Tag Archives: Sewing

Nuno Felt Fashion Workshop 2015: Clothing Design with Pre-Hispanic Flair

Escape winter, roll up your sleeves, and make a nuno felted wool garment you will be proud to wear. For seven nights and eight days, from January 17 – 24, 2015, you will experience the textile culture of Oaxaca, make wearable fiber art from felt fabric, learn about natural dyes and the process to make them, and explore the textile workshops of local artisans.  In January 2014, we welcomed Californians, Canadians, and Brazilians! What they made is featured here.

Beginners and experienced felters are welcome.

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We use comfortable, unstructured, easy to wear, easy-to-construct , yet elegant indigenous Mexican patterns to show off your design creativity.  If you aren’t confident, don’t worry! The place itself is an inspiration.

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Maddalena Forcella is our expert instructor for 2015.  She is a fiber artist-clothing designer born in Italy where fashion is part of one’s DNA. Maddalena came to Mexico over 20 years ago to study textile design and never left. She is joined by Eric Chavez Santiago from Oaxaca, who will demonstrate the natural dye process using locally sourced plants and cochineal. 

About Your Instructors 

Maddalena Forcella is an internationally renown fiber textile artist whose work has been exhibited in Rome, Los Angeles, Antigua, Guatemala, Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her clothing is sensual and substantial. She studied at the National Museum of Modern Art in Rome, Italy, and the University of Iberoamericana in Mexico City.  For many years, Maddalena has been working with indigenous women in Oaxaca and Chiapas states to preserve natural dye traditions, leading women’s textile projects with the support of private funds. She is committed to indigenous culture and sustainable development.

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Eric Chavez Santiago is a one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable authorities on natural dye sources, chemistry, and production.  He has taught natural dyeing techniques in Oaxaca and at U.S. universities and museums since 2006.  He is a graduate of Anahuac University and is director of education for one of Mexico’s leading arts and cultural organizations.

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I attended the workshop in 2013. Wow! The village of Teotitlan is an experience in itself and will immerse you in a totally different and vibrant world. The B&B and especially the meals were awesome and conversation around the table with other workshop participants was totally fun and absorbing — a bunch of creative, independent and feisty women! And, you can’t lose — even I made several shawls I’m very proud to wear. Highly recommended! –Leslie Larson 

Our Itinerary

Working with Maddalena daily from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in our outdoor studio, we will create lengths of felted nuno fabric enough to make a garment design of your choice.  You might decide to felt on silk or cheesecloth to make a lighter weight and beautifully draping fabric. After your fabric is dry, you will have the option to cut and sew it into one of several indigenous Oaxaca styles: the huipil (tunic), the blusa (blouse), rebozo (shawl), boufanda (scarf) or quechequemitl (cape), or modify the basic pattern into a design of your own.  We give you patterns to adapt to your own body.

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This workshop is for all levels of experience!  You do not have to be an artist or experienced felt-maker to attend.  We welcome beginners who have never worked in wet felting and more advanced fiber artists. This is a perfect residency for university students, teachers and artists who may want to explore a different medium, too.

We are based in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle where for generations families have created wool textiles.  During our time together, we will go on local field trips to gain design inspiration, and meet and talk with weavers who work with natural dyes.  Some weave wool fabric for wearable art as well as sturdier floor and wall tapestries.  We will see examples of the types of garments that can be created from the felted fabric we make.

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Supplies to bring (preliminary list).  After you register we will send you a list of supply sources where you can buy the workshop materials to bring:

  • Cotton cheesecloth, preferably pre-colored, 5 to 6 yards or more
  • Silk chiffon, your favorite colors, at least 5 to 6 yards
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of merino wool, preferably naturally dyed, in your favorite colors
  • Raw silk and/or wool fleece locks for texture and interest
  • Sewing kit: sharp scissors, needles, threads, tailor chalk 
  • Optional embellishments: beads, sequins, buttons, ribbons, embroidery thread, yarn, etc.

Note: We will provide the bubble wrap, soap, sponges, buckets, work tables, and other necessities for the process.

What is included in your registration fee:

  • all instruction
  • 7 nights lodging
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 6 dinners
  • pattern booklet and natural dye recipes
  • sewing machine to share with needles, thread
  • selected embellishments, yarns, threads
  • guided visit to Oaxaca textile museum and galleries 

Workshop is limited to 8 participants.

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Daily Workshop Schedule:  Arrive Sunday, January 18 and leave Sunday, January 24.   7 nights and 8 days with options to extend your visit. 

