From Beginning to End, Popular Mexican Traditions

Working full-time and pursuing an MBA do not leave very much free time. Immediately after the new year, there was a gap of about a week before major assignments were due. We took advantage of this opportunity for a trip to México City, only a two-hour flight from Houston. There was the added benefit that Cornell has a board room of students in México City and I was able to join them for class.

The purpose of the trip was to show our son some of the many treasures of México. We went on a whirlwind tour of murals, pyramids, cathedrals, archaeological ruins, culture and gastronomy. Along the way, my husband and son appeased me by allowing me to look for interesting textile arts.

We could have spent days walking through the vast National Museum of Anthropology. The museum features grand salons for every major period of Mexican history. We made a beeline toward the magnificent Piedra del Sol (Stone of the Sun), which is often incorrectly called the Aztec calendar. The Stone of the Sun is 3 feet deep, almost 12 feet wide and weighs almost 25 tons.

IMG_1546

The stone “depicts the five consecutive worlds of the sun from Aztec mythology. …it is an elaborately carved solar disk, which for the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures represented rulership. At the top of the stone is a date glyph (13 reed) which represents both the beginning of the present sun, the 5th and final one according to mythology, and the actual date 1427 CE, thereby legitimizing the rule of Itzcoatl (who took power in that year) and creating a bond between the divine and mankind.

(Source: http://www.ancient.eu/Sun_Stone/)

Textiles

After staring at awe at the massive stone, we wandered through various halls and came across these ancient textiles of the indigenous Nahua.

“Clothing distinguishes the indigenous groups of México and even within one group. Among the Nahuas each subgroup, each region and even each village has its own way of dressing. Each pattern conserves a tradition, each design speaks of knowledge maintained over the centuries, each form represents a way of seeing the world.”

(Source: Museum placard)

Basketry

We saw woven bags and baskets made from hard fibers such as junco, bejuco, palm and carrizo.

Weaving

This is a reproduction of a typical home in the village of Contla in the state of Tlaxcala. According to the museum placard, rustic pedaled looms were installed in any available space.

Crafts

A day at the Saturday Bazaar in San Ángel yielded a wonderful surprise. Since we were there right after Christmas, we saw all the winning entries for the Primer Concurso Nacional, “De Principio a Fin, Tradiciones Populares Mexicanas” (First National Competition, “From Beginning to End, Popular Mexican Traditions”). Themes revolved around the Day of the Dead and Christmas.

Las piezas que se elaboran con motivo de estas festividades, dan cuenta de la compleja concepción de la vida humana y de la constante interacción entre la vida y la muerte dentro de la cultura popular mexicana.

The pieces that are created for these festivities tell the story of the complex idea of life and the constant interaction between life and death within popular mexican culture.

(Source: Event signage. Translations are mine.)

Nacimiento tejido en palma natural maciza y tierna, elaborada con técnica de esfera. 38 piezas.

Nativity woven from natural strong and tender palm constructed with a spherical technique. 38 pieces.

Carro alegórico con ofenda tradicional del Día de muertos, elaborado con fibra de trigo. Tiempo de elaboración: 1 semana

Allegorical vehicle with a traditional offering of the day of the dead, constructed with wheat fibers. Time to produce: 1 week.

“Los animales van a ver el nacimiento”
Tira bordada con hilo de algodón mercerizado con punto fino. Tiempo de elaboración: 4 meses

“The animals go to see the nativity.” Embroidered strip with mercerized cotton thread with a fine point. Time to produce: 4 months.

Nacimiento con bordado fino mazahaua en manta de algodón.

Finely embroidered nativity on cotton cloth in the style of the Mazahaua people.

“La tradición de mi pueblo”
Servilleta elaborada en telar de cintura, con técnica de brocado, tenida con tintes naturales: caracol púrpura y algodón coyuchi verde.

“The tradition of my village.” Napkin woven on a backstrap loom with brocade technique and tinted with natural dyes: purple snails and organic green cotton.”

“Nacimiento tradicional de Cuetzalan del Progreso. Puebla.”
Telar de cintura de algodón azul, bordado de brocado.
Tiempo de elaboración: 1 mes

“Traditional nativity of the city of Cuetzalan del Progreso, Puebla.” Blue cotton on a backstrap loom embroidered in brocade. Time to produce: 1 month

Tapiz de Nacimiento Mexicano, elaborado en telar de cintura de algodón con doble alzadera y puntas de flecos.
Tiempo de elaboración: 1 mes

Tapestry of the Mexican Nativity, woven on a backstrap loom out of cotton with fringe. Time to produce: 1 month

These are only a sampling of the many handicrafts we saw during our trip. More to come.

All-Nighters and Second-Hand Yarn

It’s hard to grasp that I am almost halfway through my Executive MBA program. The last eight months have flown by or perhaps I didn’t notice the time passing. The days are filled with meetings that need to be attended, decisions that need to be made and people who need to be met. Nighttime is school time. At this stage of life, I am once again pulling all-nighters. And like those college days, the next day feels euphoric as if I just climbed a mountain or won a marathon. Then comes the crash on or about mid-afternoon of the third day.

There have been the moments of wondering why I chose to do this to myself. There have been stretches of dread trying to figure out if I should fail to reject the null hypothesis and whether the price of a good causes a movement along the demand curve or shifts it entirely, either to the left or to the right.

Having survived the “quants,” we are now in the midst of courses about launching and leading business ventures. I have learned a tremendous amount and despite those twinges of regret that usually come between 3 and 5 in the morning, I am so glad I am doing this. The academic learning challenges me and keeps me sharp and the case studies and classroom discussions round out my experience. Plus, I now have approximately 180 new friends from all walks of life and careers all the way from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Santiago, Chile and from the west to east coasts of the United States.

We recently had our second residency on the Cornell campus. Between work, school, family and the occasional nap, my time is consumed. But such is my passion for yarn that I arrived one day early in Ithaca so that I could visit the local hipster yarn spots. If you read my last Ithaca post, you may recall that the yarn shop closest to campus was closed. This time, I made it there twice in one week … in the snow.

I learned that Homespun Boutique has been an Ithaca gem for over 40 years. Every surface is covered with all types of wool, both spun and unspun, and many other fibers. Upon entering, a cardboard cutout sheep displaying lovely balls of yarn greets you.

There are baskets and bins neatly arranged on almost every square meter of floor, like these skeins of organic wool in various weights.

I found a whole shelf of earthy pure Alpaca undyed to showcase its natural hues.

My favorite was the lo-cal yarn – fewer calories, less fat, and tastes great! The Looney Tunis label is for the wool from a flock of tunis sheep located on a farm in nearby Spencer, NY.

Then there were these swoon-worthy displays and the ubiquitous wall of yarn.

Not to be outdone, the other half of the shop was filled with bolts of fabrics grouped by shades of red, yellow and green and all the other colors of the rainbow.

The shop’s only drawback was that it did not have a space for wool-gathering. If they moved a few fabric displays to a back room, they could easily fit in a table and some comfy chairs, and perhaps even an espresso machine for those chilly Ithaca winters.

Homespun Boutique is located on one end of Ithaca Commons, a 4-block pedestrian shopping area flanked by boutiques, restaurants and second-hand stores. At the opposite end of the Commons is SewGreen, a non-profit focused on upcycling fabrics and yarn. Very cool.

Because it relies on donations for its inventory, you never know what treasures you will find at SewGreen. They had cubbies full of yarn, cones of thread, knitting patterns, vintage hooks and needles, embroidery hoops and buttons.

Most of the space was devoted to fabrics. Someone had recently donated several yards of fabric with various bird designs which covered an entire display table.

SewGreen has a boutique of gently used Eileen Fisher clothing. The staff will carefully mend any flaws and the items are cleaned and steamed before being put out for sale. I love their tagline – “We Make ReUse Beautiful.”

My visits to both stores resulted in the following souvenirs: 2 skeins of Zen Serenity Silk Singles in two colorways; 1.5 yards of the red, teal, and yellow fabric; some vintage straight knitting needles; and a few fat quarters.

Now back to studying.

Back when I used to knit socks…

Some time before starting graduate school, I had time to knit socks.

Guy Sock in progress

This yarn came from Knitty City on New York’s upper west side between Amsterdam and Broadway. The place is long and deep and has a huge selection of yarn, all neatly arranged in cubbies and baskets.

Knitty City - NYC
208 West 79th St., New York, NY 10024, pearl@knittycity.com, 212-787-5896

Knitty City - Yarn Cubbies

It was a bit narrow (like so many little shops in the city) but that did not deter a table full of knitters from hanging out and gossiping about everyone and everything!

image

As has become my habit of late, I spent most of the time perusing the sock yarns. That bottom cubby was brimming with Alpaca Sox.

image

These were to be guy socks but I still wanted them to have pops of color. The yarn is Schachenmayr Regia Design Line by Arne & Carlos  (75% Virgin Wool, 25% Polyamide). I think I used two 230 yard, 50 gram balls for a pair of calf-length socks. To make the yarn go farther, the heels and toes are knit in a solid black from my stash.

image

These socks are very cushiony. They make a nice sporty pair to wear with sneakers or boots. The pattern is a simple K3, P1 ribbing that is way less boring than K1, P1. The full pattern can be found here.

Guy Socks - Completed

Guy Socks - Close-up

The next pair was all for me.

Confetti Sock in progress

This is the yarn I bought at Gauge during a trip to Austin, Texas. It’s Lane Cervinia’s Forever Sock Yarn (75% Superwash Wool, 25% Polyamide). It took two 230 yard, 50 gram skeins to make the pair.

Confetti Sock in progress - close-up

I loved the bright colors! They reminded me of the confetti in Easter eggs so I call these my “confetti socks.” For the pattern, I used Jaywalker by Grumperina.

1st Confetti Sock Completed

The chevron pattern is simple and complements the self-striping colors of the yarn. The color way for these socks is #72 – pink, yellow, turquoise.

Pair of Confetti Socks

Here’s the second sock on top of my stack of textbooks.

Confetti Sock - another view

My fingers are itching to cast on a new pair but multiple regression tables and p-values await.

Next stop on the F Line – Bergen Street, Brooklyn

My search for local yarn stores in the big apple continued but this time, I decided to venture off the island and check out the shops in Brooklyn. I popped out of the subway to lively streets with pedestrians enjoying the warm day.

The first shop on my list was La Casita Yarn Shop (“little house” in Spanish) which besides serving up yarn, also served coffee and pastries. It was also selected as one of the best 5 knitting stores in New York by CBS NY. Unfortunately, when I walked up to the door, it was closed 🙁. The note read something about enjoying the outdoors over the long weekend. From peeking through the window, I knew I would return on a future trip. Alas, I later found out that the shop closed permanently sometime during the summer. They even had a farewell party on July 1st! Even though I never shopped there, it made me sad that a yarn shop closed. 😢

La Casita, Brooklyn (closed permanently)

Given my bad luck in finding several stores closed during my trip I called ahead to my next destination and was relieved when a friendly voice answered. Argyle Yarn Shop is a few blocks from the southwest corner of Prospect Park. If I’d had more time, I would have liked to walk through the park and see the botanical gardens or even the zoo.

image
288 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11215, Info@argyleyarnshop.com, T: 347.227.7799
The shop was bright and roomy and I was warmly greeted by the staff. They had the wall of cubbies full of yarn and baskets and displays everywhere. A large table and comfy chairs welcomed knitters and crocheters.
image

I was lucky in that they were having a 20% off sale on sock yarn! And even though I had absolutely no business buying more yarn, I took home this skein of Heritage Wave by Cascade Yarns (75% Superwash Merino Wool / 25% Nylon).

Argyle Yarn Shop - Sock Yarn

They also had a basket of other sale yarns where I found these two lovely MadelineTosh A.S.A.P. super bulky skeins in gorgeous fall colors (100% Superwash Merino Wool). Really, could you have resisted?

image

As I left, I smiled at their yarn egg display. Imagine sitting in a nest full of yarn!

image