It was early 2016 and I’d just returned from taking a group of textile travelers to Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico, to study the ikat rebozos of the region. Textile maven and friend Sheri Brautigam was in Oaxaca putting the final content and photos together for her upcoming book, Textile Fiestas of Mexico.
I took her with me and introduced her to the Feria del Carrizo (river reed basket fair) in San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca, just across the road from where I live in Teotitlan del Valle. She loved it so much, she decided to include it in her book! At the end of January each year, it’s a special event that includes hand-woven river reed baskets, lampshades, fish traps, music and amazing food.
Tenancingo weaver Jesus Zarate with his amazing ikat butterfly rebozo
Sheri’s deadline was fast approaching. She wasn’t sure she could get back to Tenancingo to interview and photograph people, something I had well-documented. I suggested that perhaps I could produce that chapter for her.
Smokey and steamy dye pot, the alchemy of natural dyes
I also suggested that she include a chapter on the natural dye wool textiles of Teotitlan del Valle, focusing on the process of using indigo, cochineal and other plants and minerals.
Hands in the cochineal dye bath
Sheri sent the suggestion to Karen Brock at Thrums Books, the co-publisher, and she agreed.
If you are traveling to Mexico for any reason, this is the book you want in hand to explore the rich textile culture. It includes how to get to the textile regions, what to look for, where to shop for the best, where to stay and eat.
The book, Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping by Sheri Brautigam and published by Thrums Books, is hot off the press. It’s a comprehensive guide to some of Sheri’s favorite Mexican textile villages and towns. I contributed two chapters!
Textile Fiestas of Mexico, book cover
Sheri invited me to cover Teotitlan del Valle, the Oaxaca rug weaving village where I live, and Tenancingo de Degollado, the ikat cotton rebozo weaving center in the State of Mexico, where I often visit and lead study tours. Of course, the answer was Yes! I’m happy to say I contributed both the descriptive narrative and photography for these two sections.
Grand Master Evaristo Borboa Casas, age 92, ikat rebozo backstrap loom weaver
Sheri and I share our secrets with you because our first priority is to support the wonderful, talented Mexican artisans — many of whom are Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art. Whether you join a tour or get there on your own, you want this book in your back pocket or tote bag for insider tips.
Selection of Teotitlan del Valle wool rugs from Porfirio Guttierez studio
How You Can Order the Book!
ISBN: 978-0-9964475-8-4 $24.95 trade paperback 120 pages 200 color photographs, map, glossary, and index
Patrice Wynn is the Mexican distributor for Textile Fiestas of Mexico. She is also selling the book to buyers in Mexico, both at AbraZos, Zacateros 24 in Centro Historico, San Miguel de Allende, and also by mail. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org to get details of how you can have it shipped to you in Mexico, either as an individual or as a store.
Here’s a preview of photos I contributed to the chapters on Tenancingo de Degollado and Teotitlan del Valle.
Tenancingo weaver Jesus Zarate with his amazing ikat butterfly rebozo
Come with me to Tenancingo, February 2-10, 2017 for an ikat textile study tour. We have a few spaces open for single and double occupancy. You’ll meet everyone I talk about in the book!
Knotting the rebozo fringes can take two or three months
The beauty of the book is that you can use it when you travel independently or as a resource on a guided visit.
We tell you how to get there, the best artisans (in our humble opinion) to visit and when the major festivals are scheduled.
We recommend how to negotiate purchases in the markets and from artisans in their homes. What is the fair and ethical way to shop in Mexico? Sheri explains it!
Indigo dye pot, Teotitlan del Valle
We help you discern the good from the bad, the better quality from the mediocre.
At the Sunday rebozo market, Tenancingo de Degollado
And, we give you restaurant and lodging tips — because where to eat and sleep means you will have a more enjoyable experience.
Ancient Zapotec temple stone, Teotitlan del Valle Community Museum
Through description and photos, you can see what to expect before you get there and plan your travels so your time is well-spent.
