India.

I layer the dress with local color: accessories, shawls, scarves, capelets, aprons, ponchos, vest or topcoat. You get the idea. Simple dressing that can take on a unique flavor of place. Layering for warmth and comfort. Lightweight and versatile to beat the heat.

Wherever I go, women ask me, Where did you get that dress? I want one.

I love to wear this dress. I love to sew this dress. I made several. Then several more. I bought linen in San Francisco, hand-spun and natural dyed cotton yardage in Oaxaca, and ikat cotton in India. I found a small boutique fabric shop in downtown Oaxaca with Made in Mexico cotton. I sewed it in mid-calf and tunic versions. Pretty soon, I had too many dresses. Duh!

Zayzelle. Dress Simply. In pumpkin linen. One size fits most.

When the dresses started to show wear, I transitioned them to wear-around-the-house and nightgowns.

Read more about the Zayzelle story here. 

Back to Where did you get that dress? and employment for women friends who live in my village.

Some women here sew and have machines. They want and need extra income. I thought, perhaps I could create more of these hand-made dresses, employ women to make them, pay them more than a fair and just wage, and offer the dress for sale to the universe via an online store.

How to Shop. We have a small inventory. Go to the website. Make your selection and buy online. I will bring your piece with me to NC and ship from there after September 18, 2018.

Modify the Dress to a Tunic. If you prefer the tunic style, let me know which dress you want and I will make it shorter!

This is slow-fashion and slow production. Dresses are one-of-a-kind based on fabric I personally choose. We can make about two or three dresses a week. All the garments made here in Oaxaca by me or by women I work with. I inspect each one for quality. Enclosed and finished French seams guarantee there are no raw edges that will ravel or fray.

I invite you to meet Zayzelle and let me know what you think!

Zayzelle. Dress Simply. Mustard linen pullover capelet-shawl with hand-stitching.

Zayzelle. Dress Simply. The brand is inspired by a friend’s North Carolina family name.  I like this name. It is unique. Uncommon. It evokes taste and elegance. Has zing and pizzaz. Sings of sizzle. Evokes memory and imagination. Harkens to a time when there was time to sit and visit, sip fresh-squeezed lemonade in the afternoon and add a little zest to the mix as the sun sets.

Of course, this does not imply that I have forsaken my Oaxaca and Mexico traje (indigenous, hand-made clothing). I just like to mix it up and mix-and-match! I will often wear this Zayzelle dress with a Oaxaca over-the-shoulder textile that is woven on the back strap loom and dyed with natural colors. For a more Asian look, wear the dress over loose and comfy linen pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast: Tixinda Dreamweavers Plus Our Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

Listen to the WEAVE Podcast from Gist Yarn & Fiber

Today, Sarah Resnick from Gist Yarn & Fiber, talks with Patrice Perillie, an immigration attorney based in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, and Mixtec weaver Amada Sanchez Cruz from Pinotepa de Don Luis.  She also interviews Norma Schafer at the end of the segment.

Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil, Pinotepa de Don Luis

Patrice started the non-profit Tixinda Dreamweavers Cooperative twelve years ago. Her goal was to keep very talented artisans in Mexico instead of migrating to the USA where jobs are limited to cleaning houses and washing dishes in restaurants.

Listen to their story — a 26-minute investment of your time

Tixinda Dreamweavers ethically harvests the endangered sea snail that gives the rare purple dye. The group grows pre-Hispanic native cotton. They use the malacate — drop spindle — to make the thread. They weave extraordinary clothing using the back-strap loom.

Weaving designs, Pinotepa de Don Luis, with cochineal

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator sponsored this Podcast. At the end of the segment, I talk about why we take textile lovers to the Coast of Oaxaca to explore the weaving, natural dyeing and hand-spinning culture.

Spinning and cleaning cotton in San Juan Colorado

Pinotepa de Don Luis is one of five villages we will visit on our January 11-21, 2019 textile study tour on the Oaxaca coast. For our Grand Finale, we attend the Tixinda Dreamweavers Exposition and Sale. A noted cultural anthropologist will travel with us. We go deep into the textile culture of the region. You meet extraordinary artisans where they live and create.

4 Spaces Open: Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

Women of the Ji Nuu Cooperative, San Juan Colorado

 

Zaachila Zancudos: Dancing on Stilts is Cultural Heritage

The Stilt Dancers of Zaachila are called Zancudos because stilts are long and leggy like mosquito legs. Stilts are called zancos in Spanish. The Zancudos are very proprietary about this dance. They consider it part of their  cultural identity and heritage.

Zaachila Bachos Zancudos Buin Zaa

After I wrote the blog post about the Lila Downs concert during Guelaguetza season and published a photograph of stilt dancers there invited from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec that also appeared on Facebook, I received a deluge of messages from Zaachila Zancudos, critical of my calling the dancers from Tlahui Zancudos.  Many were quick to tell me that they were the first to use stilts to dance. I explained that I only photographed what was presented at the Lila Downs Concert. Yet, the backlash poured in and I wondered why.

I wanted to go to Zaachila to talk with the group Bachos Zancudos Buin Zaa (Zancudos de Zaachila) to find out more about their history and traditions, to understand why they reacted so strongly.

Erick Aragon Rodriguez (left), me, Pedro Aldair Antonio Aragon

On Thursday, Zaachila market day, I arranged to meet with Pedro Aldair Antonio Aragon, age 21 and a zancudo since he was six years old. Aldair invited his friend and fellow zancudo, Erick Aragon Rodriguez, now age 36 who learned to walk the stilts when he was ten, to join us. Kay and Dean Michaels, friends from North Carolina now living in Oaxaca, joined me.

Zancudos sculpture in Zaachila zocalo

There is immense community pride in this dance, originally called Bachos. It is part of village identity. The dance goes back at least 100 years and Aldair carries on the tradition of his father and grandfather, who were also stilt dancers. A bronze monument of a stilt dancer stands in the center of the village zocalo or main plaza as a testimony to this history.

Erick explains that stilts were originally used to cross rivers and arroyos. The land is filled with rolling hills, swales and deep gullies and it makes sense that this became a necessary mode of transportation and navigation around and through the limitations of the landscape. How stilts came to Zaachila is a matter for research. Were they brought by Europeans or an innovation to deal with the terrain?

Entering town, the Virgin of Guadalupe, artist’s adaptation, greets us

The wooden stilts are made in Zaachila. There is a workshop that fabricates and sells them. I am told by the young men that about ten years ago, a troupe of Zaachila zancudos traveled throughout Oaxaca towns to perform the dance. In Tlahuitoltepec someone asked to buy a pair of stilts, which were then reproduced. Tlahuitoltecos from the Mixe region of Oaxaca learned how to use the stilts and created their own steps, using their own indigenous dress. Aldair and Erick say the stilt dancing has been in existence there for less than ten years.

We met at Comedor Denisse for barbacoa de res, there for 51 years

There is controversy. They emphasize that Zancudo is a word associated with Zaachila and should not be used in association with Tlahuitoltepec. They say the word is part of their tradition, culture and to honor the grandfathers. Anthropologists consider dance, language, dress and other forms of artistic expression to be part of cultural identity. I want to understand, not arbitrate.

The softest, best BBQ beef ever!

The Zaachila Zancudos have never gone to an official Guelaguetza because their village leaders field their group of Los Danzantes de La Pluma (Dance of the Feather). About five Zapotec villages in the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca perform the Dance of the Feather. Which is selected each year to go to Guelaguetza depends on the office of tourism/government Committee of Authentication.

At Comedor Denisse, mole amarillo, too

Today, there are about 80 people in the Zancudos group. Thirty are ages three to ten years old who are learning the dance. Eleven year olds dance with the adults. From time to time, about 10 to 30 people can show up for a dance or calenda (parade), but for major fiestas more dancers will turn out.

Coming up on Thursday, September 6, 5 p.m.

Zaachila will celebrate her Saint’s Day honoring Santa Maria Natividad. There will be a big parade of Zancudos, going from the church to the Zocalo. 

Everyone is invited. 

Go early! Go to the market. Have lunch. Eat nieves.

We have been talking about cultural appropriation at Oaxaca Cultural Navigator for some time. The new cultural center in Teotitlan del Valle addresses the question of what is cultural heritage and who “owns” it, who has rights, if any, to copy or adapt.

  • Is it disrespectful for a Mixe group to use the stilt dancing developed by a Zapotec group?
  • Is it disrespectful for the Lila Downs concert producer to invite the group from Tlahuitoltepec and not the dancers from Zaachila?
  • Was the Tlahui group chosen because they look more professional or because their traditional village dress is more interesting for a stage production?
  • Is it disrespectful that a Guelaguetza Committee of Authentication has never included the Zancudos in the official tourism office produced Guelaguetza event?
  • These are issues here for Mexicans to decide.

Your comments and opinions are welcome!

