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.
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.
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.
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!
I never knew that visiting the Monarch butterflies in Mexico should have been on my bucket list until I got there. Tucked into the mountainous forests of Estado de Mexico is the terminus of the butterfly migration from North America where the noble Monarchs winter and reproduce. The experience is mystical, magical, life-affirming and memorable. I’ve always felt that being here is one of those moments that inspire and validate our existence on the planet, and gives us pause to appreciate the constant cycle of nature at its most magnificent.
But this is not all! After this first part of our tour, we travel to the magical craft and folk art towns of Michoacan, including Morelia, San Juan Capula, Patzcuaro and the indigenous Purepecha towns surrounding Lake Patzcuaro. We meet with famous artisans and those off-the-beaten path whose work is recognized as Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art by Fundacion Banamex. We meet weavers, potters, embroiderers, mask-makers, coppersmiths. We explore in safety and security, led by a local guide whom I know very well. We NEVER take you into any locations that are dangerous or threatening.
This tour is limited to 12 travelers. We have five single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.
Here is our preliminary itinerary:
Day 1, Sunday, February 5: Fly to Mexico City and check in to our comfortable hotel located near the Zocalo, the historic Aztec archeological site Templo Mayor, and excellent restaurants. Day and evening on your own.
Day 2, Monday, February 6: After breakfast, welcome and orientation, join us for a walking tour of Mexico City that includes stops at Bellas Artes and Museo Franz Mayer. Afternoon on your own. Group Gala Welcome dinner. (Breakfast and dinner included. Lunch on your own.)
Day 3, Tuesday, February 7: After early breakfast, we load luggage onto the van and leave CDMX for the town of Angangueo. Here we visit San Felipe de los Alzati, and the archeological site of Zirahuato, When we arrive, we enjoy a walking tour in Angangueo and check in to our hotel. Overnight in Angangueo. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)
Day 4, Wednesday, February 8: After breakfast, we pack up again and travel to El Rosario Monarch Reserve in the Sierra Chincua to observe the winter home of the majestic Monarchs. In late afternoon, we get back on the van to travel to the historic colonial city of Morelia, capital of Michoacan. Overnight in Morelia. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)
Day 5, Thursday, February 9: Orientation walking tour in the Historical area of Morelia. We have lunch together and then you have the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore at your leisure. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.) Overnight in Morelia.
Day 6, Friday, February 10: We leave Morelia for Patzcuaro after breakfast, making a stop in San Juan Capula to visit the town where ceramic Catrina figures captivate collectors’ attention. We arrive in Patzcuaro, check in to our comfortable hotel and participate in an orientation walking tour of the historic town. Overnight in Patzcuaro. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)
Day 7, Saturday, February 11: After breakfast, we explore the artisan towns around Lake Patzcuaro, including Tupataro, Cuanajo, Santa Clara and Tzintzuntzan. Overnight in Patzcuaro. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)
Day 8, Sunday, February 12: After breakfast, you have the day to yourself. Maybe you want to revisit sites around town or hire a private taxi to take you back to one of the artisan villages. We join together in early evening for a Grand Finale Dinner. (Breakfast and dinner included. Overnight in Patzcuaro.
Day 9: Monday, February 13: Transfer to the Mexico City airport. You may also choose to depart to Morelia airport or Guadalajara airport. Airport transportation is on your own. We will help you make arrangements. Breakfast included.
Shared Room: $3,360 each person, two beds
Single Room: $3,985 one person, one bed
Non-Refundable Deposit to Reserve: $500.
About your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Eric Chavez Santiago
Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican textiles and folk art with a special interest in artisan development and promotion. He is a weaver and natural dyer by training and a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa are founders of Taller Teñido a Mano dye studio where they produce naturally dyed yarn skeins and textiles for worldwide distribution. Eric is a business partner with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, too. He is trilingual, speaking Zapotec, Spanish and English and is a native of Teotitlan del Valle. He is a graduate of Anahuac University, founder of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca education department, and former managing director of folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture and community.
Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC founder, will accompany this group.
What is Included:
8 nights lodging
Expert bilingual guide services
Museums and archeological site admissions
Luxury van transportation
An educational experience of a lifetime
What is NOT Included:
Required international travel insurance
In-country COVID test
Required vaccines, PPE and hand-sanitizer
Any meals, snacks and taxis not specified in the itinerary
All alcoholic beverages, tips for guides and services, and personal purchases
Reservations and Cancellations. A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. You can make your reservation deposit using one of the following (please tell us which payment method you prefer):
Zelle bank transfer with no service fee
PayPal request for funds with a 3% service fee
Venmo request for funds with a 3% service fee
The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before September 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before December 1, 2022. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 1, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. After that, there are no refunds. If we cancel for whatever reason, you will receive a full refund.