Juana Gutierrez cards sheep wool, a woman’s tradition to prepare for spinning
Chapters include Oaxaca, Chiapas, Uruapan and Puebla, plus Estado de Mexico (State of Mexico). You go deep into local markets, cooperatives and regional celebrations.
Ikat rebozos by Evaristo Borboa Casas, Tenancingo de Degollado
Author Sheri Brautigam owned a textile design studio in San Francisco for twenty years. She has worked as an English Language Fellow for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, and as a serious collector and purveyor of fine indigenous textiles from Mexico and Guatemala. She sells collector-quality textiles through her online shop, Living Textiles of Mexico, and writes a blog, Living Textiles of Mexico.
Omar Chavez Santiago explains the symbology of the weaving patterns
FYI: Many of you know that Teotitlan del Valle is a town of about 6,000 people and 2,000 looms. The major “industry” here is wool tapestry weaving. In the book, I concentrate on a handful of weavers who work only with natural dyes. We are committed to promoting environmental sustainability and respiratory health.
Cleaning a rug woven with naturally dyed wool–Federico Chavez Sosa
Ikat: a design technique where the warp threads are first dyed before they are tied onto the loom and create the pattern in the cloth. Very time intensive!
I also love to sew and so … I have three rebozos I have repurposed, designed and sewn into pullover ponchos. These are all cotton, have French seams and open sides — one size fits all. Just slip it over a tank top or bathing suit for a summer cover-up, or wear over a light-weight Tee and jeans to add pizzaz. Makes a nice evening wrap, too.
This post offers 3 pullover ponchos and 7 rebozos, scarves or shawls. Keep scrolling to see all. Send me an email if you want something!
Pop-Up Sale: Buy Before March 29, 2016.
After that, the sale goes away! I’m leaving Oaxaca on March 30 for a several week visit with friends and to take care of business in North Carolina. I’ll take what you buy with me and ship to you (USA only) as soon as I get there. Send me an email and I’ll let you know how to pay. Many thanks.
Pullover Poncho #1–Tomato Red and Black. Ikat cloth hand-woven on the counterbalance pedal loom. 28″ long from the shoulder seam, 26″ wide and a 5″ collar that drapes beautifully. French seams. Open sides (sew them closed if you like.) One size fits all. $95 + shipping.
Pullover Poncho #2 — Spring and Olive Green. Ikat hand-woven cloth made on the counterbalance pedal loom. 27″ long and 29″ wide with a 7″ cowl collar. French seams. Open sides. One size fits all. $95 + shipping. See below.
SOLD! Pullover Poncho #3–Periwinkle Blue. Ikat cloth hand-woven on the counterbalance pedal loom. 32″ long from the shoulder seam, 28″ wide with a hand-stitched scoop neckline. French seams. Open sides (sew them closed if you like and voila, a dress!) One size fits all. $95 + shipping.
Rebozo #1: Blue and Brown by Fito Garcia, one of Tenancingo’s masters. 74″ long. 29″ wide. Plus a 13″ punta (hand-knotted fringe). Below. $185. + shipping.
SOLD! Rebozo #2: Black and Brown. Dramatic ikat design with impressive hand-knotted 13″ punta. 74″ long, 29″ wide. $165 + shipping. Below.
Rebozo #3: Very finely woven by master Jose Luis Rodriguez, soft as silk chalina in two-tone dark and light blue. 65″ long, 29″ wide with an intricate 13″ punta. $155 + shipping. See below.
Please send me an email if you want to make a purchase. Thank you!
Rebozo #4: Forest green and navy blue ikat rebozo, 68″ long, 26-1/2″ wide, with a knotted 5″ punta. $125 + shipping. See below left.
L-Blue-Green rebozo, $125+ shipping. R-scarf with chaquira beads, $75+shipping
Rebozo #5: Red and camel ikat scarf, 20″ wide, 61″ long with 9″ punta. $85+ shipping. See below.