After lunch, we said goodbye to Aldair and Erick. Kay, Dean and I could not resist the nieves stalls on the zocalo. There is a line-up of about six permanent puestos. Which one to choose? We picked the busiest, of course, owned by Doña Chabelita who has been there sincce 1966, the oldest in Zaachila. Her grandson just returned from 20 years living and working in Connecticut. Impeccable English. Not sure about immigration status, but who cares!

Dean savoring nieves de vainilla

Doña Chabelita, ready to retire after a lifetime of ice cream making

Melon and pecan nieves. The Best!

A treasure trove of pitaya (dragonfruit) in Zaachila market

 

 

Flouncy Aprons of San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oh, gosh, how to resist these extraordinary aprons of San Miguel del Valle.  The Zapotec community is nestled into a steep hillside 8 km up into the Sierra Juarez from the Tlacolula crossroads on the way to Cuajimoloyas. Remote but accessible by car.

Merry modeling the flounciest apron, which is for sale.

This is a small village of about 1,000 people many of whom are rug weavers that do contract work for Teotitlan del Valle resellers and exporters.

Four Aprons For Sale, Below.

Church on the plaza, San Miguel del Valle, open every day but Friday

But the fashion has turned to heavily embroidered flouncy aprons and this is becoming a more substantial part of the local economy. These are aprons for us to dance in, to wear to parties, to adorn oneself in the color Oaxaca is known for. When I come back to Oaxaca from North Carolina in November, I’m going to have an apron party! Or, maybe I’ll have one in NC, too.

Me, Epifania and #3 Flouncy Apron (for sale)

These are aprons with lots of gathers, pleats and tucks embellished with flowers and birds, scallops and pockets. They take hours to make even though they are machine embroidered. They take a seamstress of considerable skill to manipulate and change the threads, follow the curvature of the pattern drawn on cloth. No two are alike.

Work in progress on the sewing machine

I made my second visit to San Miguel just a few days ago with friend Merry Foss. I was on a quest to find an apron for Barbara Anderson. My first visit was a couple of weeks ago on an Envia Tour with Jacki Cooper Gordon, and I decided I needed to go back on my own, take my time to meander the streets and discover other apron-makers. Merry likes to meander just like me.

Barbara Anderson’s apron — SOLD

When Barbara saw that Envia post, she wrote to ask me if I would find her an apron. I did at Epifania’s workshop. Fani and her husband both sew and embroider. This one, that I knew would be a perfect fit for Barbara, was sold. Someone in the village had given Fani a deposit to hold it for her. I said, sell it to me and make another one. She did. A bird in the hand, as they say.

SOLD. #1 apron for sale, size M, $95 USD plus mailing.

Now, full disclosure: The beauty is in the embroidery work. The cost is in the time to create the design and work it at the sewing machine. The fuller the embroidery, the more expensive the piece.  Though, the finish work leaves much to be desired! Across all the workshops and on the best embroidered pieces, seams are unfinished and ragged. No pinking shears or sergers here. The pieces are sewn together quickly, it seems.

SOLD. #2. For sale, size S-M. $85 USD plus mailing.

How to Buy

  • Send me an email. norma.schafer@icloud.com
  • Tell me your name and mailing address
  • Tell me the Number of the Apron that you want to buy.
  • I will send you an invoice that includes apron and USPS priority mailing cost.
  • I will ship between September 17-20, after I return to the USA

Finished seams and dangling threads are a problem for quality control throughout our Oaxaca region. But, these garments — as in many other towns — are made for the local women. It’s the embroidery that matters most to them. Many of these pieces are used for daily wear — washing, cooking, baby-tending, cleaning, going to market. So they get used up fast. Another version of FAST FASHION? Perhaps. Is it up to us to influence the quality of something in order to meet a global fashion demand? What changes in the process?

SOLD. #3 apron for sale, size M-L, $95 USD plus mailing.

Perhaps it’s only gringas like me who want a piece to last, with finished seams, edges that match, dangling threads clipped.

I must confess, this type of fanciful, flouncy stitching is a departure for me, but it has also captivated me. Fun to wear. Frivolous. Brings a smile. The fabric can be a cotton-poly blend, or pure polyester or maybe even rayon. Not the best. Shiny — brillo — is what the women here like. Wash it, dry it fast, wear it again. My tendency is to go for natural dyes and hand-woven cloth. But, I’m smitten.

#4 apron for sale, size S-M, $70 USD plus mailing.

