Tag Archives: textiles

UK’s Selvedge Magazine Includes Chiapas Textile Article by Norma Schafer

While I was traveling in Japan this spring, I received an email from Selvedge Magazine editor Laura Gray inviting me to contribute an article to the June 15, 2019 publication. Topic: Anything you want to write about Chiapas textiles, she said.

As I thought about the Maya women in Chiapas villages who weave, the most impact they have on me is how they choose to incorporate the designs of their beliefs and everyday life into the cloth. Cloth has meaning which gives it life and longevity. So, the article is about what these designs mean and their significance to the weavers.

Preview of the article about woven identity in Maya textiles of Chiapas. Gala huipil is woven with naturally dyed wool with supplementary weft technique, Tenejapa, Chiapas

You may have difficulty reading the text of the article I wrote above. I reformatted it from PDF to JPG so I could publish it here. I encourage you to purchase the issue that will be published on June 15, 2019. It contains an compendium of information by other contributors, too, including Marcella Echavarria, Anne Menke and Ana Elena Mallet who live and work in Mexico, collect and study the indigenous textiles woven and embroidered here.

I will be leading a Chiapas Textile Study Tour during winter 2020 with Textile Fiestas of Mexico author Sheri Brautigam. Dates are February 25 to March 4, 2020. There are a few spaces open. Please send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com if you want to join us.

Gala huipil, cotton, San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas
A woman’s signature is figurative, woven into the bottom line of the cloth

Selvedge, Magazine organizing and hosting a World Fair in London, July 2020. I’d like to go and have applied to do a presentation with my goddaughter, Zapotec linguist Janet Chavez Santiago. If accepted, our talk will be about cultural appreciation, cultural appropriation, identity and the politics of indigenous cloth. I’ll keep you posted about whether it will come to pass!

Mexico Monday: Clothing and Bags for Sale

Here is a selection of hand-woven agave fiber market bags and totes, a few woven purses and shoulder bags perfect for carrying cell phones and coin purses. I’ve added tops and a poncho cover-up, too. All from Oaxaca and Chiapas. Don’t miss anything: there are 14 pieces, so scroll down to the end!

To buy, please send me an email: norma.schafer@icloud.com Include your name, mailing address with city, state and ZIP code, along with the ITEM NUMBER. I will send you an invoice and add on an $8 charge to mail USPS Priority Mail. As soon as I receive payment, I will ship.

NOTE: ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 9, 2019. The last day I can mail is May 10. I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Thanks very much.

#7, Extra-Large, Finest Agave Fiber Hand-woven Market Bag, $85

This is the finest quality hand-woven cactus fiber bag made in Chiapas. This is an original to the village of Magdalena Aldama where the men weave these and use them for field bags — to carry feed for the animals, food and water for themselves. They cut, soak, strip, and weave the agave leaves all by hand. The finest ones take three-months to make. They are strong, durable and functional. Comes with adjustable leather straps. They are works of artistry. The coffee color of the bags comes from the smoke over the wood cooking fires. Each one is different.

Detail, #7
#1, Chiapas densely embroidered blouse, finest cotton from Sna Jolobil, $145

#1 is from the famed Sna Jolobil cooperative. Measures 26″ wide by 28″ long. The fine cotton cloth is woven on a back-strap loom. The bodice is hand-embroidered in the tiniest stitches. Moss green against cream, light and comfy for summer. They will be at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market this summer and you can bet the prices will be double.

#2, from Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, dazzling back-strap loomed daily blouse, $165

#2 is from the small family cooperative operated by Rosa and Cristobal in Magdalena Aldama. This is what the women wear for their daily attire. Each year that I go, the designs become even more elaborate. I hand-picked this piece based on quality of weaving and the density of the supplementary weft — the threads added during the weaving process to create the patterns. It takes hours to make a piece like this. Piece is 26″ wide by 24″ long.