Rebozo #6: Mango scarf with blue ikat accent stripes and chaquira beads hand-knotted into the fringe. Great accent piece! $75+ shipping. See below right.
Rebozo #7: Above left is a beautiful, soft silky cotton ikat scarf, 58″ long and 18″ wide, with loose fringes. I loved this one because of the ikat gradations along the center panel of the scarf. $65+ shipping.
Please send me an email if you want to make a purchase. Thank you!
Come along with me on the next Rebozo study tour in September for the annual Rebozo Fair in Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico.
Complex ikat dyed cotton butterfly rebozo or shawl by Jesus Zarate
This rebozo is made on a traditional back strap loom. Jesus ties one end around his waist and the other to a fixed pole or wall. He stands while weaving. The loom is wide and heavy, which is why men do this type of work. It is usually constructed of oak or another hardwood, built to last a lifetime.
Jesus holds the butterfly rebozo on front of a pedal loom
It takes Jesus two or three months to weave this textile, working about six hours a day. That’s before he prepares the weft threads, first tying the knots where the design will be, marking the pattern on the threads that are held together with a cornstarch glue, then dipping the tied area into dye, then untying and washing the threads before he puts them on the loom. It can take a week to warp the loom before the weaving begins.
A Jesus Zarate ikat rebozo is like a Monet painting — innovative, spectacular
Jesus works with his son Hugo by his side. They both weave more traditional patterns on the fixed-frame pedal loom, also called the counterbalance or flying shuttle loom brought to Mexico during the Industrial Revolution.
Cindy Edwards, a North Carolina weaver, tries the pedal loom with Jesus’ son, Hugo
Many of these looms are more than 100 years old. They are in need of continuous repair and their age is a testimony to their durability as a tool for textile creation.
September 8-16, 2016 includes Rebozo Fair — Feria del Rebozo
A traditional ikat design by Jesus Zarate includes gold threads
The first time I visited the home studio of Jesus Zarate was in September 2015. I went along with a group from Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico — people who love Mexican folk art. Three women bought the finest rebozos from Jesus. He cried. He hadn’t sold a fine rebozo in two years.
Jesus shows his rebozo filled with tulip designs — or are they yellow rose buds?
I decided to change the LADAP itinerary to go deeper and focus primarily on rebozo weaving with a side trip to Taxco. I’m now offering a September 2016 and February 2017 tour. It is a perfect experience for weavers and textile lovers alike. We also include an in-depth discussion about and demonstrations of the natural dye process.
Pattern marked chord stiffened with cornstarch glue called atole
Jesus recently lost two sons and is in mourning. He tells me he never smiles. It is difficult for him. His son, Hugo, is his remaining heir to the tradition of ikat weaving in Tenancingo de Degollado.
Son Hugo weaves at counterbalance pedal loom
Jesus has only two pedal looms, not a sign of prosperity in a weaving culture. He is one of a handful who still know how to work the back strap loom. These pedal looms cram into a small workshop at the front of the humble house where he lives with his son. He is no longer married. Often, as we know, the tragedies of life take its toll on relationships.
Ikat pattern taking form on the flying shuttle pedal loom with Jesus looking on
Very few international visitors come to Tenancingo. It is about two-and-a-half hours from the center of Mexico City. To go independently requires a combination of bus and taxi travel with transfers at the Mexico City west bus station and again in Toluca.
Linda wears white roses, an innovative Zarate ikat design–note the texture!
I recently took a group of 10 women to meet many famous rebozo weavers of Tenancingo, including Jesus Zarate. We traveled together from Mexico City and spent a week going deep into the textile culture of the region to see and understand the process. You can read the rave reviews on TripAdvisor.
This study tour is designed as an intensive personal learning experience. Here in Tenancingo de Degollado and beyond, you will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, understand family traditions and culture, and help honor and preserve craft.
Rebozo seller, Tenancingo Town Market
Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico (Edomex), is the source for handwoven ikat rebozos or shawls made on back-strap and flying shuttle looms by master artisans. Some count only 27 remaining reboceros — the men who weave the cloth. Not long ago there were hundreds. We will also meet the puntadoras — the women who hand-knot the intricate fringes. The experience of being there is so inspiring that I want to keep sharing it with you. I invite you to return with me for a memorable, curated Mexican textile and folk art study tour.
Jesus Zarate ikat rebozos are like a Monet painting — innovative, full of movement
February 2-10, 2017. 8 nights, 9 days. $1,995 per person shared room with private bath. Single supplement is $300 more per person. A 50% deposit will reserve your space.
Cost includes luxury van transportation from Mexico City to Tenancingo and back, daily excursions, all hotels, 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, private guide services, gratuities for artisans, guides, drivers and service staff. Does not include alcoholic beverages and optional expenses not included in the itinerary.
Group size limited to 10 people.
Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art Evaristo Borboa Casas at his loom
You will arrive and leave from Mexico City.
Meet together in Mexico City on February 2 with an overnight there at a historic center hotel
Travel to and stay in Tenancingo from February 3-9 at a bed and breakfast oasis
Enjoy the company of our bi-lingual guide who migrated from the U.S. to Tenancingo to marry a local thirteen years ago
Meet the master weavers of Tenancingo de Degollado in their home workshops
Learn about ikat warp thread preparation, the complexity of this at-risk textile art and how to differentiate quality
Participate in hands-on natural dye and weaving demonstrations
Understand the intricacy of a fine hand-knottedfringe called punta or rapacejo, and how it adds to the beauty of the lienza (cloth)
Visit three of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos – magic villages where traditional life flourishes
Spend a day in Malinalco, a Pueblo Magico, to discover archeology, ancient frescoes, weaving traditions, natural dyes and more
Travel to Metepec, a Pueblo Magico. Climb the archeological site of Teotenango, meet outstanding ceramic artists who make Tree of Life sculptures and cazuelas cooking vessels
Spend the last night in Mexico City to depart on February 10 for home OR stay on longer to enjoy museums and world-class restaurants
Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots
Along the way, you will eat great food, climb ancient pyramids at important though remote archeological sites, visit three Pueblo Magicos – Malinalco, Taxco and Metepec — and immerse yourself in some of Mexico’s outstanding folk art.
Primarily, we are here to learn about the art and craft of making a fine rebozo, meet the men who weave the cloth and the women who tie the elaborate fringe.
Ikat rebozo handwoven on the back strap loom from Rapacejos gallery
Some of the weavers are innovators, like Jesus Zarate, who incorporates intricate floral, bird and animal motifs on the ikat cloth.
Some, like Fito Garcia, use splashes of color that looks like confetti. Camila Ramos ikat designs employ ancient indigenous symbols and figures.
The revered master, 82-year old Evaristo Borboa Casas, is a traditionalist. All have received top honors for their work worldwide.
Each technique requires mathematical and technical precision, extraordinary creativity and months of work to produce one rebozo.
It can take weeks to prepare the ikat warp threads, dye them and dress the loom, with another month or two for the weaving. It can take two or three months to tie a punta, depending on length and elaboration.
After this study trip, I can guarantee that you will better appreciate this textile art form that is at risk of disappearing. Only three or four weavers in Tenancingo continue the back-strap weaving tradition. Sixty years ago there were over 200 weavers working on the back-strap loom.
8 nights lodging
Round trip transportation to/from Mexico City center and Tenancingo
Transportation to all towns, villages and artisans noted in itinerary
Gratuities to artisans for demonstrations
Tips for most services, including hotel rooms, van driver, guides
Day 1, Thursday, February 2: Arrive in Mexico City, overnight. Dinner on your own. We will stay at a historic hotel on or near the Zocalo. As soon as you register, we will tell you where. You might also like to arrive a few days early to explore the city. It’s wonderful!
Study tour group tries gives fringe-making a try in hands-on workshop
Day 2, Friday, February 3: Travel by luxury van to Tenancingo, overnight (B, D) Group dinner.