Day 1, Saturday, January 17 – Arrive and settle in to your bed and breakfast posada in Teotitlan del Valle (we send directions)

Day 2, Sunday, January 18 – Welcome, introductions, Tlacolula Market Visit for inspiration and to source local embellishments, afternoon natural dye demonstration with Eric Chavez Santiago.  (B, L, D)

Day 3, Monday, January 19 – Jump right in to make samples with silk and cheesecloth to understand the process. We will make an actual mini- scarf during this session, as well as fabric samples. (B, D)

Day 3, Tuesday, January 20 – Take a morning field trip to the village market and church for pattern inspiration from the local environment. Visit a local weaver.  After lunch we will work on designs using inspiration from the morning studies. (B, D)

Day 4, Wednesday, January 21 – After a visit to a local weaver,  you will  start on making larger pieces of felt for your final project/garment. (B, D)

Day 5, Thursday, January 22 – Finish completing your felted fabric. In the afternoon we will demo the art of making felt flowers. (B, D)

Day 6, Friday, January 23 —  Cut, sew and embellish your project. We will have a Show and Tell with Fashion Photo Shoot before our final celebration dinner. (B, D)

Day 7, Saturday, January 24 – Departure (B)

(This is a preliminary daily schedule and subject to modification.)

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Note: Vest design shown is by Jessica de Haas, FunkShui Studio, 2014 Felt Fashion Workshop instructor.

Workshop Fee:

Option 1:   $1,295 double occupancy basic cost per person includes shared room and bath, double occupancy.

Option 2:  Single occupancy with private bath, $1,595

Extension Options: 

Add-On 1:  Arrive Friday, January 16 and take a Zapotec cooking class on Saturday, January 17.  Includes one night lodging, breakfast, lunch, cooking class and recipes.  $115 USD each.

Add-On 2:  Extend your trip one day and depart Sunday, January 25.  Enjoy Saturday in Oaxaca City with Norma to explore the best textile shops and visit the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. Includes transportation to Oaxaca, overnight on January 24 in Oaxaca City. $195 per person double occupancy, $275 per person single occupancy. Dinner on your own.

Add-on 3:  Stay extra days before or after the workshop.  Add on nights in Teotitlan del Valle at $55 per night,or in Oaxaca City at $125 per night.  Let us know your preference and we make all the arrangements for you.

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Cecelia, Margaret, Sandra, Kirsten, Lynne, Margaret show their work from the 2014 Felt Fashion Workshop.Vest design by Jessica de Haas, FunkShui Studio.

About Our Workshops, Retreats and Programs.  We offer educational programs that are hands-on, fun, culturally sensitive, and offer you an immersion experience.   Our workshop leaders are experts in their field, knowledgeable, have teaching experience and guide you in the learning process.  Our goal is to enhance your knowledge while giving you time to explore and discover. 

About Lodging and Accommodations. To keep this trip affordable and accessible, we stay in a local posada/guest house in Teotitlan del Valle. The food is all house made (including the tortillas), safe to eat and delicious. Vegetarian options are available. 

Insurance Required:  Proof of international travel insurance that covers accidents, medical coverage and emergency evacuation to the U.S.A. or your home country is required by all participants.  If you do not want this, you must send us a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC harmless.  Thank you for your understanding.

Your registration fee does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, tips, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals, some transportation, and insurance. 

Deposits, Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot.  The last payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be paid by December 1, 2014.  We only accept Payment with PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After December 1, 2014, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  Your registration is transferable to a substitute.  If you cancel before December 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

To register or for questions, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com

Finding a Sewing Machine in Oaxaca, Mexico

First, sewing is alive and well in Oaxaca. Indeed, throughout Mexico women are sewing everything imaginable, from clothing to draperies to furniture coverings.  People here are resourceful and talented.  Sewing is an art and skill we are losing in the U.S.A. as we lack time and seek convenience.  It is difficult to find quality fabric stores in most cities and mid-size towns.  Only in rural America and among immigrant populations is sewing considered a valued skill.  In Oaxaca on the street called Aldama,  just a few blocks from the Zocalo, there is an abundance of stores selling all sorts of sewing supplies and fabrics.  I didn’t even need to bring the dense upholstery foam with me for needle felting.  It is available here!SewingMachine-2

The premier shop is Parisina, the supermarket of sewing.  But, tucked away into small spaces are little notions shops that are family owned and operated, where you can buy thread, needles, lace trims, seam binding, hooks and elastic, zippers, and anything you can imagine that would capture the heart of a seamstress.

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My quest today was to decide upon which sewing machine to buy for our Felted Fashion Workshop that starts on February 2.  And, in the process I learned a new phrase: Buscando por una maquina de coser. We will be using the sewing machine to stitch seams and make optional embellishments.  What to buy?  That was my dilemma.  At home, I’ve been sewing with an Elna portable that I bought in San Francisco in 1970.  It is all metal, heavy, durable, needing repair only once over all those years.  Today’s machines are plastic and most are made in China.