The tour and COVID-19: Many believe that the epidemic is waning, however, data say otherwise. The virus continues to mutate. You are required to be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. Fully vaccinated is defined as all vaccinations required by the CDC including boosters. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before December 1, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and email it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 face masks when visiting artisans and it is strongly suggested that you use the mask when you are in crowds of people or indoors. We also use hand-sanitizer and practice social distancing while together. Please note: You MUST also provide proof of international travel insurance including $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.
Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room and how you want to make your deposit
Who Should Attend • Anyone who wants a bucket-list experience, who is interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into textile practices and traditions, and who appreciates artisan craft — weaving, embroidery, pottery. If you are a collector, come with us to go deep and find the best artisans. If you are a photographer or artist, come with us for inspiration. If you are an online retailer, come with us to buy and find the stories to market what you sell.
All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received by December 1, 2022 or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.
Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: While we are primarily transported by van, there will be some walking/hiking in the butterfly sanctuary and as we walk in towns and villages. In addition, many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear sturdy shoes.
If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.
Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. Adaptability, flexibility and respectfulness are essential. We encourage a no-whining attitude. There is adequate free time to go off on your own if you wish.
Posted onWednesday, November 17, 2021|Comments Off on Francisca’s French Knot Blouses + Rosario’s Embroidered Shoulder Bags: Holiday Shopping
Just in time for the holidays! Colorful hand-embroidered blouses and shoulder bags from Mexico, yours to gift or for festive wearing during the next few weeks and beyond.
Francisca is an expert in embroidered blouses using the French Knot technique. She lives in Aguacatenango, a small Chiapas village about an hour-and-a-half from San Cristobal de las Casas. I met her in the plaza some years back during one of our Chiapas textile study tours (there is one space open in the March 8-16, 2022 tour). Her work was far and away the best quality of all the women there, with dense embroidery, all hand-finished seams (no machine stitching in this garment), and 100% Mexican cotton cloth called manta. During Covid, when there were no tourists (and there aren’t that many now, either), I began to order blouses from her to help the family earn income. She sent me this group of all LONG SLEEVE blouses to Oaxaca and I brought them back in my luggage.
The blouses are perfect for winter in southern climates. In the colder north, layer a white HeatTec t-shirt underneath for warmth.
Rosario is a friend from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. I asked her to start making these colorful embroidered shoulder bags last year, also during covid. Her family lives in a humble, concrete block house ringed by a dirt patio. In the traditional way, she cooks outside on the comal — making tortillas, tamales, beans and squash — the staples of campesinos throughout Mexico. The bags are lined, have an interior pocket and zippered closure. They are fun to wear daily or make a delightful, whimsical addition to any festive occasion.
Ethical sourcing and fair trade. I pay both these women outright for what I order at the price they ask. No bargaining! No questions asked. The money goes in their pockets immediately and we can all feel better that we are supporting women and Mexican artisan craft. Francisca told me she can only make two blouses a month! It takes Rosario a month to embroider the pieces to make eight bags. They are embroidered front and back.
How to buy: mailto:email@example.com Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice after you ID your choices. The invoice will include the cost of the garment + $12 mailing. If you want more than one piece, I’m happy to combine mailing. I’ll be mailing from Taos, NM. Next day mailing guarantee if you order and buy before December 10. On December 11, I’m in transit to return to Oaxaca.
Size Medium/Large has an embroidered bodice that is 14” wide. Sleeve is 21” long from shoulder to cuff. (Longer sleeves this time!) 27” wide armpit to armpit. 28-1/2” long from shoulder to hem. $125 each.
Size Large/Extra Large has an embroidered bodice that is 16” wide. Sleeve is 21” long from shoulder to cuff. 29” wide armpit to armpit. 28-1/2” long from shoulder to hem. $135 each.
Care Instructions: Wash in cold water on delicate cycle in washing machine using a mild soap like Fels Naptha or baby shampoo. Do not use Woolite. Hang to dry. Use medium-hot iron to press. Or, dry clean.
SOLD 2. Blue, size L-XL.$135
Shown with Rosario’s shoulder bag.