#2 detail, Magdalena Aldama blouse
#3, from Oxchuc, Chiapas, great beach cover-up or use it for layering, $145

#3 From Oxchuc, Chiapas, and woven by Cristina on a back-strap loom. This is a wonderful, soft cotton poncho in a graphic black and white. It took Cristina 38 hours to weave this and it measures 32” wide x 28” long, $145

Detail, #3
#4, San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, small shoulder bag, wool $25
SOLD. #5, Magdalena Aldama, large hand-woven agave fiber market bag, $65

#5 (above) and #6 (below) and #7 (third) are hand-woven market bags — best quality. They are originals to the village of Magdalena Aldama where the men weave these and use them for field bags — to carry feed for the animals, food and water for themselves. They cut, soak, strip, and weave the agave leaves all by hand. The finest ones take three-months to make. They are strong, durable and functional. Comes with adjustable leather straps. They are works of artistry. The coffee color of the bags comes from the smoke over the wood cooking fires. Each one is different.

SOLD. #6, Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, medium size agave fiber market bag, $65
SOLD. #8, Tenejapa back-strap loomed small shoulder bag, $45

#8 comes from Tenejapa, Chiapas and is woven on a back-strap loom using the supplementary weft (added threads to the warp) technique to create the beautiful pattern. Use it for cell phone and coin purse or an evening bag,

SOLD. #9, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, woven wool shoulder bag, $25

#9 is a well-crafted wool bag, lined, from Teotitlan del Valle. It has a zipper. Priced at less than what I paid for it.

#10, handbag, Teotitlan del Valle, cochineal natural dyes, $50

#10 is wool dyed with cochineal red from the Bii Dauu cooperative in Teotitlan del Valle who does some of the finest work in the village. It is lined and has a zipper. Priced at less than what I paid for it.

SOLD. #11, Tenejapa, Chiapas, small shoulder bag, hand-woven, $45

#11 is a unique bag with a lively color combination. I bought it in the weekly market directly from the maker. The village is an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de las Casas.

SOLD. #12, San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, PomPom Chal (shawl) or Throw, $125

#12 is a soft, soft, grey and cream stripe wool woven on a back-strap loom in the village of San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, where women raise their own sheep, then card, spin and weave. Use this for a winter wrap or drape it over a chair, sofa, ottoman or bed for Bo-Ho style.

#13, hand-woven 100% cotton bag from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Chiapas, $45
SOLD. #14, shoulder bag from Oxchuc, Chiapas, braided strap and fringes, $45

#14 is woven on a back-strap loom in a small Chiapas village. I love the color combo. It comes from Jolom Mayatik Cooperative. The braided strap is a work of art in itself and is of highest quality. Use for evening, cell phone, coin purse and cosmetics.

Summer Blouses: Mexico Style, For Sale

Here in North Carolina summer has arrived. It was 89 degrees Fahrenheit today. How to stay cool and refreshed as the heat arrives? With a beautiful, embroidered or woven blouse made by indigenous Mexican artisans. If you can’t travel with us, this is the next best way to own a piece of wearable art and know that through your purchase you have supported a weaver or embroiderer or sewist.

To buy, please send me an email: norma.schafer@icloud.com Include your name, mailing address with city, state and ZIP code, along with the ITEM NUMBER. I will send you an invoice and add on an $8 charge to mail USPS Priority Mail. As soon as I receive payment, I will ship.

NOTE: ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 9, 2019. The last day I can mail is May 10. I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Thanks very much.

SOLD. #1, black gauze blouse, Amantenango, Chiapas, $65 USD

#1 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of color around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 29″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is French knots and traditional embroidery; the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this never-worn piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

SOLD. #2 is dark brown gauze with a bodice of French knots, $65

#2 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of color around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#2 bodice detail — packed with color and embroidery!
#3 is black gauze with gold French knots on bodice, $58

#3 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a undertone of gold French knots on the bodice and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#3 bodice, gold on black, subtle enough to almost be beige

SOLD. #4 knock-out lime green with floral bodice, fine details, $75

#4 is special. It is densely embroidered with French knots, with fine embroidery details on the back facing and cuffs. The lightweight gauze blouse is perfect for summer. With 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 23″ wide x 28″ long, and will fit S-M. The garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

Detail of back, #4
SOLD. #5 is green on black gauze blouse from Amantenango, Chiapas, $58

#5 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of variegated green around the V-neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. Check out the detail on the cuffs and back panel. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#5 back panel detail is exquisitely simple
#6 is buttercup yellow gauze, with a bejeweled garden bodice, $58

#6 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of jewel colors around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 21″ wide x 26″ long, and will fit S-M. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#7 is a simple, yet elegant huipil from San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas, $125

#7 is a beautiful, hand-embroidered, elegant long blouse perfect over a skirt, jeans or leggings. It is 26″ wide and 31″ long. Side seams are machine sewn. Dress it up or down. Hand-wash and line dry.

