Tag Archives: class

Making PomPoms in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

Wandering around San Cristobal de Las Casas last week I discovered Punto y Trama, on Belisario Dominguez #13b, just two blocks off the Andador Real de Guadalupe walking street. What drew me in was the sign on the door that announced PomPom workshops.

Lazaro Ramirez trimming a PomPom to perfection

Then, once inside I immediately noticed the furry wool Chamula woven shawls adorned with PomPoms. A new fashion trend, I noted.

First, you wrap 6 threads of yarn around a tube 150 times.

Slide the yarn off the tube.

PomPoms are big here in San Cristobal. They dangle from everything: necks, ears, wrists, shoulder and handbags, woven string shopping bags, and garments. They serve as functional ties and outrageous adornment. Sometimes they are combined with hearts, beads, Frida portraits, tassels.

Tie the yarn tight with waxed linen

I decided to take a PomPom making workshop, fascinated by another way to work with fiber as part of textile and clothing design.

Cut all the loops open

Cut, cut, cut, holding the yarn ball at the poles

This is a three-hour one-day workshop OR six-hour two-day workshop taught by Lazaro Ramirez, whose family is originally from Magdalenas Aldama. The cost is 350 pesos per session. That translates to about $18 USD at the current exchange rate.

Keep cutting around the equator, turning the ball constantly

Use a sharp scissor. You’ll be cutting bits at a time, like shaving

At the end of three hours I had made three PomPoms. I decided to order the quantity I wanted from Lazaro instead of making them myself.  The class exercise gave me a great appreciation for the time needed to craft one PomPom, which he sells at 15 pesos each. And, each one is perfect.

The green one is almost done but still ragged. Yellow is perfect.

Fifteen pesos each equals about eight cents. That’s eight cents an hour, including labor and materials.

Here is the PomPom and tassel I made. Lazaro made the heart.

Lazaro says you can use wool to make the PomPoms, but synthetic polyester yarn is finer and gives a tight, compact product with glorious colors — electric, like the people here prefer.

Included in the class are heart making and embroidery techniques

I learned all the wrapping, tying and cutting techniques. The most time consuming is to hold the PomPom at the “north and south poles” and to cut along the “equator,” constantly turning until a perfect ball forms. Not an easy task, I learned.

Choose your style of PomPom and heart, examples to make

Inspired, Juanita takes the class tonight.

I intend to use the PomPoms to decorate the checked wool shawls I bought in Chamula last week. They make great pillows, bed throws, or a shoulder covering on a chilly night — with pizzazz.

PomPom adorned wool shawl hand-woven in Chamula, back strap loom

Punto y Trama owner Manuela Trevini Bellini supports #fashionrevolution

#fashrev: It’s estimated that 80 billion pieces of clothing are shipped from factories and distributed around the world.

I constantly ask: Who made my clothes?


BLUE: Japan Indigo Dye Workshop and Textile Study Tour, November 27 – December 11, 2018

BLUE: Japan Indigo Dye Workshop and Textile Study Tour — immerse yourself in the culture, fiber arts and traditions of Japan.

Arrive Monday, November 27 and depart Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Limited to 9 participants. 14 days!

My dream is to follow the indigo. From Oaxaca to Japan: Let’s dream and travel together to immerse our hands in the blue dye vat. This program is for anyone interested in textiles and natural dyes, or who is a textile maker working in natural dyes. Understanding the process is the best way to appreciate the creative output of those who do this for their life’s work.

You are invited:

  • Come if you have no knowledge or hands-on experience.
  • Come if you have some or more advanced knowledge of indigo dyeing.
  • Come if you are a designer, retailer, a professional textile maker, quilter and stitcher, collector, artist, painter, or someone who loves and appreciates cloth and fine textiles.
  • Come if you want to support people around the world who preserve tradition and culture through ancient practices.
  • Come if you care about environmental integrity, fair trade and natural cloth.
  • Come if you want to learn, explore, try your hand, become a more knowledgeable collector.