Should it be Singer or Brother?  Janome or Bernina?  After doing my internet research using Consumer Reports, not knowing what was available to buy here in Oaxaca, or the assurances of warranty and repair service, and after demonstrations at Parisina and Sears (yes, there is a Sears in Oaxaca) I decided the best strategy was to go into small women-operated shops to ask their opinion.  My favorite is a tienda on Calle Mina just off the corner of J.P. Garcia.

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The shopkeeper sent me several more blocks away from the center of town, deep into the working class, industrial part of the city closer to Abastos Market to find Moscer, the distributor for Singer and Brother, the two most popular brands of sewing machines in Oaxaca.

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Here I met Jorge (left) and Alejandro (right), who both sell and repair sewing machines — heavy duty Brother commercial and lighter weight models for home use.  When I asked Jorge which machine had a better repair history, he said both Singer and Brother were equal but he hinted at preferring the Brother.  Both of these machines are made in and imported from Brasil, and the price is about twice as much as in the U.S.   I’m going back to Sears where they are now running a big sale on sewing machines.  They are also available at Parisina and Fabricas de Francia (Liverpool department store).  There is no shopping deprivation here!

Moscer and Casa Diaz, sales and service for sewing machines, J.P. Garcia #702a, Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico (past Mina, then past Zaragosa toward the Periferico).

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Quechequemitl Pattern: Sew Your Own Pull-over Shoulder Cover

Say KECH-KEH-MEE. Here’s a textile museum definition of quechquemitl?

  

Some people call it a shawl.  It isn’t.  Others say it’s a poncho.  It isn’t.  It’s not a scarf … exactly.  It’s two pieces of rectangular cloth sewn together at a counterintuitive place for the likes of me, finished with a bound hem or some fancy crotched edging or fringes to become an elegant summer drape over a sleeveless dress.  A wool one does just fine in winter to keep necks and shoulders snuggy warm.

  

Women from Mexico handy with needle and thread embellished their quechquemitls with incredible embroidery and fringes.  Some patterns were woven into the cloth as it was formed on the loom.

Today, I finally got to the piece of Tenancingo ikat handwoven cloth I bought a few weeks ago in the Tlacolula market.  I don’t crochet, but I do sew (when there’s time).  I find it very relaxing and creative!

First, I started with two pre-washed and dried pieces of cloth, 14-1/2″ wide x 27″ long.  Here’s the pattern I took a photo of at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca where their show featuring quechquemitls is a knock-out.  Images above are from the show.

Two pieces of equal size.

Sew together at the dotted line.  I used a sewing machine.

Here’s the tricky part — where to connect the remaining seam.  Do you see it? The short edge connects to the long side.  The dotted line in Diagram 4 below shows you where the stitching line is located.

  

Wearing the finished product and trying to take a photo of it!  I don’t have a suitable model or mannequin. On the right, I pieced it together with pins before sewing.  Here’s the prototype sample (below left) at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

 

 

 

Then, I discovered, there’s an entirely different way to sew the pieces together, so there’s a flap at the neck opening.  See if you can figure this one out (below).

  

There wasn’t a diagram.

This handy little cover-up is great for the beach, pool, or to keep your shoulders protected from the sun.  When I wear it in a V, it doubles for a nicely draping scarf.  Some indigenous women even wear theirs on their heads.

Let me know if you make one and send me photos of how yours turned out.

Zapotec Fashionistas Know — It’s All in the Apron


Katie wrapped in apron and head scarf with market apron vendor

What does the stylish Zapotec woman wear?  Why, an apron, of course!  Aprons with ruffles, embroidery, scalloped detailing, lace, deep pockets and a secure button closure with waist tie are the ubiquitous fashion statement in the Tlacolula valley of Oaxaca.  The center of apron fashionistas is the Sunday Tlacolula Market.  There, an entire aisle is devoted to the apron and accompanying colorful headscarves.  Aprons come in all variations on the theme of checkered, gingham-like, cotton or cotton/poly blend fabric.  They can be simple straight edge or more complicated, heavily scalloped at the hemline and bodice.  Price depends upon complexity of style and amount of embroidery.  Aprons can be magical, embroidered with figures of birds, flowers, animals, and fruit.  The fancier the apron, the more it costs.

Polly chooses hers, and ...

Gringas like aprons, too.  After we buy ours and wear them, we get big smiles from the locals.  The fun is in the fashion show for each other, shopkeepers and passers-by. Almost like dress-up when we were girls :)  What’s amazing is that you can be wear any plain ‘ole thing underneath, and a great apron from Tlacolula just adds color, fun and spark to life.  When you come to a village in Oaxaca you will see that the apron is just part of everyday dressing.  For us, it’s a way to enjoy another dimension of Oaxaca.  Now, we are ready for cooking class!

Robin finds one that suits her at the local market in Teotitlan del Valle.

Helen loves this one with brown tones.