The textile traditions of Oaxaca are centuries old. People settled in the Oaxaca Valley at least 6,000 years ago, cultivating maize, growing cotton and weaving it into cloth after it was pulled and cleaned, spun and dyed. The cochineal insect was domesticated from a wild variety long before the Spanish conquest to yield a larger bug that produced a deeper red — symbol of power for ancient royalty. Today, all forms of textile art are found in and around Oaxaca city, her valley villages and mountain hideaways. Indigenous Zapotecs and Mixtecs weave and embroider extraordinary cloth from wool and cotton on the fixed frame pedal loom and the backstrap loom. Teotitlan del Valle produces extraordinary hand-woven wool rugs. Mitla workshops are abuzz with weavers creating table cloths and dress fabric made by hand. In the highlands, villagers raise and sheer churro sheep, preparing the material by hand with traditional methods: carding and spinning by hand with a drop spindle. Along the coast, the rare murex snail is cultivated for its purple dye.

Caracol (Snail) Mexican Rug Pattern

Nearby, indigo plants are cooked and dried over several months before they are ready for the inky blue dye bath. Other dyestuffs, such as moss, marigolds, lichens, pecans and pomegranates, are gathered by hand and prepared to become green, yellow, and brown dye used for rugs and huipils. Many blouses and dresses are hand-embroidered in fine detail. The glorious color and extraordinary quality of these pieces can be found in the living room workshops of individual crafts people and artists in their villages, or in some of the finer shops in and around the Zocalo and Santo Domingo in Oaxaca City. These pages will open doors for you to explore the art and textile traditions of Oaxaca, examine the culture, archeology and history of the region, and identify the places to visit and people to meet.  I  work with the Federico Chavez Sosa family to arrange very small group weaving and dyeing workshops in their home studio.. You are welcome to contact me at normahawthorne@mac.com and here’s the blog post to get details about the weaving workshops.

32 responses to “TextileTraditions

  1. Emily Greer Henderson

    Hello Norma,

    I am a small business owner based out of Denver, Colorado and San Miguel de Allende. I have a special project in mind using Oaxaca textiles and would like an introduction to the very special women and manufactures of Oaxaca.

    Textiles made in Mexico are to be honored and protected. By using some of the work in my clothing line, I hope to build awareness for these artisans.

    I arrive in Oaxaca April 11, 2018 for one week. Would you be able to take me on a tour of these artisan locations so that I may make contact and inquiry? I will be traveling with a well known architect who also shares a keen interest in these textiles.

    I do speak Spanish, and would welcome the opportunity to form new relationships with artisans with whom I can work on a consistent basis.

  2. My daughter and i are designers and make a small line of clothing. We travel the world to buy our fabrics. This year we are thinking of mexico do you have ideas of places we can find yardage at reasonable prices. We love the gauzy cotton, always looking for knits and would love some of their embroidered pieces

  3. Hi Norma,

    I was wondering if you could help me find vendors in Oaxaca that sell woven loomed mats for wholesale purposes. I ran across a bunch of these mats in Los Angeles where I’m located, and have been using them to make pillows. My vendor recently ran out and has not gotten a new order. I am looking for vendors in Oaxaca who can help me out, as I have demand for woven Zapotec pillows. Look at my website to get an idea. Thank you for your help in advance!



  4. Hello Norma,
    What a great, informative blog!
    Thank you.
    I am heading to Oaxaca in late December and wondered if you could recommend anyone that could take my husband and I around- we are looking for textiles, and handicraft, baskets, leather, etc.
    I have a seasonal shop in Lakeside Michigan and will be traveling and buying at this time.
    I have shopped extensively at Juana Cata in San Miguel and am really looking forward to visiting the Oaxaca shop and hopefully meeting with Remigio Mestas.
    Do you know him, or how I could get a hold of him before I arrive?
    Thanks for any help you can provide, so looking forward to visiting.

    • Hi, Ariane, I used to go to Lakeside, Michigan almost every weekend for almost 20 years when I lived in South Bend, Indiana. Many years ago! A lovely spot. I recommend that you contact Rene Cabrera Arroyo at tours@bugambilias.com He is a fantastic guide and a good friend. He knows all the best artists and artisans. I know Remigio and love what he curates and his passion for improving the lives of Oaxaca weavers. I know he travels a lot. I don’t know if he will be in town in December or early January, and I’m sorry, I do not have his email address. Perhaps the best thing to do is to call the shop to see if he will be there. You could also ask the folks who run his store in San Miguel to let him know when you will be in town and make an appointment through them to meet with him. That’s my best suggestion. -Saludos, Norma

  5. I spent 4 years studying textile design in Tokyo, and currently working as a textile designer. I master at all about dyeing, but want to learn more about weaving and embroidery, and I think Oaxaca is the right place to gain knowledge about them. But, I found it hard to get information about university or college or institution in Oaxaca that has textile program. Do you have any idea where I should search? Or do you know any university or else that can give me textile education? Thank you for your time and help. Cheers.