Let there be INDIGO. What you could make!

Join me if you love indigo and textile arts!

We have customized this workshop to meet everyone’s individual needs and skill set. We each go along at our own pace. Our instructor and host, Bryan Whitehead, will work with you according to your level. If you know nothing about indigo or dyeing, that’s okay!

We are offering this workshop in collaboration with Bryan and Japanese Textile Workshops.

Fujino, Japan farmhouse where we live and create

Dates and Schedule:

  • 2 days in Tokyo on arrival to acclimate (November 27-28)
  • 10-day indigo dye immersion workshop (November 29-December 8)
  • 1-day post workshop Tokyo textile/cloth/fashion tour (December 9)
  • 1-day post workshop Tokyo to explore on your own (December 10)
  • Depart Tokyo on December 11

We will meet in Tokyo on November 27, take a couple of days to rest and adjust to the time change. On November 29, we will go with Bryan Whitehead, our host and teacher, to Fujino, about an hour-and-a-half drive to our workshop destination. We will settle into his restored 150-year old farmhouse. Our first full workshop day begins on November 30.

Dye Workshop Highlights:

  • Learn the difference in vat making techniques around the world: Japan, Southeast Asia and Europe
  • Use native indigo that Bryan grows and prepares on his property
  • Access two hydro-sulphite vats using natural pigment
  • Dye with madder and gardenia to see the over-dye process to get greens, wine and aubergine (eggplant purple) colors
  • See how soy beans become a binder mixed with madder paste and soot ink
  • Understand and practice traditional Japanese shibori dyeing
  • Make your own dyed cloth!

Indigo dye pot, Japanese style

Trip Highlights:

  • Explore textile shops, including vintage cloth and clothes
  • Stop to ogle contemporary fashion boutiques like Issye Miyake
  • Visit the Japan Folk Craft Museum
  • Discover the Katazome Museum
  • Meet local craftspeople, including a local shibori indigo dyer
  • Enjoy an Ikebana flower arranging demonstration
  • Discover local craft/gallery restaurants
  • Eat well: in home, local restaurants, special Brazilian barbecue
  • Perhaps we may also take an optional very early morning excursion to the Tokyo fish market

Pre-Workshop Shibori Preparation Homework

Workshop time is limited so there will be pre-workshop preparation of cloth for shibori stitching and binding. Bryan will send you a small box five weeks before your arrival with several homework pieces to complete. The box also holds persimmon tannin paper and a special cutter-knife for you to make katazome stencils. Instructions included.

Sleeping and lounging areas

Preliminary Workshop Itinerary:

Bryan says: “Past workshop participants came from all over the world and each has a unique personal interest in indigo and Japanese textiles in general.” He wants each of you to have a memorable and worthwhile experience. As such, he can adjust and focus the activities accordingly, striking a balance between the shibori, stencil dyeing, indigo processing and dyeing, weaving, textile history in Japan and silk processing.

Pre-Workshop, Tuesday-Wednesday, November 27-28: Two days in Tokyo to recover from jet lag. We arrange for lodging. All meals and activities are on your own, at your own expense. Some may want to go out exploring together based on energy level!

Note: For our Tokyo stay, you can select a  shared room or single supplement.

Day One: Thursday, November 29. (Includes lunch and dinner.) We will meet Bryan in the morning at our hotel lobby. From there we will drive to Fujino, an art town and quiet mountain village only 35 miles from Tokyo. After unpacking, you will enjoy a typical Japanese lunch prepared by neighbors and friends.

Note: Workshop lodging in Fujino is all shared bedrooms with two community bathrooms.

Then we go directly to the indigo dye. First, we will set up the indigo vat to get a clear idea of the processes. You will dye Japanese tenugui towels and cotton thread to become familiar with the dye properties.

Welcome dinner will be at a local grilled chicken restaurant.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for images of what you will experience.

Landscape, Fujino village, Japan, about an hour beyond Tokyo

Each day, we will make small indigo bucket vats to give you confidence to try it on your own when you are back home. The small bucket vats are then added to the large ceramic vats.

Day Two: Friday, November 30. (Includes Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner on your own.)

After breakfast each morning we will take about 30-60 minutes to discuss aspects of Japanese textiles and indigo.

Today, the topic is Japanese shape-resist dyeing, shibori . Then you go back to the indigo vats to try your hand at shibori. For each step of the dyeing process, Bryan will share his 20 years of experience working with indigo. By the end of ten days, you will have a clear understanding of how indigo works with the various additives of different kinds of dye vats and the reaction of indigo with different kinds of fabric.

Lunch will be hand-made (with your hands) udon noodles and seasonal vegetables. You’ll get a noodle-making demonstration from 98-year-old Ogata.

On Day 2 you will also complete the homework you brought with you to prepare it for dyeing.

Working on fiber preparation in the lounge

In the afternoon, we will introduce you katazome stencil dyeing in preparation for Day 3. Before dinner, we will go to a local hot spring for a relaxing outdoor bath. Unfortunately, there is a recent new law that prohibits those with tattoos from entering any Japanese hot spring. Bryan will wait in the lobby while the un-inked among us go in for a bath.

Bathhouse at the farmhouse

Dinner, at your own expense, is at a local pizza place. The owner makes a good Japanese pizza.

Day Three: Saturday, December 1. (Includes Breakfast and Dinner. Lunch on your own.)

The after-breakfast-table-talk cover Japanese stencil dyeing. We will visit Bryan’s katazome teacher at his working studio, where you will witness astounding techniques, skills, values and aesthetics that make Japanese textiles so compelling. This will also be an opportunity to learn more about and use (and smell) naturally fermenting indigo.

Dinner will be Brazilian barbecue.

Day Four: Sunday, December 2. (Includes Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.)

The after-breakfast talk covers local silk producing history and silk in general. We will have a silk thread making (both spun and reeled) demonstration, then make two natural dye baths from gardenia pods and madder to under-dye yellow and red. When combined with indigo, this gives us greens and purples. Today, we will use these dyes for silk scarves. If you decide to use indigo at home, this is a useful skill to expand your color palette.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for images of what you will experience.

Lunch will be a simple Japanese hot tofu dish. Dinner will be a simple traditional Japanese salmon and rice, ochatsuke. You will have time at the indigo vat to dye scarves and stencil patterns.

Day Five: Monday, December 3. (Includes Breakfast. Lunch and dinner on your own.)

The after-breakfast talk will be on the subject of The Japanese Crafts Movement. Then, we will set off to Tokyo to visit the Japanese Folkcraft Museum. This is the source of everything Japanese. Here you will understand the origins of Japanese crafts, feel and absorb the subtle seasonal nuances to give you further insight into things Japanese. We will also visit several Tokyo antique Japanese textile shops.

Note: This one-day excursion will fit into the schedule as we evolve. Since the schedule is fluid, based on the weather and your progress, this outing may happen on a different day.

Lunch and dinner is at your own expense.

Workshop Day Six: Tuesday, December 4. (Includes Breakfast and Dinner.)

Next two days of activities focus on weaving, stencil dyeing and shibori.

You are welcome to bring a small amount, up to 5 yards of your own cotton or silk cloth to dye. Bryan says, “We never ever run out of things to do and material to dye in the ten days! The indigo vats will be in good condition for you to slip outside and dye to your heart’s content.”

Dinner will be a simple nabe traditional Japanese soup/stew.

Wood pile fuels the fireplace in winter months

Workshop Day Seven: Wednesday, December 5. (Includes Breakfast and Dinner.)

We will spend the day on the same activities as Tuesday: stenciling, shibori and indigo dyeing. In the afternoon we will have a special Japanese flower arrangement lesson. First, we will go for a walk around the village and collect branches and mossy rocks with Hiro sensei, a master ikebana artist. He will guide you through the elementary principles of design. It is always a great time. We will have dinner at home.

Workshop Day Eight: Thursday, December 6.   (Includes Breakfast.)

You will likely want more time at the indigo vat. There are also some local artisans studios to visit, including potters, glass blowers and basket makers who live and work in Fujino. Based on schedule and artisan availability, we can make decisions about where to visit as a group. These final workshop days are more flexible to meet each need and interest.

Workshop Day Nine: Friday, December 7. (Includes breakfast.)

Now that you are comfortable with indigo dyeing, Bryan will give you personal guidance on your projects. You will have time to cut more advanced katazome stencils and try a more elaborate shibori technique. In other workshops, he has taught kumihimo silk braiding techniques and small Japanese bag making, which is an option.

Workshop Day Ten: Saturday, December 8. (Includes Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner on your own.) This is a free day to finish projects, pack, catch-up on your emails and blogging. In the afternoon, a friend will come to the farmhouse to perform a tea ceremony. We then depart to Tokyo, check into our hotel, and enjoy dinner in Tokyo. Your Tokyo hotel accommodations are included in the tour cost.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for workshop images.

Post Workshop:

Sunday, December 9. (Breakfast and lunch on your own. Grand Finale Dinner Included.)

We will spend the day with Bryan exploring the textile nooks and crannies of Tokyo, visiting some of the major fashion boutiques to see their indigo and natural dye designs. We will explore Nippori Fabric Town, shops where you can buy yard goods, vintage kimono and textile shops, and dine in small, local restaurants noted for their authenticity and innovation. We will celebrate our indigo adventure with a closing group dinner. Overnight in Tokyo.

Note: Hotel includes double occupancy — shared room. You can arrange for a single supplement at an added cost.

Issye Miyake indigo dress, 2017 collection

Monday, December 10. (All meals on your own. Optional No Host Sayonara dinner.) This is a free day to wander and explore on your own, or to go back and pick up that treasure you saw the day before that you’ve been thinking about.

Tuesday, December 11. Depart Tokyo. Transfer from hotel to airport at your own expense.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for workshop images. 

Schedule Flexibility:

Due to weather fluctuations and adjusting the teaching and coaching approach to each participant’s needs, the workshop schedule may vary from day-to-day. What we offer here is an outline. Please be ready to adjust your own schedule to fit the needs of the group. Thank you.

Short, but steep staircase to sleeping rooms 

About the Farmhouse and Accommodations:

The restored farmhouse, originally a barn, sits on a relatively steep hill with stunning views of surrounding mountains. Bryan remodeled it five years ago to create third floor guest rooms for workshop participants. The rooms sleep two, and are comfortable and cozy.

Note: There are two bathrooms on the first floor and a two showers/bath on the first floor. There are no bathrooms on the sleeping floors. There is a beautiful wood bathtub that looks out onto the mountain.

We get to the sleeping floor via a short, though somewhat vertical, staircase. There is a handrail.

There is WiFi at the farmhouse.

Meals at the Farmhouse:

There are healthy snacks and drinks and fruit in the kitchen at all times. If given notice in advance we can try to accommodate some diet restrictions; we welcome vegetarians. Breakfasts are simple: eggs, toast, cereals, fruits and yoghurt, good coffee and tea. Food is an important part of the workshop. Bryan offers simple food that has not been processed. No smoking in the house itself. Washing machine runs everyday.

We will make a visit to a local ceramics studio, too

Weather: Late November to early December is after the monsoon season with no humidity. It can get a bit chilly, especially at night, so bring along your woolies and silk t-shirts. There are heaters throughout the house. Bryan says we are pretty much guaranteed blue skies.

Activities, Fitness and Group Approach

Please note that there is some walking, that you will need to go up/down the short staircase from the sleeping rooms to the bathrooms, and that we will be walking when we are in Tokyo. If you have physical issues that could prevent you from participating in these activities, please consider that this may not be the trip for you.

We will be a group of 10 people total, including me. The itinerary is an outline of our activities and may change based on several variables – weather, availability of artisans we plan to visit, pace at which we complete dye projects. Flexibility and adaptability are essential for making this a great experience for all.

Indigo fields on the farm that Bryan cultivates

Want to Go? Registration Process and Cost:

You will be making two payments, one to Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC and the other to Bryan Whitehead to confirm your registration. We will each send you a separate PayPal invoice.

Norma’s stepchildren Nick and Rochelle own a ramen shop and izakaya in Durham, NC called Dashi. They have traveled to Tokyo extensively for research. We will get recommendations for where to eat and drink!

The payment to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC includes five nights lodging in Tokyo on the nights of November 27- 28, and December 8-10, with shared room/private bath. Cost is $1,125, in a 4-star hotel centrally located. We will tell you hotel and location after June 1, 2018. Because of high Tokyo hotel costs, we strongly suggest sharing a room. Single supplement will be $500 ($1,625 total). To confirm your registration with Norma, a 50% deposit of $563 is due for shared room or $813 for single room. We will send you a PayPal invoice when you tell us you want to register. Deposit is required to secure your reservation.

The payment to Bryan Whitehead includes all workshop fees and materials, shared lodging (two people to a room) in Fujino, all breakfasts, many meals as specified in the itinerary from November 29-December 8, and transportation to Tokyo mid- workshop week, and on December 8, guided tour services on December 9, and taxis around Fujino for artisan visits, meals. All other meals are at your own expense. Average cost of restaurant meals in Fujino is about $15 USD per person.

Cost of the complete workshop and the one-day guided Tokyo tour with Bryan on December 8 is 337,000 yen or an estimated $3,000 USD based on the exchange rate when I published this. This is due is two 50% installments, the first when you register and the second on or before June 1, 2018.

Please use a conversion table to estimate the cost in USD, as exchange rates fluctuate. I will send Bryan your contact information and Bryan will invoice you with PayPal for $1,500, about 50% of the workshop fee. The balance due will be calculated at the conversion rate that applies on June 1, 2018.

Note: To Register You Will Be Paying a 50% Deposit

  • $563 USD to Norma Schafer for a shared room in Tokyo, 5 nights OR
  • $813 USD to Norma Schafer for a single, private room
  • AND $1,500 USD to Bryan Whitehead for 10-day dye workshop

Note About Registration Process: You send me an email and tell me you want to register. I send you a PayPal invoice for the Tokyo part of the trip. I tell Bryan that you are registering. He sends you the invoice for the workshop part of the trip.

Cancellations and Refunds: This is a customized textile study tour offered by Norma Schafer Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC and Bryan Whitehead for Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC clients and friends. If you cancel on or before September 15, 2018, you will receive a 50% refund for all fees paid. If you cancel on September 16 or later, you may send a substitute in your place and we will apply all fees you have paid to their balance. Otherwise, there are no refunds after September 16.

Required Travel Insurance: Trip Cancellation and Medical Evacuation

You will need to give Norma Schafer Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC proof of international travel insurance one month before departure date. This should include at least $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.

If you are a US citizen, your Passport should be in effect for at least six months after you plan to return to the USA.

What Bryan Whitehead, Our Instructor and Host, Says …

Savoring and appreciating old Japanese textiles that were made by anonymous craftsmen gives you a glimpse into a distant, rich and unique cultural heritage.  It is a refreshing break from our consumer lives to know that there are people who dedicate their lives to creating these unsigned masterpieces. There have been, and thankfully still are, artisans to whom self-promotion is an unknown practice. It would be wonderful to run the workshop retreat with this spirit.

The workshop is for ten days. Once unpacked at the farmhouse, you will dive in and swim in the deep purple indigo. You’ll be splashing around in the vats until it is time to re-pack your bags. Hands-on, or in this case ‘hands-in,’ is the best way to know what indigo is about.

This workshop is a great introduction to indigo dyeing and Japanese textiles in general.