#7 bodice detail, San Andres Larrainzar huipil
#8 Michoacan beauty, 23″ wide x 25-1/2″ long, $95, hand-embroidered cross-stitch

#9, Chiapas quechquemitl pull-over shawl, poncho, $68, 27″ wide x 31″ long

#9 shimmers with sparkly threads in the style that Chiapas ladies like. This is a perfect beach cover-up or throw it on for a cool and breezy evening. Easy to wash-and-wear, pure polyester, just like the ladies who made it in the village of Pantelho like. New. Purchased directly from the maker.

SOLD. #10 turquoise cotton blouse, hand-loomed, Chiapas, $68

Both #10 and #11 were bought at Rosa and Cristobal’s cooperative in Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, a village located an hour-and-a-half from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Both measure 22″ wide x 23″ long and will fit size S-M. These were created on the back-strap loom, lovingly woven. I bought them directly from the family. The same bodice pattern is on both sides.

#11, blue/magenta cotton blouse, hand-loomed, Chiapas, $68

Oaxaca Indigenous Clothing for Sale: Wearable Art

After a year of walking with some days up to and exceeding 10,000 steps, my beautiful huipiles and blusas no longer fit me. For the next week, I’ll be offering for sale some of my clothing treasures from Durham, North Carolina before I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Most of these are new or lightly worn and purchased directly from the makers. (See photos below.)

These are loose fitting, cool for summer, and drape easily. In this group, two blouses and one dress come from the Oaxaca Coast, the villages of Pinotepa de Don Luis and San Pedro Amusgo. The embroidered dress is from the Oaxaca mountain community of San Bartolome Ayautla. They will fit size L to XL. Measure across your chest and hips to be sure of fit.

To buy, please send me an email. Include your name, mailing address with city, state and ZIP code, along with the ITEM NUMBER. I will send you an invoice and add on an $8 charge to mail USPS Priority Mail. As soon as I receive payment, I will ship.

NOTE: ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 9, 2019. The last day I can mail is May 10. I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Thanks very much.

SOLD. #1, indigo and native Oaxaca brown coyuchi cotton blusa, light gauze weave, $285

This is an amazing indigenous weaving from the Pinotepa de Don Luis Dreamweavers weaving cooperative. You see the symbols of double-headed turkey, lightening, corn plants, and eternal life woven into the cloth. The village is 12 hours from Oaxaca City and four hours from Puerto Escondido. If you can’t make it on one of our trips to the village or to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market where they will be this summer, this is the next best way to shop. Each piece is unique, so there is no guarantee you will find this one again.

#1 detail, Pinotepa de Don Luis, Dreamweavers Cooperative, 28″ wide x 27″ long
#2, hand-spun native white Oaxaca cotton, gauze weave, $285

#2: Caracol purpura, the rare purple snail is the featured color element on this gorgeous huipil. The three wefts are joined together with caracol dyed silk yarn, also hand-spun, in the turkey-trot needlework style. The color is intricately trimmed in purple snail-dyed silk, too. The body of the blusa is made from hand-spun cotton grown locally in the village of Pinotepa de Don Luis. It is lightweight gauze, perfect for summer. Design elements are similar to the indigo/coyuchi blusa described above.

#2, white and caracol purpura blusa, measures 28″ wide x 31″ long
SOLD. #3, indigo and ochre huipil/dress with tiny animal embroidery, $265

#3 SOLD and is from Zacatepec on the Coast of Oaxaca in the Mixtec region just beyond San Pedro Amusgos. I bought this in the village from Odilon Morales who is at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market each year and operates the Oaxaca cooperative Arte Amusgos. The cotton is hand-spun and woven on a back-strap loom, dyed in a lovely blue indigo. The small animals — are they deer or rabbits or dogs? — are finely hand-embroidered with commercial cotton embroidery floss. The embroidery is impeccable, teeny, tiny stitches.

#3 measures 29″ wide x 35″ long, and the yellow is more of a rich ochre color
#4 is a creamy dreamy white huipil with finest Oaxaca needlework, $265

#4 is from the Oaxaca village of San Bartolome Ayautla and embroidered by Anacleta Juarez, famed for her perfect, almost invisible stitches. It takes months to embroider a garment like this. The cotton is manta, a natural fabric that Mexicans love. The finish work is amazing. The birds and flowers tell the story of the mountains where they are made in the Cañada region between Oaxaca and Veracruz. I bought this directly from Anacleta.

#4 bodice detail. Dress measures 27″ wide x 46″ long
The underside of #4 is almost as beautiful as the front. Teeny, tiny embroidery stitches.

Thank you for considering and stay tuned for more offerings this week.

In Japan, Searching for Blue Indigo (Ai-zome)

My quest for Japanese indigo fabrics and clothing took us to remote villages and high-end designer boutiques. I searched old kimono stacked in department store corners and flea market stalls. In the old Geisha district of Gion, two vintage textile shops offer 100+ year-old pieces in varying condition. I traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto to the remote thatched roof village of Miyama with blue on my mind. We lingered at the Amuse Museum exhibition of boro cloth in awe of indigo-dyed hemp and cotton patchwork born of poverty.

Indigo is my passion. It’s why I wanted to go to Japan. Oh, and the food. Oh, yes, and the cherry blossoms. Temples. Zen. Gardens. Oh, my.

This indigo vintage undergarment from Gallery Kei, perfect as a tunic

My sister was more interested in Kabuki and Noh theatre, so we negotiated time dedicated to our interests. We attended performances of both and met with a foremost expert on Noh, a US ex-pat living and teaching in Japan for 40 years. We managed to walk blocks that became miles, traveled by bus, train and taxi, all in search of blue, art and food.

We saw the famed kabuki actor (far right) at Kyoto’s Minimiza Theatre

Finding indigo in Japan is not easy. Sometimes we couldn’t locate the address. Sometimes we got lost despite Google maps. Sometimes I would stand on a street corner and call out, Does anyone speak English? to help us get our bearings. (Always, a kind, helpful person came to our aid, even guiding us to where we needed to go!) Sometimes the source was in such a remote area that we couldn’t get there. Tokyo is a vast megalopolis, on a scale beyond my ken. Kyoto, described as smaller, hardly pales in comparison.

The art of dyeing with indigo today is uncommon, as it is in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it is necessary to travel twelve hours from Oaxaca City to meet the maker. In Japan, one must also ferret out the dye masters and makers who turn indigo-dyed cloth into clothing. The practice is almost extinct, just like Mexico. And, as with all things made-by-hand, quality comes with a price, when you can find it.

I also noticed construction similarities between traditional Oaxaca huipiles and Japanese kimonos. Both are simple assemblages of cloth squares and rectangles, with hand-stitchedSi seam sewing and no tailoring (ie. no darts). The long, drooping kimono sleeves are merely rectangles attached to the main robe. Hand-stitching for seams and embellishment a standard practice.

Meiji period shibori kimono, vintage and pristine, 100 years old

Few pieces, I discovered, are hand-loomed now. Indigo-dyed ready-to-wear can be designed in Japan and made in India to keep prices in check. I found one amazing Meiji period kimono in perfect condition. Price tag, $1,800 USD. Pass. I’m looking for wearable art and not creating a museum-level collection.

At Chingireya Vintage Textiles, this outstanding kimono, $1,800 USD

What I also discovered is that a focused quest for indigo takes time. Even more than a three-week introductory visit such as the one I just completed. Perhaps another trip is needed to go deeper and wider. Perhaps.

I’m grateful to Elli Sawada, a Kyoto-based indigo dye student originally from San Diego, who referred me to several sources for investigation. Elli is studying with famed master-dyer Fukumi Shimura. Elli and her brother participated in our Oaxaca One-Day Natural Dye and Weaving Study Tour last month.

