Tag Archives: textiles

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop Day 2: Cochineal Red and More

Taking this Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop is a study in color creativity. On this second day of three, we prepare cochineal, the parasitic insect that lives on the prickly pear cactus paddle. The chemical interaction between the female bug and the cactus juice produces carminic acid.

Cochineal dyed wool, ready for the weaver's loom

Cochineal dyed cotton, ready for the weaver’s loom

This is the most intense and color-fast red in the natural world.

When the Spanish came to Oaxaca in 1521 they were amazed to see the deep red used to dye feathers and to paint codices, human bodies or plaster temple walls.

Lava stone mortar and pestle used only to crush dried cochineal

Lava stone mortar and pestle used only to crush dried cochineal

They called it grana cochineal, naming it a grain not an insect to disguise its origin. The Spanish kept cochineal a secret for hundreds of years, holding the world monopoly on its production and distribution. It was the third most valuable export commodity after gold and silver.

Rhiannon and Elsa strain the cochineal concentrate for the dye pot

Rhiannon and Elsa strain the cochineal concentrate for the dye pot

Today, natural carminic acid colors cosmetics such as lipstick, and foods and beverages like Campari, fruit juices, jello and even meat.

Dyeing wool samples with cochineal and acid (lime juice)

Dyeing wool samples with cochineal and acid (lime juice)

Cochineal is expensive, about $125 USD or 1,800 pesos for a kilo. It can’t be wasted. That’s why Elsa grinds her dried bugs that she buys from El Tlapanochestli Cochineal Farm. You can buy packages of dried bugs for dyeing at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca gift shop.

Skeins dyed with pomegranate (granada) hang to dry

Skeins dyed with pomegranate (granada) and wild marigold  hang to dry

She grinds them to a very fine powder in a molcajete. This is a lava stone mortar and pestle. It must be very fine powder to dissolve completely in the dye bath. The finer the powder the less waste there will be.

Squeezing fresh lime juice for the acid dye bath -- turns cochineal bright orange

Squeezing fresh lime juice for the acid dye bath — turns cochineal bright orange

Hand process includes squeezing fresh lime juice to make an acid dye bath

Skein of wool dyed with wild marigold (pericone) leaves, stems and flowers

There is so much preparation even before the dyeing process begins. It’s no wonder textiles made with natural dyes cost so much! First, there is the investment in stainless steel and enamel dye pots, much more expensive than iron or aluminum, but essential so the pot chemistry doesn’t change the dye color.

Rhiannon preps a shibori scarf while waiting for cochineal dye bath

Rhiannon preps a shibori scarf while waiting for cochineal dye bath to finish

Then, you have to make your recipes. What color red do you want? Deep fuchsia, orange, hot pink, magenta? Your recipe will vary depending on color intensity. You may add more water, more lime juice (acid) or baking soda (neutral).

Dyeing sample cloth with brazil wood

Dyeing sample cloth with brazil wood

Next, you’ll wash your fiber in soapy water to open up the fibers to clean it and accept the mordant. You rinse the fibers several time to take out the soap and then hang it to dry.

Rhiannon and Elsa hold finished shibori -- to be dyed with indigo

Rhiannon and Elsa hold finished shibori — to be dyed with indigo

You will leave the cleaned fiber (we used wool) in the mordant overnight. This helps the wool absorb the dye.

On this second day, with the wool ready, we prepare the cochineal and then select the white and grey skeins to dye.

Mahogany (caoba) bark makes a beautiful peach dye

Mahogany (caoba) bark makes a beautiful peach dye

In addition, on this second day we also experiment dyeing with caoba (mahogany) and palo de Brazil (brazil wood).

Shibori is dye resist technique. Here, marbles and rubber bands make designs.

Shibori is dye resist technique. Here, marbles and rubber bands make the design.

The cochineal dye pot is ready at 90 degrees centigrade. It takes an hour to cook the skeins so they absorb the right amount of color. During this time, we prepare wild marigold, mahogany, brazil wood, and pomegranate. Most of these skeins will be over dyed on Day Three to yield 32 different colors.

It’s no wonder the Spanish loved this color! Red on white and grey wool.

