Un Recuerdo: Weaving and Embroidery on the Oaxaca Coast

I’m looking out of my little rental house at a sea of sagebrush. In the distance are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, part of the southern Rockies, somewhat obscured by the haze from wildfires. It is supposed to rain tomorrow. Our New Mexico native peoples are doing rain dances. So am I as I wait for my casita to be finished, waiting to see if I can get back to Oaxaca in July in time for our textile tour to the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains.

Tucked up into the crevices of this mountain range are vibrant textile villages where weavers cultivate silkworms that feed on mulberry trees to create loomed silk garments dyed with natural plants and cochineal. They are glorious.

A. Frontmor back?

Meanwhile, as I dream of Oaxaca, I’m also thinking of the rich textile traditions along the Costa Chica north of Puerto Escondido. In particular, today I’m focused on Pinotepa de Don Luis. During our last textile tour of the Oaxaca coast in January 2022 we were based in the regional coastal town of Pinotepa Nacional and did day trips up to this and other mountain weaving villages.

B. Front or back?

I like to include a market meander of the vast public market in Pinotepa Nacional. In addition to regional foods and an immersion into the Afro-Mexican culture, there are some extraordinary finds. I tell everyone in our group to look up, look down, look all around into every nook and cranny. Last winter, I found some rare hand-woven ixtle (agave fiber) woven market bags to sling over the shoulder or to wear as a cross body bolsa to carry fruit, veggies and textiles!

Surprise! There are also hand and machine embroidered collars that local women use to embellish the necklines of simple blouses and dresses. Usually, women who are produce sellers have these, too. You can miss them if you are only looking at mangoes and bananas. The collar I bought for about $25 has been waiting for me to do something with. Definitely a project.

I had something in mind. A simple, indigo-dyed huipil/blusa that would be the perfect garment to show off this amazing collar. Pinotepa de Don Luis master weaver Sebastiana Guzman made me one, but I wasn’t sure how well the collar would fit the neckline of this blusa so I procrastinated on starting to figure it out. Until yesterday. It’s too hot here to go outside (90 degrees) and the wind kicks up, making it hard to walk. Hiding from sun and wind, I decided to give this project a start.

My finished project

First, I needed to hem the inside and outside edges of the collar. Then, I needed to fit it to the blouse. A steam iron helped to get everything positioned properly. After five hours of hand-sewing and pressing, I’m very pleased with the results.

Now the big question is: Which is the front and which is the back? Perhaps you can help advise me!

Example of what you can find

By the way, we are sold out for the Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour 2023, but you can get on a wait list or come with us in 2024. Just send me an email.

Sea creatures, plants and wildlife, mythical beasts
Example: Double-headed turkey from Pinotepa Nacional

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