A black and white huipil

18 January 2015

Saturday is market day in Oaxaca and I went.  I came home with many things but what I want to share right now is a black and white, hand woven, cotton huipil that I bought.


If it looks a lot like a black and white tencel scarf I wove, you’re right.  I do like B&W geometric designs.
This is a huipil, which means that it is a rectangular garment with no shaping.  This one is made from two panels of cloth  and seamed down the center front and under the arms.  The hole for the head is cut into the cloth.

I’m going to discuss the details because of how it is made because there are so many questions asked about how to transform hand woven cloth into something to wear.  These people have been doing it for hundreds, if not thousands of years. 

First the cloth is sturdy but not thick nor stiff.  I doubt it has been washed (warp faced cloth changes very little when washed).  It is warp-faced cloth with stripes and brocade.  The motifs and sleeve embellishment are brocade.  The warp appears to be mercerized (because it is smooth and shiny) 8/2 cotton.  I have not been able to count the warps/inch in the poor light since I have been home, I will try tomorrow in the daylight.  But I made some warp -faced cloth of of 8/2 unmercerized cotton sett at 50epi and the 8/2 tencel ( a much slippery fiber) was sett at 60epi, so I would guess that it is some where in that range. 
The brocaded motifs are discontinuous overlay/underlay; that means that a separate piece of supplemental  weft yarn was used for each motif and that the brocading weft is either on top of the ground cloth or under it. 


The black brocading weft does not show through the ground cloth because it is so dense.  The appearance of sleeves ( there aren’t really any sleeves) is made by some heavy brocade  on the outer edge of the panel at the point where the panel folds over the shoulder. 


The is no front or back to this garment, both sides are identical. 
The horizontal bars are made in the warp; all the threads in one shed are white and all the threads in the other shed are all black producing alternating black and white bars.
The symmetry of the piece is a mirror symmetry, I don’t know if it was one or two warps.  I never noticed the seam down the center front until I got home and started looking at the inside for seams.


It is well planned in the warping and the seam is not noticeable.  The selvages of the panels are hand sewn together with a tiny overcast seam.  The seam is barely 1/8″ wide and is on the inside and not bulky or obtrusive.  The center front seam is sewn with the black warp yarn and the side seam with white.


I took out some of the side seam to make a vent at the bottom.
Here is a picture of the inside showing both the front center seam and the brocade.


Both the neck-hole and the bottom edge are just cut.   The hem is made by folding bottom edge over twice, about 2 picks worth, then hand stitching it down with the same yarn.  The neckline  appears to be folded over once and densely covered with button hole stitch using the same black yarn as in the piece.


The neckline seems robust.

This is a large huipil, some of these women here are tiny.  Each panel is 13.5″ wide for a total circumference of 54″ and the length from shoulder to hem is 25.75″.

To weave this as one warp I would make the warp 13.75″ wide (there is very little pull in in warp faced cloth) .  The length of each finished panel is 51.5″ and there are two of them for a total of 103″ woven.  Warp faced weaving has a lot of take up in warp so add 20% or 20″ and then your loom waste, say 12″.  Total warp length, 103″+20″+18″= 141″ or 3.9 yds.  All you have to do is get the brocade motifs and sleeves in the right place.
All sewing was done by hand, with a needle and the same yarn as was used in the weaving.


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