I write about natural dyes because Oaxaca has a long tradition of using colors derived from the natural world. I also want to encourage Oaxaca visitors to seek out and support artisans who work in natural dyes.

We determine color by weight of fiber (WOF) to amount of dye -- chemistry!

We determine color by weight of fiber (WOF) to amount of dye — chemistry!

I hope readers will better understand the labor involved to make textiles using this technique. Yes, the textile will cost more. Perhaps you agree that its subtle beauty will be worth it.

Pomegranate dye bath

Wool in a pomegranate dye bath

 

The Dyeing Life: Values and Commitment to Family, Art

This is a short three-minute video from the New York Times that I have to share with you. In 1994, I was in a Maio village in China, a 9-hour bus ride from the Sichuan capital of Chengdu. Not only does this video remind me of that visit, it retells how important it is to carry forward ancient traditions of dying cloth with natural materials. It is about more than the beauty of the textile, it is about honoring values, traditions and cultural art forms wherever we find them: Mexico, China, India or elsewhere. It is about how to recalibrate by understanding how important the natural world is to our total well-being.

Women Weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Part One

Recently, I spent the day with a University of Michigan, public policy and economic development researcher, who asked me to introduce her to the Zapotec weaving culture of Teotitlan del Valle. Her expertise is India. Now, she is exploring how India and Mexico intersect and diverge in their support of artisans, particularly weavers.

Handwoven indigo rug with dye prepared by Juana.

hand-woven indigo rug with dye prepared by Juana Gutierrez

During our almost 10-hour day, we visited with five weaving families who work in natural dyes, two of whom are official cooperatives, registered with the government. One of these cooperatives, Vida Nueva (New Life), is solely woman-operated. Our time with spokeswoman Pastora Gutierrez enlightened my knowledge about how women came to become weavers in Teotitlan del Valle.

Federico Chavez Sosa at his loom in Teotitlan del Valle

Federico Chavez Sosa at his loom in Teotitlan del Valle

Weaving on the fixed-frame pedal loom is mostly men’s work. The looms are big and heavy. It takes upper body strength to operate them. When the Spanish friars introduced this tapestry loom (along with churro sheep) to New Spain with the conquest, they trained men to use it, just as men traditionally worked this loom in Europe to create textiles for warmth.

Oaxaca tapestry looms turned out blankets, ponchos, sarapes and other articles of functional cloth for insulation used by people and horses.

Started in the early 1940’s, during World War II when men were overseas, the United States Bracero program opened the opportunity for Mexican men to work legally as temporary, seasonal agricultural laborers. From 1948 to 1964, more than 200,000 Mexican worked in U.S. agriculture each year.

Hand-woven tapestries with spinning wheel

Hand-woven tapestries with spinning wheel

Talk to anyone in Teotitlan del Valle and you will meet someone who participated in this program or has a relative who did. I am told the impact on Teotitlan del Valle was huge and saw the exodus of many of its young and middle-age men. They worked in the fields and orchards of America to earn a living to support their families.

Many men didn’t return.

This is when most women learned to weave.

Young women, who always did the cleaning, carding and spinning of sheep wool, learned to dress the loom and weave tapestries. Many began producing sellable textiles by age 11. Mothers, aunts, sisters, nieces and cousins came together to make this a family endeavor until the men returned, much like the sewing bee in small town USA. The making and selling of textiles remained closely within the family group.

Old sarape design, now a floor rug

Old sarape design, now a floor rug

By the mid-1970’s, Teotitlan del Valle weaving shifted from blankets and clothing to ornamental floor rugs, brought on by the market demand of Santa Fe interior design style. Importers developed relationships with village weavers who became exporters. Many were men who had learned a little English working in the Bracero program and had returned to the family and village infrastructure.

Resources

Book: Zapotec Women by Lynn Stephen, Duke University Press

 

Chiapas Textiles + Folk Art Study Tour: Deep Into the Maya World

We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms. Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.

Tuesday, February 14 to Wednesday, February 23, 2017, 9 nights and 10 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Small group! Registration limited to 12 people.

