How to grind chocolate

29 October 2017

In Oaxaca chocolate is second only to corn in the traditional cuisine.  A friend told me that the gods gave corn for daily substance and chocolate for fiestas.

Traditionally one can buys cocoa beans in the market and prepares them to your own taste.  (Do you know what cacao beans look like?)  First they are toasted over a wood fire on a round ceramic griddle (comel)  also used to prepare tortillas, the substance of every meal here.

Here, in the center you can see the place to toast beans. The brush like thing, made from local plants, is used to push the beans around on the hot griddle.  How you proceed next depends on what resources you have.

If you are just one woman, you grind your beans on the gridstones, tejates, that you see to the right and left of the griddle in the photo above.  You mix in sugar, cinnamon, almonds according to your recipe and taste.  Different communities add in different things.   The ground chocolate, a moist grainy paste falls into the tray at the bottom.  This paste is then mixed with either hot water or milk  and frothed  to be served as hot chocolate.  Grinding on these stones takes experience and strong arms, it looks simple but requires a technique and experience.

Now if you have a few more resources, like and old bicycle and young men, you can grind your toasted beans like this:


Note it takes two young men to do what one housewife can do:


If you have even more resources such as four strong men you can then use an electric mill to grind your chocolate.

These mills are common here in the city, in some markets and stores selling chocolate, that is the ground moist paste used for making hot chocolate.  In some markets you can take your own toasted beans and ingredients, and have them grind it for you.

A traditional drink to warm up in chilly moments here in Oaxaca is hot chocolate served with a individual bread, pan y chocolate.  The chocolate is served in a bowl, a generous about, with the very important froth on the top.  The bread is dunked in the hot chocolate.

Wishing you “pan y chocolate” for all your chilly moments!


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.




Photo by Karen Elwell

Photo by Karen Elwell

This is a huipil from Tehuantepec is for sale in a vendor’s booth.  This is machine embroidery on velvet.  And I decided that one of these would work for New Year’s Eve in Oaxaca, outdoors in the cool night.  So I went shopping for one for me.

Now I am not the size of most Americans, I am short and with time I have gotten wide.  But I am not the size of the tiny women from Oaxaca either.

So I went to the Artesian’s Market one evening and was looking at this style of huipil– they have many kinds of glorious flowers.  But the first thing I asked was did they have any bigger ones, because I didn’t think I could fit into any of them.  As with all huipils these are rectangular garments, not fitted ones, but I needed to be able to get inside it.  The sales clerk, as  are all good sales clerks are, was reassuring, we will make it fit she said.

She showed me that each seam and hem had about 2″ turned under that she could release.  So when I found one with pink flowers that I said I would buy if it was big enough, she took out the side seams and released the part that was turned under and took out the hems. So now the piece was 8″ bigger around and 2″ longer and it looked like it would fit.  So I bought it and took it home.

At home I basted the side seams, leaving more space for the armholes  and tried it on.  It was fine  except when I sat down.  The bottom would slide up.  I could have left the bottom part open but instead I added a gusset with the crochet technique I had learned at the class at the Museo.   The class was on joining together panels of cloth  with crochet.  This is a sample with a narrow join, by adding more rows of crochet the join can be much wider. All rows can be the same color or the center can be a contrasting color.

teacher's sample

teacher’s sample

I decided to use my new skill to join the sides of the velvet huipil and to make the bottom wider with more rows of crochet, in effect making a small gusset.  The crochet is quite elastic.


At the under arm there is only one row of black crochet arches on each side but at the bottom there are four. Then they are joined together with the pink crochet . Another problem was that my crochet hook would not penetrate the velvet and backing.  So I started with a row of button hole stitch spaced at about 1 cm.


The top went over my long black sleeveless dress nicely , did not ride up and kept me warm for the evening.

The lesson learned here is how to make a garment that will fit many people.  The seams were 2″ from the edge, and the wide seam allowance was basted down on the inside.  This garment is lined sort of, another cloth  was attached to the inside before it was embroidered and then the two cloths were turned under and hand sewn together all around the edge. So all the edges are finished. Here you can see the inside and the gusset on one side before joining. IMG_3187

Japanese kimonos are also sized by the width of the seam.  So for a hand weaver who has unique cloth and can not make another size, this is an interesting concept. We all know that one size fit only a few.

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.
I purchased another of these huipils but in color

I now think the warp is a mercerized cotton 16/2 or 20/2. I have managed to count the # of warps; 96 epi. For a width of 13.5″ that is a total of 1300 ends. Not for the faint of heart or weak. Opening the sheds, whether on a floor loom or a backstrap loom is going to be difficult and require physical strength.
The overlay/underlay brocaded motifs are made with 6-stranded embroidery floss and the pick up was probably done on a closed shed.

Some of the colors are red, lime green, black, sky blue, deep blue, gold, kelley green,teal, wine, deep purple, turquoise, hot pink ( or Rosa Mexicana as it is called here) all on a white ground.

Under construction

5 August 2014

I am starting the quechquemitl from the hand spun merino that I wove on a rigid heddle loom.  The cloth has been washed and is ready.

pulling a thread to mark the cut

pulling a thread to mark the cut

After deciding how long to cut each panel, I pulled a thread out so that I would have a mark to follow at the serger.  Even such a bold line is hard to see when the cloth is bunched up at the serger.

surging and cutting on the line

serging and cutting on the line

It takes two passes through the serger to overcast both sides of the cut.  I am using wooly nylon thread in the loopers to keep the edge soft.

I am making butted seams here.  After steaming the serged edge to make sure that it is not stretched out I pin baste the cloths together with a piece of paper behind.  I use 2″ wide printer tape from a printing calculator because I can get any length I want.  I do this on a flat surface to make sure both pieces of cloth are flat, I don’t want any buckling or puckering.

butted seam pin basted

butted seam pin basted

I am sewing the seam together by hand  with  a stitch called Ancient  or Baseball stitch. This pulls the butted seam together nicely.  I am using cotton sewing thread.

hand sewing the seam

hand sewing the seam

After sewing the seam is smooth, you can’t really feel it but the serged edge is still visible and will need to be covered.  Then steam or press the seam.

Fleece to Yarn Class

15 May 2014

color blending samples for bing salsa

color blending samples for bing salsa

This class will take place at the Entwinements dye studio in Yellow Springs OH, June 27-29th, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can start with either raw sheep or alpaca fleece. We will then sort and clean the fleece, dyeing fleece,and then process it to ready to spin-  picking, carding, color blending, sampling.  Not all color mixes work for all projects, a colorway that looks good in a knitted project may be rather blah when woven.  So we will use blending boards or hand cards to do a small amount of a color mix, then spin and knit or weave it and then revise our color mix.  By keeping records of the weight of each color mixed we can then blend a larger amount for a whole project with an exciting color mix.

You will need to bring a raw fleece, or make arrangements for one, bring a spindle or wheel, a blending board or hand cards if you have one (otherwise we will share).  The instructional and studio fee is $150 this includes supplies such as dyes.  The dye studio is small but well equiped so the class is limited to 6 people.  Only 3 spots left now.   Call 937.767.8961.

If you have a work conflict on Friday talk to me and we’ll see if we can work it out–maybe late afternoon and evening.  The dye studio is hot and steamy and we work partly outdoors. The house is air conditioned so you can cool off occasionally.

Sad moment

6 September 2007

What a loss, a man that loved his scarves. He seemed to enjoy them for their sensous qualities and colors.


24 August 2007

I want to thank Peg in South Carolina, Marguerite, Helen,Tracy, fruitbat, Casy, coral-seas, Danielle, Diane, Fiona and of course glennis for commenting! I do know that you are all out there, I do have a site meter on the front page and the bloggng service provides better stats.
I am terribly sorry for the delay in posting comments. I have a spam filter service enabled and it holds all comments including mine for approval. It would be pretty ulgy without this.
My fantasy was that there would be discussion after some of the entries, a bit like this one over at In A Minute Ago.
I have recently been thinking about the time consuming nature of fiber arts. Does this mean that these arts are endangered by todays fast paced life? Would people who spend an hour a day meditating or doing yoga need that if they were doing some repetitive fiber art? Where does the joie de faire come from– is it hard wired into our beings? Why do we make? Is it the process or product or both that give us the joy? The product is the easist to share with others, is the pleasure in process self-indulgent? Would making things improve non-makers (most people) lives?

A few applause

11 August 2007

This blog has been recognized by Catwalk Queen (Kyra, my 17 yr.old calico says a blog about me? do they talk about earrings (her fav)? Thank you!
This award was genersously given by Stingativity. It carries a responsibility__ to give out 5 more. It was orginated by Writers Reviews. It will take me some time to edit the list down to 5.
Every little bit of recognition for these ramblings on this rather narrowly focused blog serves as encouragement. I send these posting out into cyber-ether. Are they just floating out there, does any one read them? I have hopes that is blog will be more interactive, with you all out there posting comments and responding. Glennis of Shibori Girl is a loyal commenter. If you read and learn or enjoy, could you please make a comment– it is very sustaining. Makes it worth deleting hundreds of junk comments.

Many traditional women’s under kimonos were red, a lovely soft red. Some one asked how to achieve that red on a silk/cotton cloth.
This was traditionally a red from SAFFLOWER (Japanese-benibana, Carthemus tintorius).
It looks like this red although he says it is an aniline dye (an old vague term but does indicate synthetic dye). Very little is written about how to dye with it except in the appendix of Wada’s book, Shibori, page 285.
The red color is rather fugitive and not used much outside of Japan because of other more fast natural red dyes; madder, kermes, lac and cochineal. The ephemeral nature of the dye appealed to the tradtional Japanese. The petals of the safflower contain many dyes; yellow and red are the predominate ones. To get to the red dye the yellow one must be extracted first and removed. Then one can extract the red dye for use. On the other hand this one dye source, safflower petals, can produce a whole range of colors from yellows,saffron, oranges, pinks, reds and browns. Dried safflower petals can be purchased at some Chinese herb shops.
Natural dyes have no affinity for any fiber one must use a mordant to bind the dyestuff to the fiber. The mixed fibers cotton and silk can both be dyed with safflower. I would probably use a alum-tannin-alum mordant to make sure that the cotton dyed well.
Not a dye for instant gratification. But red.