I have been looking for a hand woven huipil to buy since I’ve arrived in Oaxaca de Juarez in December 2014.  I finally found one! 

black cotton three panel huipil with coyuche and purpura pansa brocade

I found it at the Festval of Artisans that the state organized just above the Santo Domingo Church for Holy Week. 

I do have my criteria:

  • Back strap woven
  • Good craftsmanship 
  • Three panels
  • A colorway that I would wear
  • A size that I feel comfortable in. 

The size has been the stumbling block. Most are made for Señoritas, I need twice as wide to feel comfortable.  I did a turn of the whole festival and came back to an Amuzgo booth. She had many beautiful, well woven huipiles. Mostly on a natural or off- white ground, which looks lovely with their black hair but I don’t much like with my all white hair, too monochromatic.   She did have a pale pink one that looked a little greyed and a Mexican Rose one with black brocade. I love Mexican Rose but the craftsmanship  of this one wasn’t top quality, particularly in the construction. She had an elegant black on black  huipil, sized for a small señorita. 😟

She hung up a very beautiful  huipil in a cinnamon brown with natural colored brocade.   It was very fine brocade and the colors were spectacular, the brocade almost looked golden. Very elegant and special. When she got it down so I could see it closer I recognized the color as that from nanche, a tree that has an edible fruit and the bark can be used for dyeing. Unfortunately the nanche color had already stained parts of the natural colored threads that were used for brocade and construction. Yes, it was natural dye but it was not well dyed. 

Reluctantly I left that booth and went to a booth that had some lovely small utility cloths with brocade style I associate with San Juan Colorado, but wasn’t from San Juan. There were several styles of brocade in the booth, which I think was a coop. Some pieces had women’s names on them, which I thought was the maker’s name. She began showing me huipiles too and some were lovely but small. She finally showed me a “large” three panel black huipil with brocade in coyuche, that is always hand spun, and purpura pansa, the seashell violet. Excellent workmanship.  Price I could afford. Perfect except it was too small. She thought it was big enough, but I insisted that it was only as wide as the top I had on and the top had slits from the waist down. The black huipil was ankle length and I had to convince her that it was going to catch on my hips so I wouldn’t wear it.  As I was ready to walk away she said she had a very large one.  I said let me see it, she had to root around a bit to find it and when I saw it it was perfect. Big enough, well made, black ground with Leno and coyuche and purpura pansa brocade.  It is now mine!


detail with purpura pansa dyed yarn used for brocade and construction

The ground cloth is 16/2 black cotton in plain weave and leno. The cloth is light weight and drapes well. Not hot because of the open work, leno. Each panel has a few warps of purpura at each side selvage. The panels are joined by hand with a faggoting stitch in the same purpura.  The neck edge is carefully made and decorated with the same purpura dyed yarn. 

The purpura dyed yarn is commercially spun yarn that is taken to the seaside. The wet yarn is held in the hand and the sea snails are pried from the rocks and their excretions rubbed on the yarn. The snails are returned to their rock. The secretions slowly change color, in the sun and air , until the yarn is a pale red- violet color. 
The coyuche is a brown cotton that grows here. It is short staple and thus hand spun.  Both colors are from prehispanic times. 

The brocade technique is discontinuous inlay. This inlay is done with the weft turns on the top making tiny scalloped edges around each motif. 

  • detail of the brocade with coyuche and purpura

This brocade style has a neat backside that is only slightly different from the front. 


here is the fourth selvage carachteristic of back strap weaving and the neat backside of the brocade

 Blessing on the weaver that made my cherished huipil!


Rebozo weaver

16 March 2016

Yesterday the Museo Textil de Oaxaca had a midday celebration to honor a 90 year old rebozo weaver from near Mexico City, Evaristo Borboa.  


Señor Evaristo was weaving in the interior courtyard of the museum, a beautiful space with natural light and many pillars. 

He weaves jaspe or ikat rebozos in cotton. 

