Tag Archives: native cotton

Textil Zacoalpan, Native Mexican Cotton Becomes Glorious Cloth

On our first tour day, we make our way to Ometepec, Guerrero, where we spend the first night on the road after traveling north on MEX 200, the coastal highway to Acapulco and beyond. Early the next morning, after breakfast, we travel about a hour northeast to the tiny village of Zacoalpan where we meet Jesus Ignacio and his family.

Ignacio was educated as an engineer and graduated with a four-year college degree but could not find work without moving far away from his family, something he didn’t want to do.

So, he picked up his smart phone, started an Instagram page, and that’s how I found him four years ago. Visiting him, his mother Porfiria, and his aunts is a highlight of our tour. They are humble, and are one of two families in the village who still grow their own cotton. They weave glorious cloth.

The women pick, clean, beat, hand-spin, and weave this native cotton. Ignacio has researched ancient designs, collected pieces of huipiles that have survived over the last fifty years, and the family has introduced them into their iconography. While it is possible to purchase directly from him from the IG page, seeing the garments in person, as well as hearing the weaving stories in the family, makes this a special visit.

Let us know if you want to come with us in 2025. We will be scheduling this tour again soon. Send us an email to express your interest.

Give Meaning: Las Sanjuaneras Textiles from Oaxaca–Handmade, Heartfelt

A handmade, hand-woven textile from Oaxaca is a meaningful gift this year when so few tourists are there to support artisans. Instead of taking you into remote villages to meet the makers this year, I am bringing what they make to the USA to offer them to you. Please support them.

Today’s Sale Features Las Sanjuaneras Cooperative

Read about the Las Sanjuaneras Cooperative here!

We can collectively help alleviate the economic ravages of Covid-19 this way. Please consider helping the women who make these beautiful garments by making a purchase either for yourself or for a loved one. These are one-of-a-kind treasures.

SOLD. #2. Brisaida. Indigo, almond bark. 31×52″ $525

Made-by-hand means:

  1. Growing the organic, native cotton in small mountain plots.
  2. Cleaning, carding and then spinning the cotton with the drop spindle (malacate).
  3. Picking locally sourced plant materials for natural dyes; buying cochineal and indigo from specialty farmers.
  4. Making the dye baths and dyeing the threads.
  5. Dressing the back-strap loom.
  6. Weaving the threads on the ancient back-strap loom.
  7. Hand-sewing the wefts of cloth together with intricate stitches to make a garment.
  8. Washing and pressing the finished textile.
  9. Packing it up and mailing it to us to prepare for you.

Measurements: First number is width. Second number is length. Width is measure across the front, side seam to side seam.

#12. Brisaida. 30×21″ $320

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services–so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.

SOLD. #5. Camerina. Indigo + ferrous oxide. 27×21″ $295.
SOLD #4. Camerina. Indigo. Medium weight. 29×33″ $320

Where is Las Sanjuaneras Cooperative located? At the end of a winding mountain road up from MEX 200 on the coast at Pinotepa Nacional is the weaving village of San Juan Colorado. It’s about four hours from Puerto Escondido and is part of our Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour 2022 (next year). Meanwhile, we can support this talented group while we wait until it is safe to travel again!

SOLD. #9. Josefina. 36×24″ Medium weight. $350
SOLD. #3. Andrea. Indigo + Native Cotton Gauze. 33×42″ $445.

Textile Care: Dry clean or wash by hand. To wash, turn garment inside out. Immerse in cold water using a mild soap such as Fels Naptha or baby shampoo. Don’t use Woolite — it leeches color. Gently massage the cloth. Squeeze and roll in a towel to absorb excess water. Hang to dry. Use medium steam heat to iron if needed.

#11. Claudia. Marigold, medium weight. 35×40″ $425.
#10. Claudia. Iron oxide, mahogany. Medium weight. 36×37″ $425
SOLD. #7. Andrea. Indigo, mahogany gauze. 34×27″ $340

Return Policy: We support artisans and funds get transferred immediately. There are no returns or refunds. This is a final sale.

