For three days I am immersed in natural dyes with Elsa Sanchez Diaz who teaches our Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshops through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. We make 32 different colors starting with a base of gray and white natural wool.
The natural plant and vegetable materials we dye with include palo de brazil (Brazilwood), nogal (walnut), cochineal (the red insect found on the prickly pear cactus paddle), caoba (mahogany bark), palo de aguila (alderwood bark), palo de mora (fustic), pericone (wild marigold), granada (pomegranate) and añil (indigo).
Using a combination of base dyes and over-dyes, we make color variations of red, purple, orange, pink, yellow, green and blue. Based on the wool color and number of dips into the dye bath, the color will be light or intense.
For the complete three-day workshop, the first day is mostly preparation of the materials, starting with making the skeins of yarn. We learn about the history of natural dyes in Mexico, how the pre-Hispanic indigenous people used the dyes, and the symbols of the colors.
(We also offer One and Two-Day Dye Workshops)
To understand the entire dye process, Elsa says that it is important to begin with all the basic preparation steps. This is a time-consuming process and to be a natural dyer one must have patience. This is something we learn in Mexico daily.
On the street below the rooftop terrace where we work sheltered from the sun at the outdoor dye studio, I hear the sound of a high-pitched whistle. It’s the knife sharpener, Elsa says. Other street sounds signal the coming of the gas man and tortilla vendor.
Elsa says even when she uses the same recipes, the color will vary slightly each time. This is handmade, after all! Color intensity depends on the pH of the water, the dryness, age or freshness of the plants and fruits, and the natural shade of the wool. This is chemistry, for sure.
Plus, when there are natural tannic acids in some materials like mahogany, indigo, fustic and pomegranate, the color is stronger.
Day One is a complete introduction to the two most frequently used dyes, pericone and pomegranate, and getting into the mindset of natural dyes, says our participant Rhiannon, a textile and jewelry designer from Canada. But, you don’t have to be experienced or a professional to learn … and have fun with color.
Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop. We can schedule your experience when you come to Oaxaca.
Pop-Up Sale: Oaxaca Quechquemitl, Mexico Stylish Scarf/Poncho
This pop-up clothing sale features the indigenous Mexico short poncho or triangular bodice cover-up called a quechquemitl in the Nahuatl language, used by pre-Hispanic women throughout the country.
It’s my favorite accessory and that’s why I have too many of them! Slip one over your head, and your shoulders and bodice are covered beautifully, even if you are only wearing a tank-top or halter. It’s a one-piece scarf, too, that never falls off!
My 2011 Quechquemitl Blog Post
How to Wear a Quechquemitl
Here I am offering — in like-new, rarely worn condition — some beautiful indigenous clothing made by women and men in Oaxaca villages, most made with natural dyes, some hand-spun native cotton. As you might expect, they are from some of Oaxaca’s finest weavers, dyers and designers.
All prices include shipping within 48 U.S. states! Send me an email and tell me which piece(s) you want. I’ll email you a PayPal invoice. Purchases must be made by June 30. I will ship from Santa Fe, New Mexico after July 7.
Native, rare Oaxaca coyuchi cotton quechquemitl, hand-trimmed in green, $125 USD
1B. Coyuchi hand-spun wild cotton quechquemitl, close-up
Note about coyuchi cotton: This is rare, wild native cotton grown in the high mountains of Oaxaca that separates the valley and the coast.
2. SOLD. This pericone (wild marigold) dyed quechquemitl (below) is exactly the same style as the one above, made in San Sebastian Rio Hondo by Khadi Oaxaca. It is golden-yellow and the hand weaving shows the variegation of the process. One size. $145 USD.
Pericone and indigo quechquemitl, hand-spun cotton, soft gold and variegated blue
Pericone quechquemitl with indigo blue cotton thread. $145 USD
3. Below. Pericone/indigo/coyuchi dress, size M/L. I made a pattern from a favorite Dosa dress and have sewed it multiple times with French seams, patch pockets, and lots of designer detailing and hand stitching. For this dress, I bought hand-spun cotton fabric from Khadi Oaxaca that is hand-woven and dyed with wild marigold, indigo and integrates native coyuche cotton. $165 USD.
3B. Detail, Dosa-inspired dress with Khadi Oaxaca fabric
Here is the full dress below.
3A. Size M/L dress made with Khadi Oaxaca handspun + woven cotton. $165 USD
4. Alfredo Orozco nut-dyed quechquemitl, below, is woven on a flying shuttle pedal loom in the deshillado technique, which means there is an open-weave. You can see the detail in photo 4B. This one is more pale beige than brown. Touches of cream-colored ikat add interest. One size. $85 USD.
Hand-woven, nut-dyed Orozco quechquemitl with ikat warp threads, $85 USD
Below is the weave detail of the fabric above. Finish work is done by Alfredo’s wife Veronica on the sewing machine.
4B. Orozco beige quechquemitl detail with open weave.
5. SOLD. Below, same Orozco style as #4, but with indigo blue dyed threads to add detail of design. One size fits all, $85 USD.
Orozco quechquemitl with nut and indigo dyes. Detail is with open weave. $85 USD
#5B. Orozco nut/indigo dyed quechquemitl, more beige than photo shows. $85 USD
6. Melon colored cotton top, below, size medium, from the Oaxaca shop of Remigio Mestas, Los Baules de Juana Cata, the finest in town. Machine chain stitching, commercial thread, signed by back-strap loom weaver. $75
Cotton top from Remigio Mestas’ Los Baules de Juana Cata, $75 USD
6B. Detail of cotton top from Remigio Mestas
7. SOLD. Turquoise quechquemitl, one size, with machine chain stitch detailing, hand-finished seams and hem. From the best shop in Oaxaca, Los Baules de Juana Cata and Remigio Mestas. $125 USD.
Quechquemitl in brilliant turquoise from Remigio Mestas, one size, $125 USD
7B. Detail of turquoise quechquemitl. Not discolored, just photo light variations.
8. Wine Red Quechquemitl, below, from Los Baules de Juana Cata and Remigio Mestas who personally works with indigenous weavers and embroiderers to make the finest garments. One size. $125 USD.
Wine Red Quechquemitl, one size, $125 USD, from the shop of Remigio Mestas
Detail of wine red quechquemitl from Remigio Mestas’ Oaxaca shop
Let me know which one you would like to purchase by number — send me an email. I’ll be going to the USA in early July and will mail to you via USPS after July 7. Thank you very much!
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Textiles, Tapestries & Weaving
Tagged clothing, cotton, fashion, indigenous, Khadi, Mexico, natural dye, Oaxaca, poncho, quechquemitl, sale, scarf, shawl, textile, Women