Natural Brown Cotton Textiles from Central America

8 April 2013

Today we were invited to see some textiles from a collector in Dayton. I was told that he had some Central Asian ikats. He does, including a velvet silk ikat. But after a few rugs and some costumes he took up upstairs to see the real textile collection. There were too many pieces and too little time. I will share a few with you today.

The first piece he pulled out was a huipil from Central America, probably Guatemala or near-by.

Huipil with natural brown cotton

The brown color is from a brown cotton still grown in parts of Mexico and Guatemala and considered special. The huipil is a woman’s tunic of Maya origins and still made and worn by indigenous women today. My guess is that the brown cotton is hand-spun. The huipil is woven in two equal panels on a backstrap loom. It is folded over the shoulder and sewn together in the center front and back and under the arms. The round opening for the head is finished with a commercial ribbon and the seams are sewn on the inside. The piece appears to be recently made and in pristine state.

Here is another huipil with brown cotton, warp stripes and brocaded. Again I would guess that the brown cotton is hand-spun. It has been woven in two equal sized panels on a backstrap loom. You can see the terminal area of weaving at the bottom of the second picture down, you can see the stripes get a little jagged. Brocading is sort of embroidery done on the loom. It uses a suppelementary weft and the design is pick-up by the weaver. The neckline is also finished with commercial ribbon.

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This is a close up to see the brocade detail. The color scheme of the ground cloth is very similar to the first, unbrocaded huipil, which would lead me to the suspect that they both were made in the same community. This also appears to have been made recently and unworn. I hope this weaver is wearing an even better huipil.

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This is another piece with stripes of the natural brown cotton but in a very different color scheme. This appears to be a corte, which is a tubular skirt that is worn with a huipil.
You can see the seam in this piece.
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In this close up you can see what might be a hand-spun texture to the brown cotton stripes. You can also see that white dotted stripes are ikat stripes, possibly indigo on natural white cotton. Ikat is a resist dyeing of the threads before it is woven. Most ikat textiles are hand-woven.

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