The Weaver of the Day

21 December 2014

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Yesterday, after my workshop finished I went to see the textiles for sale at Expo-venta in a beautiful old alleyway to an old church near the Museo Textil. It is outdoors and the pavement is bricks with grass, see if you can’t catch a glimpse of it in a pic. There were only
a few textile booths but there were also two backstrap weavers, Amuzgo, from the looks of their huipiles and weaving. They didn’t seem very fluent in Spanish, or my accent threw them for a loop, so verbal communication was minimal. But when I showed interest in their looms they started showing me things. This weaver has on a beautiful, after all it is hot pink, huipil that I assume she wove.

Her huipil is made of 3 panels and the seams and arm openings are covered by ribbons. It has been woven on a backstrap loom, white cotton warp and weft, with pick-up brocade, discontinuous inlay on an open shed to be exact, and the ground cloth is plain weave. The cloth is not warp-faced but I did not touch it so I can’t say if it was a balanced plain weave. The cut neck opening is finished with a crocheted edging in a dark color.

She then showed me her loom and unrolled it so that I could see what she had already woven.

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It looks like the central panel for a huipil, the one that is most heavily brocaded. The brocade colors are coyuche( a local cotton that is brown and has to be hand spun), natural white cotton and indigo dyed warp and weft. The design is traditional and very elegant in this subdued colorway. You can see her sword that she uses to open sheds and beat under the loom.

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Here she is with her loom before she unrolled it to show me the completed work. You can see from the top of the loom (at the left of the photo) the indigo warp, note how open it is, not going to make a warp faced cloth, then the shed rod that forms one shed, the continuous string heddles (dark color string) on a rod used to form the second shed. Then you can see her wooden sword. She is weaving the cloth face down so that all the ends of the brocading wefts are facing her and you can see the tails. Then there is the stick that is the end of the loom where the warp is lashed on and another stick to roll up the woven cloth. Her backstrap can be seen at the right end of the cloth roll and looks to be straw. I see balls of yarn that she is using to her right, one of brown coyuche and the other one indigo. She has brought a mat to sit on and water to drink. She sits on the mat with her legs extended.

Here is a video of her younger companion weaving. This weaving has bands of leno interspersed with the brocade so she has an extra string heddle for the leno twist rows.

Well, trying to upload the video crashed the whole app, which I deleted and reinstalled. So here is just a photo.

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You can see in the photo the two string heddles, and that she seems to be sitting comfortably with her legs extended. She is actually inserting the brocading wefts, the shed is held open with the sword and she is using a pick to seat the extra weft where she wants it.

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