Man from Zinacantan with hand-woven straw hat

Man from Zinacantan with hand-woven straw hat

I am committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory, but it’s not physical! That is why we are spending nine nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles and weaving traditions. Our day trips will take us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro with vintage textile collection

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro with vintage textile collection

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • spinning wool and weaving with natural dyes
  • clothing design and construction
  • symbols and meaning of textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that reflect each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • mystical folk medicine practices that blend Maya ritual and Spanish Catholicism
The church at San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico

The church at San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico, February

I have invited textile collector Sheri Brautigam to join me to give you a special, in-depth experience. Sheri writes the blog Living Textiles of Mexico and is recognized for her particular knowledge of Chiapas Maya textiles. She is author of the Thrums soon-to-be-published Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping. (I’ve contributed two chapters with photos, one for Tenancingo de Degollado and the other for Teotitlan del Valle!)

San Cristobal de las Casas, international crossroads of great food

San Cristobal de las Casas, international crossroads for great food

I have also engaged one of San Cristobal’s most well-informed local guides who will travel with us to provide bi-lingual services for understanding the nuances in translation. We will travel in a luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van as we go deep into the Maya world.

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 14: Meet me at the Mexico City Airport. We will fly together from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez and transfer to San Cristobal de las Casas (SCDLC) by pre-arranged van service together. I will let you know which airline/flight to book and meet you at the Mexico City airport as soon as you register. If you prefer to not coordinate air travel, please make your own arrangements to get from Tuxtla to SCDLC. Arrive in time for group dinner at 7 pm. (D)

Textiles from the village of Cancuc

Textiles from the weaving villages of Cancuc and Oxchuc

Wednesday, February 15: Our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas orients you to the Textiles in the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil for the finest regional textiles made, and meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church. We will then guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Embroidered blouse from Amantenango

Embroidered blouse from Amantenango

Thursday, February 16:  Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and often textiles. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags here. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron who founded the Sna Jolobil cooperative. We’ll also stop in Romerillo to see the larger than life pine-bough covered Maya blue and green crosses. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Hand carved colonial wood detailing on doorway arch

Hand carved colonial wood detailing on doorway arch

Friday, February 17:  Today is a walking day, devoted to visiting textile cooperatives in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. In the early evening, we visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B, D)

Clay and wood carved artifacts

Clay and wood carved artifacts

Saturday: February 18: Amantenango del Valle and Aguacatenango to see the whimsical and functional wood and dung fired pottery – the way its been done for centuries. Wonderful roosters, spotted jaguar sculptures and ornamental dishes. This is a textile village, too, where women embroider garments with designs that look like graphic art. We’ll travel to neighboring Aguacatenango, to visit a well-known embroiderer who has won many awards. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Whimsical Amantenango chicken pots

Whimsical Amantenango chicken pots

Sunday, February 19: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Then we’ll meet weavers and embroiderers in their home workshops. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs, then visit the home workshop of a Chamula woman in her village outside of town who will give us a full demonstration that includes spinning, back strap loom weaving, dyeing, and the unique Chamula process for making the long-haired tunics. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

At the textile museum, an outstanding collection

At the textile museum, an outstanding collection of Maya weaving

Monday, February 20: We will set out by foot after breakfast for a full morning at Na Balom, Jaguar House, the home/of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic and jewelry collections. We walk the gardens and learn about Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After lunch at Na Balom, you will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B, L)

Jaguar pot, Amantenango, Chiapas

Jaguar pot, Amantenango, Chiapas

Tuesday, February 21: Today, we want to give you enough time to know and discover San Cristobal de Las Casas. We will suggest destinations to explore on your own: the Maya Medicine MuseumJade Museum, Chocolate Museum, and Coffee Museum. We can also recommend an optional cooking class with one of the city’s top chefs and make those arrangements for you in advance for an added cost. You may want to use your time to explore the town’s wonderful churches, learn about the Zapatista movement, revisit textile shops or just stroll the lively walking streets stopping for a great cup of Chiapas coffee and people watching. A surprise artisan demonstration, show and sale may pop-up sometime during the day, too. (B)

The best of the best vintage from San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

The best vintage from Magdalenas, Chiapas — if you can find it, buy it.