A beautiful hill town with a corner chapel

We arrived in San Miguel del Valle around 2 p.m. Just in time for comida — afternoon lunch. The fare of the day at Comedor Tere — an Envia supported enterprise — was fish. Mojarra to be precise. A whole fish, deep fried but not greasy, served with nopal salad, delicious black bean puree, rice, salad and homemade tortillas, plus a pitcher of fresh guava juice. Total cost for two, 100 pesos (that’s about $5 USD total, $2.50 each).

Tere disinfects everything and I eat lunch with confidence.

Meal of the day, mojarra, tender and moist.

Tere used her interest free Envia loan to expand her hours and offerings, opening a family-style restaurant beyond the carry-out service she used to do exclusively.

Recycled bottle recycling bin. Now that’s creative.

In Mexico and anywhere, I find it’s important to have time to wander villages, meet people serendipitously and see what one can discover. Time and being open to a new experience gives us a chance to explore possibilities beyond the beaten path. It’s the approach I like to take on my tours, too. Keep enough open time to see what and who pops up!

Niche in the church wall. How old is this? Centuries.

Susie’s Regrets Sale: Three Fine Rebozos (Shawls)

Three fine rebozos at a glance: Tenancingo de Degollado and Oaxaca

Susie’s traveled with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator to Tenancingo de Degollado to explore the ikat weaving and rebozo making culture of Mexico. She has since returned with us to other parts of Mexico, including Chiapas and the Oaxaca Coast. Meanwhile, on that trip she picked up a few beautiful pieces she hasn’t yet worn and after seeing that I was helping Leslie sell her regrets, asked me if I could try to resell these for her. We know the provenance!

#1. The intricate fringe, all hand-knotted on the Rose Rebozo

#1. Rose Rebozo. This rebozo, or fringed shawl, is hand-woven on a flying shuttle, four harness loom in Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico (State of Mexico) by one of the finest weavers in town, Jesus Zarate. What makes this textile most remarkable is the fringe. It is completely hand-knotted by Fitalina, considered to be the greatest puntadora or fringe-knotter in all of Mexico. It took her three months to make this luxurious fringe after the weaver sold her the fine cotton hand-woven cloth.  This is a large shawl, called a Chalina because it has no pattern in the cloth, is akin to what Frida Kahlo preferred, and is part of Mexican female identity. It measures 90″ long (including the fringe) and 29″ wide.  This exceptional piece is $335 USD. Price includes mailing via USPS Priority Mail to anywhere in 48 U.S. states.

#1. Full length view of pink rebozo

How to Buy

Send me an email: norma.schafer@icloud.com

  • Tell me which piece(s) you want by number.
  • Tell me your complete name, mailing address and email.
  • I will send you a PayPal invoice.
  • As soon as I receive payment, I will confirm and we will prepare for mailing. You should be receiving your order within 5-7 days.
  • This group will be mailed from a remote corner of Northern California in the Lake Shasta region.

#2. Double weave cotton rebozo from the Sierra Mixe, Oaxaca

#2. This rebozo was commissioned by the famed Remigio Mestas of Oaxaca, who works with the finest back-strap loom weavers in villages throughout the state. This is a double-faced weave, soft and cozy cotton, difficult to execute, woven by Maria Teodora from the Sierra Mixe Alta. One face shows indigo blue natural dye. The red-brown rust color on the second side is achieved with encino or red oak. The Sierra Mixe region of Oaxaca is about eight hours from Oaxaca city on the way to the Pacific coast, high in the mountains. Fringes are hand-twisted. It measures 102″ long (including fringe) and 29″ wide. $345 USD and includes USPS priority mailing to continental 48 U.S. states.

#2. Indigo blue dyed rebozo

#2. View of side dyed with encino (red oak)

#3. Cotton ikat hand-woven fabric, with fringes

#3. This Magenta Rebozo is from the Xoxopastli studio in Malinalco operated by designer Camilla Ramos, famous throughout Mexico for her intricate ikat rebozos and Colonial-style puntas or fringes. It is among the finest workmanship in the country. This one is woven on the four-harness flying shuttle loom. Ikat is achieved by dyeing the warp threads. Every one of the 6,000 threads of the warp must be exactly on register for the pattern to match up. This pattern is called Chispas and is created from brown, hot pink and white cotton threads. It measures 80″ long (including the fringe) and 29″ wide. Cost is $225 USD including mailing via USPS priority mail to anywhere in 48 US states.

#3. Full length view of Xoxopastli ikat rebozo

It’s not likely I will take another group to Tenancingo, so this may be your best chance to get as close to the source as possible!