Vintage indigo cotton cloth, once used to wrap gifts, repurposed as large scarf

I also want to thank Nancy Craft of Esprit Travel and Tours, Japan Travel Expert, who generously shared her list of Kyoto textile shopping resources with me. I hunted down those most relevant to my interests.

Resist-dyed detail of large cloth, patterns perfectly matched

My friend Madelyn wrote, I hope you found yourself a wonderful indigo garment or textile. Plural, I replied. I filled a duffle bag with blue. Ancient blue. New blue. Traditional blue. Deep, dark, almost black, blue. Kimono with wide, boxy sleeves. Cozy, contemporary long-sleeved jacket with roll-up cuffs. Vintage farmer’s coat with sashiko stitching. All perfect with blue jeans or black skirt. I have satisfied my lust for blue.

Sashiko stitching detail, indigo farmer’s jacket, all hand-sewn,

Sidebar: Barbara and I were flaneuring down the main street of Tokyo’s Aoyama district (which easily overshadows Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive) after visiting the Meiji Jingu Shrine. I noticed a pop-up shop and stepped in to find Yu Design Office featuring hand-crafted indigo clothing.

Cropped tunic, hand-woven by Yu Design Office, similar to the Oaxaca blusa

Yu Design Office was founded by artisan Hiromi Yamada and her architect son Yuji Yamada. They use natural indigo dye from Hanyu City, Saitama, employing a traditional kimono-making technique called itajime from Mizuho City, Tokyo, and fine cloth from Hachioji, Tokyo. Combining indigo, persimmon juice and pitch black, the wool-silk scarf they make takes on a deep greenish blue hue. The cloth is folded and stacked and pressed between wooden boards to give it texture.

Yuji Yamada showing us ai-zome from Yu Design Office

Recommendations for hunting down Japan Blue:

Konjaku Nishimura Old Textile Arts, Gion, Kyoto, Nawate Street, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto. Email: info@konjaku.com

Indigo ikat remnant, now a scarf for Barbara, at Konjaku Nishimura Textiles

Chingireya Vintage Textiles, Gion, Kyoto, Nawate Street, Higashiyama-Ku.

Textiles Yoshioka, exquisite, all natural dyes, mostly scarves, shawls, accessories, Gion, Kyoto.

Aizenkobo, indigo workshop and gallery, Kyoto. Third generation workshop, producing traditional garments, scarves, yardage. People love it. I was underwhelmed.

Little Indigo Museum, Miyama, Kyoto Prefecture, is operated by Mr. Hiroyuki Shindo. In picturesque town of thatched-roof houses, this is a full-day trip. Small souvenir indigo samples and scarves are for sale. shindigo@cans.zaq.ne.jp

Indigo dye vats at The Little Indigo Museum, Miyama

Gallery Kei features vintage textiles and is operated by Kei Kawasaki on the famous Teramachi Street (671-1 Kuoinmae-cho Teramachi Ebisugawa-agaru), just south of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. At our visit, she had vintage boro from Northern Japan, garments and cloth fragments of hand-woven natural materials (hemp, linen, cotton, silk) and dyes. Write to confirm they are open. gallerykei@live.jp

With Kei Kawasaki at Gallery Kei. Shawl was once mosquito netting. Hemp and indigo.

Gran-Pie, also on Teramachi Street between Ebisugawa-dori and Nijo-dori, is a contemporary clothing store with garments designed in Japan, dyed and made in India.

I can’t publish this post without mentioning NUNOworks Fabrics in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. On our last afternoon in Japan, I went bonkers over the bolts of fabrics, and sewn-on-the-premises clothing. Delicious scarves. Beautiful garments. Outstanding design. Reasonable (by Japan standards) prices. Though few pieces are naturally dyed.

Department stores like Isetan (Kyoto Station), Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi and Matsuya Ginza feature contemporary Japanese designer boutiques, including Issey Miyake, Comme de Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and others. Some use indigo and other natural dyes, and are priced in the stratosphere.

Exquisite creativity is boro, from northernmost Japan

Where to Stay in Tokyo: the b roppongi hotel. Loved our stay here. Convenient to metro, restaurants, fair price, excellent service.

Where to Stay in Kyoto: we loved the YADO Hotel in Arashiyama. Book room #308. Recommend also staying in Gion area for more central experience.