SOLD. #14 Finely woven, iron oxide. 34×39″ $325
#15. Iron oxide + indigo. 30×34″ $285
Picking native green cotton in San Juan Colorado
#8. Camerina. 31×21-1/2″ Brazilwood, nanche. $295

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! — DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.

SOLD. #19. Andrea. Marigold, chocolatillo. 35-1/2×24″. $295.
#16. Aurora. Beet, mahogany, nanche, almond, iron oxide. 38×22″ $325.
SOLD. #17 Margarita. Marigold, iron oxide, beet, brazilwood. 22-3/4×35″ $185.
SOLD. #18. Aurora. 19×28″. Nanche, mahogany, almond, beet. $195.

Beating Wild Cotton on the Oaxaca Costa Chica

We’ve been traveling on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica for the past four days. This is the stretch of territory that starts at Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Ocean and goes north to Acapulco along Mexico’s Highway 200.

Women of the Jini Nuu Cooperative, San Juan Colorado, wear posahuanco skirts

A highlight of our 12-day Oaxaca Textile Study Tour that started in the central valleys of Oaxaca, was a visit to San Juan Colorado, a remote Mixtec village at the end of the road in the fold of a mountain above Oaxaca’s coast.

Taking the seeds out of the coyuchi native brown cotton

In this weaving village, women work with three varieties of native cotton: coyuchi, natural and green. They use natural dyes from tree bark, flowers, indigo and cochineal.

Native Oaxaca pre-Hispanic cotton, coyuchi brown and green

Interested in going in 2019? Send me an email.

Our breakfast at the cooperative–sopes, eggs with hierba santa

On occasion, they will insert thread dyed with purple that comes from the caracol púrpura snail, endangered and harvested from ocean outcroppings of rock. Legally, only a few indigenous men are licensed to harvest the snail. They gently squeeze the ink onto cotton or silk and return the live snail to its home.  Poachers threaten its existence.

Zenobia Zenaida beats cotton to soften and lengthen the fibers

They weave geometric designs on back-strap looms using a supplementary weft technique of counting and adding threads to the cloth. Their work is prized and many whom we met are featured on posters that hang on the walls of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca education department.

Cloth woven on back strap loom with supplemental weft

Cotton is prepared by first washing it, drying it and removing the seeds.  A woven palm leaf mat, called a petate, is draped over a roll of corn husks that is tied with a long palm frond.  Everyone here knows how to clean, wash and beat cotton.  Not everyone spins using the drop spindle malacate. It is a special skill.

Detail of weft thread counting to add supplemental weft design

Seventy-five year old Zenobia Zenaida Lorenzo is the cotton beating expert  her cotton is the softest and easiest to spin, all the women agree. Beating the cotton achieves the same result as using a carder for wool.

Dale tries her hand at cotton beating–force and rhythm

Work is differentiated by gender.  The men grow and harvest cotton, planting in August and harvesting in December.  They make the wood tools and parts for the back strap loom.  Women weave in between cooking, cleaning and caring for children.

Spinning and cleaning wool in San Juan Colorado

Identity is interwoven with cloth here. Women imbed ancient symbols of fertility and images of the natural world into the cloth. Each adapts a uniform design to make her own fabric unique.

Welcome to the Jini Nuu Cooperative of 300 women, existing since1990

Traditional traje, or dress, consisted of a back strap loomed skirt woven with cotton dyed with cochineal (red), indigo (blue), and purple (caracol purpura). The weather is hot and steamy.

Corn husk roll, cover it with a petate for beating cotton

Marsha tries the back strap loom, leans back against the strap, comfortable

This is a traditional topless culture. Today, in the regional market, we see a few older women covered with gauze transparent shawls, doubled and draped over their bosom.

Now, it’s time to shop. Denise has her hand on a huipil with all natural dyes

Remote villages throughout Mexico have been able to keep their traditions and identity because of their isolation from the contemporary world. Now, very few places are inaccessible and the pressure to conform with western clothing is intense.

I get in on it, too, with help from Zenobia Zenaida