  He weaves standing. As you can see the warp is wider than he is, 28-30″ would be my guess.   It must take a lot of upper body strength to open the sheds and standing allows him more leverage.  

These rebozos are large, 28-30″ wide by  90+ ” long by our standards but because they are light and drapey they are just the right size to wrap yourself  up. 

The resist dyed design is in the warp and to show it off the cloth is warp- faced.  The warp threads are ultra- fine mercerized cotton; the final cloth feels and drapes like silk. I can’t even guess at how many threads there are in this warp. Each one has been dyed and placed in order to create the design. 
Here you can see both the woven cloth and the unwoven warp.   If you have trouble finding the fell line look for the bottom edge of the sword or machete. Farther from the fell line the pattern on the warp is less visible, all you see are tiny spots.  This is just plain weave folks, but there is nothing plain about this. 

 If you are observant you can see that his loom is set up to weave four selvages. The final rebozos all have long elonorate fringes. 

My conclusion is that the fringe is added after weaving. This maybe the reason that other ikat rebozos have incongruent colors in the fringe. 

Here is a video of Señor Evaristo weaving.   Interesting to me is how he uses his sword to open the heddled shed.   I first noticed the hump in the warp threads when he took out the sword to open the heddled shed, then I watched it form. 

Señor Evaristo has been weaving for 83 years. That is longer than most of us have been talking, weaving must be as second nature for him as talking is for us. 

A finishing transformation

28 February 2015


I brought two pieces of this cloth back with me from Oaxaca.  Señor Esteban, of the Taller Sabino & Vásquez made these on his floor loom with a fly shuttle.  The warp is a fine cotton, maybe 40/2, natural.  The colored weft is a heavier singles used doubled.  The bands are overshot.  It looks to me like these pieces were just cut off the loom and a light colored zigzag stitch was sewn across the ends.

The light color of the thread used to sew across calls attention to the wefts below it that are drifting downwards.  The warp selvages are denser than the body of the cloth making the selvages look whiter and drawing attention to every bright pink irregularity.  I think that is about all you see in this piece, I have a hard time seeing the hand woven cloth because of all these distractions.   So I decided to finish these pieces so that they could be on a table, say under a vase of flowers.  That means that I want them to lay flat and that if I set something on them , like a glass, the glass won’t fall over  because of the cloth.  No lumpy bumpy finishing.

First I tried knotting the fringe but it is just too wimpy to look good. I only like fringe that lays orderly and this never will.  So I cut it off with the serger.  I also cut off the warp selvages so that all four sides are the same.


All edges have been serged with natural colored thread.


Not that this is finished but I think it already looks a lot better, even with it serger tails.   Then I turned under the serged edge and machine basted it in place with matching thread.  The top side looks tidier, on the back side you can see the serged edge.  This would make an acceptable finish or you could turn it under one more time and machine stitch again.  I would make the second turn wider to keep the edge from being narrow and three layers thick.


But I think that I will add a crochet edging around the piece.  I have #10 crochet cotton that matches the color of the natural warp and a penetrating crochet hook to make a base row of single crochet.  The turned under hem makes for a substantial edge to anchor the crochet stitches and helps to align the penetrating stitch.  On the back it covers the serged edge.  The trick is to get the right number of stitches in the base row so that the cloth lays flat.  Too few stitches and the edge pulls in the cloth and makes it buckle and too many stitches and the edging ruffles a bit.

Then I tried several edgings, all flat.  The geometric one is nice but maybe too wide so I decided on the triple picot  one.  I just want to finish the piece not add a lace edging.

crochet edge geometricIMG_3235


The time consuming part is the first row, then it goes quickly.  IMG_3247

So here I have finished all the crochet but not yet washed and ironed it. The washing compacted the crochet.  The overshot bands pulled in too making inward curves  but while ironing I managed to stretch them back out.  So the finished piece is here:


The blue piece got an even smaller edging, just a simple picot.


The colors are cheery, a way to add a bright spot in this grey cold weather.  The first color is called rosa mexicana, that that one I’m keeping.

Quite a transformation, at least to me.