SOLD. 4 Purple, size L-XL. $135
#5 Purple, size L-XL. $135
SOLD. 7. Red. Size L-XL. $135
Each bag is about 10” wide x 9” high and has a 44” strap that easily works as a cross-body bag.
Rosario is my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, friend who is an excellent embroiderer. I asked her to make more shoulder bags to send to me to offer to you. The dimensions are similar for all of them:
The bag is 8″x10″ (Because they are handmade, there is some variance.)
The shoulder strap is 43″ long. Use as a shoulder or cross-body bag.
They are lined and have an inside pocket.
The zipper is sturdy and easy to use.
The floral motif is carried over from front to back.
The embroidery is dense and detailed.
Each bag costs $58 plus $12 mailing. Total is $70. We can combine orders.
To Buy: Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, mailing address, item number and your payment preference. I will mark it SOLD. You can purchase using Venmo, Zelle, or PayPal. I will send you account information when you tell me you are ready to purchase.
I’ve known Rosario for years. She comes from a humble family that works hard to make ends meet. I have encouraged her to develop her sewing and needlework skills, and give her a new sewing machine a couple of year ago to help her sew dresses and blouses and to make these bags.
Thank you for supporting this handwork. It’s not too early, either, to start thinking about the season of gift giving and how special a handmade gift from Oaxaca would be!
I love this bag style. I’ve been using one like these for walks, hikes, and just everyday wear for the last year-and-a-half. It’s functional and versatile and colorful and cheerful. Just about everything fits — a coin purse, credit cards, lipstick, pen and notebook, hand sanitizer and alcohol spray, lipstick and moisturizer, kleenex, and even pepper spray — just in case!
So, before I moved from Durham to Taos, I designed and commissioned my Teotitlan del Valle friend and sewist/embroiderer Rosario to make 10 bags that Janet brought with her from Oaxaca. They got packed away for the move and now, I’ve unearthed them and they are for sale here.
Each bag is durable and one-of-a-kind. They are cotton, lined, have an inside pocked, a zipper closure, a 41″ cross-body shoulder strap. They can be washed inside-out in the washing machine on gentle cycle. Each bag body is approximately 9″x 9-1/4″ in size. Priced at $45 each. Buy 2 for $80.
Remember, these are hand-made and there may be slight imperfections. All sales are final. No exchanges or refunds.
How to Buy: Please email me email@example.com with your name, mailing address and item number. Tell me if you want to purchase with PayPal, Venmo, Zelle or Square. I will mark your choice(s) SOLD, send you a payment link and add $12 for cost of mailing.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
Click image to order yours!
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Our Clients Include
*Penland School of Crafts
*North Carolina State University
*WARP Weave a Real Peace
We offer textile experiences in our studio where we weave and work only in natural dyes.You can see the process during our textile tours, dye workshops or customized weaving experiences. Ask us for more information about these experiences, customized scheduling, and prices.
Oaxaca has the largest and most diverse textile culture in Mexico! Learn about it.
1-Day OaxacaCity Collectors Textile Tour.Exclusive Access! We take you into the homes and workshops of Oaxaca State's prize-winning weavers. They come from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Mixteca, Mixe, Amuzgos and Triqui areas and represent their weaving families and cooperatives here. For collectors, retailers, buyers, wholesalers, fashionistas.
1-Day Oaxaca Textile Walking Tour When you visit Oaxaca immerse yourself in our textile culture: How is indigenous clothing made, what is the best value, most economical, finest available. Suitable for adults only. Set your own dates.
February 5-13, 2023: Bucket List Tour: Monarch Butterflies + Michoacan. Spiritual, mystical connection to nature. Go deep into weaving, pottery, mask-making and more! We haven't offered this tour since 2019 and we anticipate it will sell out quickly. TWO SPACES OPEN
Stay Healthy. Stay Safe. In Oaxaca, wear your mask. Questions? Want more info or to register? Send an email to Norma Schafer.
Maps: Teotitlan + Tlacolula Market
We require 48-hour advance notice for map orders to be processed. We send a printable map via email PDF after order received. Please be sure to send your email address. Where to see natural dyed rugs in Teotitlan del Valle and layout of the Sunday Tlacolula Market, with favorite eating, shopping, ATMs. Click Here to Buy Map After you click, be sure to check PayPal to ensure your email address isn't hidden from us. We fulfill each map order personally. It is not automatic.
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle