Tag Archives: Museo Textil de Oaxaca

How to Make a Wool Felt Flower

Making a flower out of felted wool fiber is a simple art process that I learned during a workshop with Jessica de Haas, Canadian clothing designer, at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  No one else wanted to cut into their handmade felt cloth, but I took scissors in hand and cut away.  Here was my reward!

Scrunched and dried felted wool flowers

Felted Fashion Workshop: Making Wearable Art Oaxaca Style, Feb. 4-11, 2013


1.  First, I made a paper pattern.  I cut four circles.  Circle 1 is 6″ in diameter.  Circle 2 is 5″ in diameter.  Circle 3 is 4″ in diameter.  Circle 4 is 3″ in diameter.

2.  Then, I pinned each circle to the felt and cut.

3.  Starting with the largest circle, fold it in half and cut into the fold about 1/2″ on both sides.  Fold it in half the other way and make another cut about 1/2″ on both sides.  Keep doing this until you end up with 16 “petals.”  Trim each of the petals so that they look like a petal!

4.  Continue the same process with each of the remaining circles.

Flat felted wool flower before sewn together and scrunched. My petals are misshapen because the scissors wasn't very sharp! Get a sharp scissors.


5.  Stack the circles on top of each other, largest one on the bottom, smallest one on top.

6.  With needle and thread, sew the layers together in the center.

7.  Cut a 1″ to 1-1/2″ circle and place it in the center of the flower and sew it on, leaving an opening big enough to stuff tiny wool scraps into the center to look like a button.  (Did you know the center of a flower is called a stigma and in Spanish it’s Corolla?)

8.  Squeeze the flower from bottom so that the petals form a distinctive shape.

I made my flower when it was damp, so when I squeezed, it crunched up and took a 3-dimensional shape instead of a flat pancake (as shown above).  If you like, you can wet it completely in hot water, squeeze the water out gently with two hands, and then squeeze to shape.  Let air dry in the sun or on top of a clothes dryer.

9.  Sew to a hat or pin on a jacket or make a choker necklace out of it.

Supplies list:

  • A few sheets of paper (can be recycled printer paper)
  • A good, sharp scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Needle and thread
  • Scrap wool for button center (or use a button)
  • Optional: embellish with sequins or seed beads or random embroidery design

Felting Wool at Museo Textil de Oaxaca

Textiles and fiber arts are the primary reason I landed in Oaxaca. It started years ago when I learned to weave in San Francisco, California. Now that I am here in Mexico almost full-time, I get to take advantage of the great workshops at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca organized by education director Eric Chavez Santiago.

Yesterday was a felting workshop taught by Canadian designer and artist Jessica de Haas. She makes incredible felted clothing. Our task was to felt a piece of fabric and make a flower. I was the only one with guts enough to cut into the felt I made. The result, two flowers to adorn a hat or collar or whatever!



Jessica studied batik in Indonesia and has won numerous awards. She is in Oaxaca for an artists residency sponsored by Foundation Archetopia. She will have a show of her work at the textile museum on April 13, 6 pm. She may even be convinced to sell some pieces!

Felting wool is an ancient process that began in Mongolia. With a slide presentation to start, Jessica showed us the yurts, clothing, and blankets for humans and animals that originated there. She then showed us examples of her stunning work. Jessica has a retail store, Funk Shui in Vancouver, BC where she sells felted clothing and shibori.

I’ll be posting more about the felt making process as soon as I can get back to my computer keyboard!





Book Review: Weaving, Culture and Economic Development in Miramar, Oaxaca, Mexico

Book: Weaving Yarn, Weaving Culture, Weaving Lives: A Circle of Women in Miramar, Oaxaca, Mexico; published by Almadia, 2010; photography by Tom Feher, text by Judith Lockhart-Radtke; ISBN: 978-607-411-059-3

Book Review by Norma Hawthorne

Stunning photographs and intimate personal interviews of indigenous Mixtec women weavers accentuate what it means to keep culture, community, and weaving traditions alive in this remote mountain village of Oaxaca, Mexico.

One of my favorite photographs in this book is a close-up of the calloused, gritty soles of a woman’s feet elegantly peeking out from under the hem of a fanciful floral skirt as she sits on her knees.  While I only see her feet and hemline, I know she is at work weaving on a back strap loom.  It is a sensitive depiction of both the obstacles and the hopefulness of an ancient culture struggling to survive and thrive.

The glorious full-color photography is by Tom Feher and the written narrative is by Judith Lockhart-Radtke.  The book is a culmination of almost a decade of work between the volunteer group, The Circle of Women in Boston, MA, and what developed into a self-sustaining cooperative of women weavers in the Alta Mixteca, far from Oaxaca City.   The book was published to coincide with an exhibition for the weavers at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in 2010.  It documents and is a beautiful testimony  to a cultural interchange that encouraged learning and literacy, economic independence, and access to better health care.

Eleven Mixtec Women Share Their Life Stories in Their Own Words

The charm of this book is in its ethnographic storytelling.  Each of the eleven Miramar women who are members of the cooperative are interviewed and share their personal experiences about being a Mixtec woman, a weaver, a wife or mother or daughter.  Some are eloquent in describing the experience of their empowerment by learning to read and write. Others poignantly describe the pain of separation and isolation from husbands, sons, and brothers who are, by necessity, working in El Norte and sending money back where there is no work.

Through these visual and written stories we see and hear the struggles of poverty, deprivation, and limited access to health care.   We are also clearly reminded of the universality of womanhood: when women support each other through mutuality and connection they have much greater opportunity to thrive, especially in traditional patriarchal cultures where women have always been physically, economically and emotionally dependent.  The photographs are powerful, simple, and elegant. They are complete stories in and of themselves.

Text is in both English and Spanish

The layout of this book — left side of the page in English, right side in Spanish — creates a bridge to understanding.  The forwards by Ana Paula Fuentes Quintana, the director of the Textile Museum, and famed Mixteca singer-songwriter Lila Downs, add considerable heft to the story.  The book is definitely for those with an interest in women’s studies, grassroots organizing, intercultural exchange and the role of the outsider, economic development and sustainability, weaving, textile art and design, and anyone interested in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Effecting change and making a difference in another culture

Judith Lockhart-Radtke, a clinical social worker and writer, gives us an honest and clear account of the risks, rewards, disappointments, and joy for volunteers from other countries who want to make a difference and effect change. Ultimately, she reminds us, the generation of ideas and their implementation must originate from within to take root and have lasting impact.

The addendum, written in 2010, provides a concise summary of the village economy, the community’s approach to income earning and distribution, the ongoing challenges of maintaining a Boston-Oaxaca collaboration and a move to self-sufficiency, and the impediments to bringing these handmade textiles to foreign markets.

For Information and Book Orders – Contact: Judith Lockhart-Radtke, President of The Circle of Women, Boston, MA; judithlockhartradtke@gmail.com









Oaxaca and Family Travel

A reader just wrote to me with the following questions: Is Oaxaca safe for families? and What do we do once we get there?

I think you will find Oaxaca a very welcoming place for families.  A friend, her husband and two pre-teens lived in Oaxaca for a year “on sabbatical” to have a different cultural experience and learn the language.  A colleague of mine at UNC Chapel Hill who is a cancer researcher returned from Oaxaca over the winter holidays where she went for two weeks with her husband and high school-aged daughter.  Another reader just spent several weeks in Mexico with his family, starting in Mexico City, visiting Puebla and Oaxaca, and staying in Teotitlan del Valle.  We see families in Oaxaca all the time.  Of course, the caveat is that it is important to be mindful of your surroundings where ever one travels; the same precautions you take for Europe apply to Oaxaca.

Off the top of my head, there are many things for children to do and enjoy in Oaxaca:

  1. The Ethnobotanical Gardens
  2. The archeological sites of Monte Alban and Mitla — climbing the pyramids
  3. The Museo Textil de Oaxaca (the textile museum)
  4. A stay in the family-friendly village of Teotitlan del Valle to hike, learn about weaving and take a cooking class with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz
  5. The hubbub of market days; nothing beats popping a crispy chapuline in your mouth!  Fried, spicy grasshoppers never tasted so good.
  6. Cooking classes for kids with Pilar Cabrera at Casa de los Sabores Cooking School and Bed & Breakfast
  7. Francisco Toledo kites at IAGO and a visit to the paper-making studio in San Augustin Etla
  8. The sights and sounds of street vendors and musicians
  9. A steaming, frothy cup of Oaxacan hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe on the Zocalo

Plus lots more.  A feature was written in the last year or two about the most family-friend places to visit and Oaxaca came to the top of the list.  I don’t have the link but you could research that.  I wrote about it on my website.

The textile museum offers regular workshops for children and for parents and children together.  You could take a weaving workshop together in Teotitlan del Valle and learn about natural dyes.  There is also an English speaking Spanish tutor in Teotitlan that I can refer you to, if you wanted to spent a few days out there at Las Granadas in the tranquility of the Oaxaca countryside.  Las Granadas is a family owned and operated bed and breakfast, with two pre-teen boys!

All in all, I think you and your family would love it.


Readers:  Do you have any other suggestions for family travel and fun in Oaxaca?


It’s a Rainy Day in Oaxaca

The canvas roof that covers the courtyard of La Provincia hotel (Calle Porfirio Diaz #108) is a symphony of raindrops.  It is pouring, and the forecast is rain for the next two days.  This means that our plans to go to Monte Alban and Atzompa today may not materialize.   We shall see.

First, a moment about this hotel.  It is a 3-1/2 star, rated by Conde Nast, two blocks from the Zocalo, and extraordinary.  There are two inner courtyards filled with plants,  contemporary art that is a juxtaposition to the colonial Spanish architecture, a great little restaurant, and lovely rooms.  I booked this hotel on hotels.com and got a great rate of $129 per night.  Sharing with my friend brought the price down to an affordable $65 per night, including a breakfast of scrambled eggs, tortillas Suizas, fresh bread with homemade apple jam, sweet cakes, incredible coffee, and gracious service.   I would highly recommend staying here.

Yesterday was a whirlwind.  First, a walk to Marco Polo on Cinco de Mayo in the historic center for breakfast, then arrival at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in time for the 10 a.m. opening of the special exhibit and sale of weavings from Chiapas.  A group of French people, originally from Lyon, have been working with weavers from Chiapas for the last fifteen years developing a textile cooperative called El Camino in their village for sustainable development.  They exhibit and sell in Paris, Mexico City and now Oaxaca.  The textiles are finely woven cotton in striking colors and come in an array of styles:  handbags, pillow covers, baby bibs, shawls and scarves, and tablecloths.  The villagers are handling their own production now and all the sales go directly to the weavers.  It was hard to limit my acquisitions, and I keep reminding myself that it’s good to buy textiles, they don’t break in shipment!

Next, we walked up Cinco de Mayo to visit Janet Chavez Santiago in her Galleria Fe y Lola, and stopped in next door to say hello to Ale and Tito at El Nahual.  Mucho caminando.  Along the way, Erica poked into a new shop at the corner selling amber jewelry from Chiapas and got a stunning necklace for about $35USD.  We were told that the Chiapas amber is all natural, untreated and has lots of bugs and inclusions.  It is beautiful.

After walking around the neighborhood, going in and out of galleries, we had lunch on the Zocalo at Terra Nova, a great spot for people watching.  We came back to the room for a rest and a change of clothes before going out again.   Our hope was to get a taxi to Arrazola but it was too late in the day, so we decided to treat ourselves to manicures and I added a pedicure.  Manicure was 130 pesos and pedicure was 140 pesos.  Total bill with tip was 300 pesos for both, which came to about $25 USD.

At 7 p.m. we met up with Stephanie, a friend who is living in Oaxaca for two months,  at Casa Oaxaca on Constituccion.  We settled into the deep leather seats in the bar and I had the most delicious mango Margarita ever!  The glass was rimmed in salt and guisano chile.  Yum, yum.   We settled in and decided to stay there for dinner.  Erica’s shrimp was the best dish among the three of us.  I had the vegetarian lasagna with spinach sauce and Stephanie had the cannelloni with an overly sweet béchamel sauce.

As we walked back to our hotel stopping to hear the flamenco music at Nuevo Babel on Calle Porfirio Diaz.  It was a great day.