Day 3, Saturday, February 4: In the morning, meet some of Tenancingo’s best master weavers. We will confirm who later! The group can include Evaristo Borboa Casas, Jesus Zarate, Adolfo “Fito” Garcia Diaz, Fermin Escobar Camacho and Luis Rodriguez Martinez. Take a ride on the flying shuttle peddle loom. (B, L, D)
Day 4, Sunday, February 5: Today we will visit the big, weekly rebozo market where weavers and puntadoras, the women who hand knot the rebozo fringe, sell their wares. Then, we have lunch at a beautiful outdoor family restaurant in the countryside, followed by a demonstration in late afternoon. (B, L, D)
Day 5, Monday, February 6: We leave early to spend a day in Taxco de Alarcon, Pueblo Magico, with the next generation owner of the William Spratling silver jewelry workshop. First, we will have breakfast at the famous Spratling Ranch followed by a tour and silversmith demonstration. We’ll return to town for a late lunch Spratling’s home and first workshop, Las Delicias, now S’Caffecito. Then, you can roam Taxco on your own. We start our 2-hour return to Tenancingo in early evening. (B, L)
Day 6, Tuesday, February 7:Malinalco Pueblo Magico. Climb the ancient archeological site (if you wish), the only one in Mesoamerica carved out of the rock face. Visit the workshop of Camila Ramos Zamora and award-winning son Juan Rodrigo Mancio Ramos. See how they work the back strap loom and make natural dyes. See how to dye and prepare ikat threads. Take time to visit the 16th century Augustinian church with the amazing Paradise Garden Murals. (B, L, D)
Day 7, Wednesday, February 8: After breakfast, we will have a demonstration of another type of weaving, the fiber made from the Joshua Tree leaf called izote. An indigenous family will join us from the countryside to show the process that is made into beautiful, finely crafted bags, some dyed with cochineal. Afternoon on your own to return to your favorite rebocero, do last-minute market shopping and begin packing. (B, D)
Day 8, Thursday, February 9: Travel to Metepec Pueblo Magico. First, we will stop to climb the Mesoamerican Teotenango pyramids (if you wish) or visit the adjacent museum. Then, we will visit the Museo del Barro ceramics museum to see the finest examples of Tree of Life sculptures and highly decorated, sturdy cooking pots called cazuelas. After lunch, we will have time to explore the artisans market before returning to Mexico City. Overnight in Mexico City. (B, L)
Day 9, Friday, February 10: Depart our Mexico City hotel by taxi (at your own expense) to catch your flights home. Or make your own arrangements to stay in Mexico City a little longer and enjoy the Independence Day festivities around town.
The study tour includesround trip transportation between Mexico City and Tenancingo de Degollado, lodging in Mexico City and Tenancingo, meals as noted in the itinerary, travel to all artisans and destinations noted on the itinerary, cultural bi-lingual guide services and most gratutities/tips. Plus you receive a comprehensive packet of information about our location, shopping, restaurants, and itinerary sent by email before the study tour begins.
The study tour does not include airfare, taxi from Mexico City airport to Mexico City hotel, return taxi from Mexico City to the airport, some meals as noted in the itinerary, admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals.
Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before 45 days before the study tour begins. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.
If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After the 45-day cut-off date, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before the 45-day deadline, we will refund 50% of your deposit.
About Travel to Mexico City: The Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) is our gateway city and a Mexico City historic center hotel is our meeting point. You can fly to Mexico City from many United States locations on most major USA airlines. Mexico’s excellent new discount airlines Interjet and Volaris service some U.S. cities, as does Aeromexico.
International Travel Insurance Required.We require that you purchase trip cancellation, baggage loss and at least $50,000 of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We will ask for insurance documentation as well as a witnessed waiver of liability form that holds Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC harmless. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Our Clients Include
*Penland School of Crafts
*North Carolina State University
*WARP Weave a Real Peace