Wednesday, February 22: Men from Magdalena Aldama who weave bags made from ixtle, agave cactus leaf fiber, join us at our hotel after breakfast. Accompanying them are the women who make flashy beaded necklace strings and beautiful hand-woven huipils. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)

San Juan Chamula Sunday market

San Juan Chamula Sunday market in February

Thursday, February 23: Depart. We will coordinate departures with included van service from San Cristobal de las Casas to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. You will connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country. Please wait to make you airplane reservations until you hear from us about van departure time.

What Is Included

  • 9 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within easy walking distance of the historic center
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 6 lunches
  • 3 dinners
  • museum and church entry fees
  • luxury van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services
  • transfers to/from Tuxtla Gutierrez airport

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation as specified in the itinerary.  We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost

  • $2,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $2,795 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

There will be a sign-up in advance for a cooking class on Tuesday, February 21. Please let me know if you are interested in this option. Cost to be announced.

Home goods from Chiapas textile cooperative

Home goods from Chiapas textile cooperative

Who Should Attend

  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
  • Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

In years past, I have purchased lengths of used hand-woven ikat Maya skirt fabric to repurpose into clothing and upholstery.

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The first 30% payment is due on or before October 15, 2016. The second 30% payment is due on or before December 31, 2016. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 31, 2016, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 31, 2016, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

ChiapasBest45-18

Detail of cross-stitched bodice, called punto de cruz

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 30 days before departure.  In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We ask that you return this to us by email 30 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Workshop Details and Travel Tips.  Before the workshop begins, we will email you study tour details and documents that includes extensive travel tips and information. To get your questions answered and to register, contact Norma Schafer.

This retreat is produced by Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Old woven ixtle bag used to hold pulque or lunch

Old woven ixtle bag used to hold pulque or lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-Day Pop Up Huipil Sale: Mexican Folk Art Dresses

These textiles — dresses and blouses — huipiles and blusas — are from my personal collection. I’ve decided it’s time to send them on to others who will also appreciate their handwoven and embroidered beauty.

If you buy by Wednesday, March 30, I will bring your purchase with me to the USA and mail to you. Send me an email and tell me which piece(s) you want.

7 pieces left! Scroll down to see. Take 20% off remaining pieces! Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday sale. Say SALE when you email.

  1. San Antonino floral dress, embroidered and crocheted, finest quality. Size L-XL. New. Never worn! See the little dolls that form the bodice gathers? Cotton. Hand wash. $295. USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

2. Traditional Chinantla Huipil from San Felipe Usila. Size L-XL. Handwoven on back strap loom. New, never worn! Bought on a visit to Usila, 12 hours from Oaxaca. 100% cotton. $375 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

3. San Miguel Soyaltepec huipil, size L-XL. Chinantla region of Oaxaca. New, never worn! Hand stitched on finest quality muslim cotton. Bought on a visit to the island village on the Miguel Aleman dam. $295 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

4. San Bartolo Yautepec huipil from the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca, hand-woven on back strap loom with 100% fine cotton (cream color), with blue figures and butterscotch yellow accents woven into the cloth (called supplemental weft). Size L-XL. $295 USD include shipping to anywhere USA.

5. SOLD. San Antonino Castillo Velasco blouse. Size L-XL. $85USD includes shipping to anywhere USA. 

6. From the Yucatan, machine stitched cotton dress with cutwork, perfect for a garden party summer, size L-XL. New, never worn! $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

7. SOLD. Lightweight, easy-to-wear cotton dress from Yalag, all hand embroidered. Size L-XL. $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

8. From San Juan Bautista Valle Nacional, near Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. Needlepoint embroidery called punto de cruz (cross stitch) on back-strap loomed cotton, breathable and easy-to-wear. $195 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

9. Huipil blouse from Amantenango, Chiapas. I loved the graphic beauty of this piece. All hand-embroidered. Size L-XL. Could be repurposed to make a pillow cover. New, never worn! $140 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

10. SOLD. From Puebla, Mexico. Hand-embroidered blouse with great detail. Size L-XL. $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

11. SOLD. Iconic Oaxaca huipil from the Mixteca region, with intricate and finest embroidery on cotton woven on the back-strap loom. Size L-XL. $295 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA.

 

12. SOLD. Black Rebozo from Tenancingo de Degollado. $125 USD includes shipping to anywhere USA. A beautiful, largest size shawl with hand-knotted fringe.