For those individuals considering setting up an indigo vat at home, this is an excellent opportunity to learn the basics.

The material covered in the workshop is also a hands-on introduction into Japanese culture in general. The ideas and technical approaches to textile work share the same ethics and standards as Japanese artistic disciplines. I’ll share my insights into Japanese culture and history and other wonderful things that have kept me in this country.

Inky-blue Indigo Coat, Issye Miyake












Oaxaca Women’s Writing Retreat: Registration Open

Please Share With Friends! Thank you, Norma

Please Help Us Share With Friends

Lower Price, Return to Teotitlan del Valle: 2018 Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing Retreat with Gentle Yoga

Blue Hands Special — Oaxaca Day of the Dead 2-Day Natural Dye Workshop

So, you are coming to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead!

Here is a chance to get beyond the sugar skulls and cemeteries, the masks and parades, and go deeper into the natural dye traditions of our wonderful region without leaving the city of Oaxaca.

Put your hands into the indigo dye bath. Watch them turn blue: A Day of the Dead Badge of Distinction.  (OK, you can wash it off with soap and water, if you want.)

Blue hands, mark of distinction!

Natural dyes have been used by indigenous people of Oaxaca to color wool, cotton and silk for centuries. It thrives today among a small group of local artisans dedicated to preserving cultural history.

Blue Hands Special:

2-Day Day of the Dead Natural Dye Workshop

Sunday and Monday, October 28-29, 2017  OR

Friday and Saturday, November 3-4, 2017

10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

$250* per person, 4 participants maximum each session

*Bring a friend, get a discount, pay $225 for each

We are based in a Centro Historico neighborhood within walking distance (about six city blocks) from Oaxaca’s Zocalo — downtown plaza.

Plant materials and cochineal for making dyes, wool dye sampler

The hands-on workshop includes 10 hours of instruction to learn about Oaxaca´s natural dye traditions, materials and techniques used in the Central Valley of Oaxaca.

Natural dye sampler, another version

The workshop focuses on understanding how the chemistry of  natural dyes act on the protein fibers (we use wool), and how this can be reproduced in your home or studio using local materials.

Pomegranate, great dye source

The workshop includes cochineal, indigo, pomegranate, marigolds, and brazilwood to create 16 different colors. Participant will receive recipes and put together a sampler of each natural dye color created on hand-spun 100% churro sheep wool. 

Overdyeing wild marigold with indigo


Sourcing local materials

Discussing Oaxaca natural dye traditions 

Understanding fibers and how they react to dye

Mordanting, and how it works

Extracting color — sampling for intensity

Preparing the natural indigo vat

Dyeing and over-dyeing to get color range

Limited availability: 4 participants for each workshop

To register, contact: Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC 

We will send you an invoice to pre-pay with PayPal. When we receive funds, we will confirm your registration and send you instructor contact information, and a map.

Natural dyes on cotton

The workshop includes instruction, all materials, recipes and the sampler. It does not include beverages, snacks or lunch. We suggest you bring your own if you get thirsty or hungry.

Blue hands in the dye bath

About the Dye Studio

We hold the dye workshops on the rooftop terrace of a home located in the City of Oaxaca, only 10 minutes walking from the main square of the capital. The studio was founded by two artisans, wife and husband, who are committed to preserving natural dye traditions. The wife is a native of Oaxaca City. The husband is a fourth generation member of a family of weavers and dyers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Both are bilingual, speaking Spanish and English.

Acid and base chemistry for color changes in cochineal

For the last 12 years, the couple has focused on natural dyeing processes and traditions. Their experience includes researching local indigo and cochineal, collaborating with local and international dyers, experimenting with recipes and testing fastness of the colors on both protein (wool, silk) and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp).

Both have taught dye workshops in universities, cultural centers and museums in Mexico, the United States and Europe. Currently, the studio provides the service of dyeing fibers for local artisan weavers and teaching workshops.

Washing, mordanting the wool

Wild marigold skein, and cochineal with indigo over-dye