  6. Does anyone know where to purchase those wonderful plastic weave shopping bags

  7. Due to a faulty shipping container we rented for storage, I have had ruined by leaking rain: a number of textile works from my travels in 1968 to Oaxaca. I have lost a wedding dress (whole thing embroidered in horizontal strips and trimmed with ruffled ribbon), a very nice embroidered huipil, and one of those completely embroidered multiple pocket-belts (sorry, I don’t know the full name). The landlord is willing to reimburse me for the loss, but I have no idea what those items would go for now. They were all unused and I always intended t0 frame them as they were SOSOSO beautiful. So much for plans! Can anyone tell me where I would look to find out their approximate value? Any help is very much appreciated.
    Thanks, Jane

    • Jane, contact the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. There is an expert there who restores damaged textiles. He may be able to give you an estimated value of your loss as well. The other thing you can do is Google a retail store that sells Oaxaca textiles and compare the new ones for sale with those of yours that were damaged. You will need to send photos of your damaged pieces to whomever you request information from. There are also museums in the U.S. that have collections of Mexican and Central American textiles. The Textile Museum in Washington, DC is one and they may have a curator who could assist you. Good luck with your quest.

  8. I just bought a new house and would like Mitla Weavers traditional striped curtains, tableclothes, bedspreads, etc…. Could you give me a connection for theses textiles?

  9. I have been fascinated by the wonderful designs of the Zapotec rugs, both in Teotitlan del Valle and Santa Ana. But have seen no fabrics suitable for clothing, such as cotton for shirts, sheets, etc. with designs similar to those of the rugs.
    I thought that these beautiful, distinctive rug designs would also make beautiful cotton fabrics.
    I am curious if anyone does or can create fabrics with such designs?

  10. Hi, Looking to learn about fair trade textiles in Oaxaca. Starting an export business here in Oaxaca and want to buy fair trade if possible, or at least directly from the makers. Suggestions?
    Thanks, Adele

  11. Hola, espero esten bien, soy maru, y soy diseñadora de interiores, radico en la ciudad de Queretaro, estoy por abrir mi negocio de decoracion, con la vicion de promover la artesania Mexicana y buscando distribuidores, vi algo de lo que trabajan y me gusto mucho, me podrian dar su ubicacion y por quien preguntar, para hacer una cita y llamar directamente. gracias y espero estemos en contacto muy pronto

  12. I will be in Oaxaca November 2009 and was wondering if anybody has painting classes during this time. Will be taking Spanish in the mornings so will have time in the afternoons. Have painted on / off for years but always like to study in a new place….

  13. Callie Stewart- Riplinger

    To Whom It May Concern:
    Do you know where I can find a traditional Oaxaca Tablecloth with animals on it? Are there any of this type of tablecloths ready-made for sale or are they all custom? I have been searching for a long time so I really appreciate aany leads you can give me. Thank you for your time and consideration.
    P.S. I have already tried to reach Anne and Richard’s Arts and Crafts but their internet link is broken.

  14. I live in Merida and am looking for a source of strong Oaxacan cotton. I would like to buy in wholesale quantities. I will make my own products from the cotton. Fine if it comes in the backstrap loom widths.

  15. Does anyone know where I can buy the old style floral embroidered cotton blouses? It seems now all I can find are machine embroidered on cheap material. All together a gaudy look.
    I am looking for the all cotton on white or other color with embroidery around the neck and sleeves. My family has traveled in Mexico for over 40 years and it seems these lovely dresses and blouses are no longer made! And how about the gorgeous blankets made of wool or cotton/wool with tight weaves? All I see are acrylic loose weave blankets. Any suggestions?\
    Lisa Hileman
    Phoenix, AZ

    • Lisa,
      The hand embroidered blouses of the type you describe are readily found throughout Oaxaca state, and in Oaxaca city at various high quality shops. 100% wool blankets continue to be woven in Teotitlan del Valle. Come and visit!

      • Thanks Norma, for your response. Here I am, a year later reading it! I just happened on your site again but now I have you in my records.
        I am eager to visit Oaxaca. I’ve been to many places in Mexico but my niece says she really liked Oaxaca. Have you ever been to Siliva Suarez shop, Malacate? I read about her in Town and Country Magazine and she sounds quite interesting! thanks again,

        • Hi, Lisa, thanks for catching up with us again! Yes, I know Silvia Suarez and her shop Malacate. I have written about it on Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. Silvia has a great eye for textile design (this is her training and education) and is a close friend of Ana Paula Fuentes who is the director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. Silvia’s shop is directly across the side street from Templo Santo Domingo. She buys traditional huipiles from great weavers and also hand selects fabrics from which excellent seamstresses make pillows and other home decor. It is one of the highlights of a Oaxaca city excursion, IMHO.

  16. We can organize a one-day, 4-5 hour hands-on dyeing workshop for a fee, or invite you over for a 30-45 minute discussion of the natural dyeing process (no charge), depending upon the availability of the family. Just let me know with as much advance notice as possible. Thanks very much.

  17. i will be traveling through oaxaca by this friday and will be around on saturday. is there any way that i can come by and learn about the natural dying process? please email me at

  18. http://oaxacaculture.com/2008/03/04/dancing-on-the-loom-4-day-weaving-workshop/

    Thank you very much for your interest and inquiry about the weaving workshops. Please see this blog post for details and costs. In the event that you want to modify or customize the experience, we are happy to do this. Just let me know what you want (and don’t want) and I will modify the price accordingly. -Norma

  19. I am planning a visit to Oaxaca next year (Jan – Mar 2009). I would like to know the cost of your workshops and accomodation in the area. I would be driving from Eastern Ontario, Canada.
    Thank you

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