Posted by Mary Beth at The Stitchery
Many years ago I traveled Mexico and Belize for 3 months as part of a student group doing research in “Human Ecology” and “Tropical Zoology”. At the end of a 3 week stay in tents on Caye Corker, Belize, we had two weeks before the semester was over and we were due back in the United States. My van and it’s occupants voted to take the long dirt road through the back jungle into Guatemala to visit Tikal and Lake Atitlan. I hoped to be able to sway the group to visit a few Mayan villages where I’d heard that the cloth hand-woven by the women there was an important cultural occupation.
It was an exciting time: we were stopped and searched five times at military checkpoints while we drove on the two track road that went through jungle so thick the “road” was really only a trail. The “policia” that searched us were very young but friendly in response to my haltering Spanish chatter, clearly surprised to find us traveling this back road. We drove for hours and hours, grateful for our extra cans of gasoline and the hand operated search light on this van that was once an electrical line inspection truck in the US, until we came into the Tikal area and found a shelter where we could hang our hammocks in a communal style outdoor dormitary.
The year was 1973 and neither Caye Corker nor Tikal had been developed for tourists yet. There was no airport landing strip nor hotel near the ruins and Tikal was still being execuvated. The two main pyramids and courtyards had been uncovered but many other pyramids were still tall hills covered in trees and vines. Some of the “hills” had openings at the top with what looked like a mine shaft running down into the center of them. We were on our own, respecting the jungle and staying on clearly marked paths as we explored for two days. Then we journeyed on to the Lake and northern Guatemala where I had a day, one day, no fabric buying expedition on this trip! I did get to go into a hut where 3 generations of women from 7 years old to ??? (almost blind) sat with backstraps, weaving by the light of the smoke hole and the backturned entrance flap. That was and is life in the fabric traditions of the area.
This fabric was purchased from Fabrics of The World when I worked the Pattern Master Boutique booth at the Paducah Quilt Show a few years ago. I was not prepared for the prices so I first bought a small (1 yd) piece and then came to my senses and went back for another full 2 yards. I needed a pattern that could accommodate my purchasing mistake. This is a perfect opportunity to use this OOP Vogue pattern, number 2845:
The colors in this cloth were not those I had seen 30 years earlier in the markets in Guatemala but I love them and there are so many in this piece. Buyers from the Untied States must have introduced demand for new colors and the market is developing as you can see from reading the sites provided in the Flowgram link below.
I have started to play with a new software for putting together stories for sharing via the internet, Flowgram in Beta version. I have not added audio yet, sorry. However here I can introduce you to some of the wonderful information about Guatamalan textiles and traditions and let you click on the sites and read according to your own available time. You have to click on the play arrow to start the Fabrics of Guatemala and then on the thumbnails in the top bar if you wish to explore the sites further.
(ETA: the following might not be necessary anymore, I think I’ve improved the link…)Click on the first (but, alas, blank) thumbnail “Museo Ixchel” to see that beautiful opening page and hear some flute and drum music and get the Flowgram flowing. The Museo Ixchel site is worth exploring all by itself although it is mostly in Spanish at the moment.
Hopefully this link will work for every one: Fabrics of Guatemala
I’m new at this Beta software and obviously I’m not a paid tester! I’d love to hear how trying the Flowgram works out for you. I am sorry I haven’t taken the time to create the wonderful scripted slide show this software is capable of but maybe you all will give it a try and come back to teach me?
None-the-less, and all Beta software aside, the following link will give hours of education and amazement and is the richest I have found on the internet for Guatemalan textile information: Terra Experience
Back to sewing: I wanted to make this fabric up in a style Beyond The Jacket and give it as much dignity I saw on the faces of the women who worked in those dark huts so many years ago.
I love it. The whole outfit *might* weigh 3 pounds including it china silk lining. It feels like summer.