Weaving in the Mayan Tradition

During our trip to Lago Atitlán, I had the opportunity to learn how to weave on a backstrap loom. My instructor, Rosa, was from the Asociación de Mujeres Tejedoras con Tinte Natural Lema’. The women in Lema’ are Tz’utujiles, a Native American Mayan ethnic group. While I was able to communicate in Spanish, most of the women spoke with each other in their native Tz’utujil language.

img_4371

The association’s mission is as follows:

We are Tz‘utujiles women. By making these handmade textiles with natural dyes and colors, we are keeping our ancestral Mayan culture and tradition. This association provides work, especially for women, hoping to increase the quality of our living in our village, San Juan la Laguna.

The corner storefront is filled with beautiful handmade textiles. The Mayan motifs and patterns could be found on table runners, scarves, small bags, huipiles, and belts.

img_5197img_4380

There were sturdy handwoven baskets in simple yet beautiful designs.

img_5195

I thought these would make great cosmetic bags.

img_4381

I regret not buying this belt. It is incredibly detailed and covered in strawberries.

img_5198

In one section of the store, they had samples of the natural cotton used to make yarn.

img_3422img_3424

Also on display were the plants from which they created natural dyes.

img_4389

All of the dyes were made from plants native to the area.

img_3434

I signed up for the class one evening and was able to select the colors for the scarf I was going to weave. I selected this deep red made from the crushed seeds of the achiote tree.

img_4391

The next morning, the threads had been set up on the loom and several inches had been started. My instructor, Rosa, then strapped the loom onto me until we got the right tension. Then began the rhythmic process of weaving. Lift the green section of threads with the beater – here, a flat piece of wood sanded through use – and throw the shuttle with the yellow thread through the opening. The beater is then turned so it lays flat and pushed down over the threads to line them up tightly. I was mesmerized by how the colors shifted after pulling down on the shed and heddle rods – the two horizontal sticks (second and third from the top). From time to time, I wasn’t able to catch all the threads when I threw the shuttle. Rosa’s capable hands would step in and correct my mistake and show me what I had done. I wove, slowly, for a couple of hours. I finally got into a rhythm and could tell for myself when I had missed a thread. Rosa stepped out for a while but her daughter kept watch over me.

img_4378

When Rosa came back, she helped me finish the scarf. It took her 20 minutes to complete the number of inches it had taken me two hours to weave! And here is my scarf – woven on a backstrap loom in the Mayan tradition.

img_4388

If you ever venture to Guatemala, Lago Atitlán is a must-stop. Spend a few days going from village to village as each has its own special character. When you go to San Juan La Laguna, stop by Lemá and say hello to Rosa for me. You can find Lemá on Facebook or Instagram or contact them via email at asociacionlema01@gmail.com or phone at (502) 586 68446.

When our trip was over, we took a small motorboat across the lake to another village where our driver would pick us up. That trip across the lake was magical.

img_3429

As I rode across the lake,

With the wind blowing back my loose hair,

I closed my eyes and turned my face to the skies.

As the hot sun warmed my face,

I imagined I was an indigenous Mayan woman

Crossing the lake to trade in the neighboring village.

It was as if my own ancestors emerged from my being.

Fermented by the Mayan sun,

My face reflected on the waters of Atitlán

And captured the hopes of the women who came before me.

And I smiled.

I was home.

img_5189img_5192

img_5193

FO Friday: Born Trippy Scarf

Mostly to release tension during my MBA program, I started knitting a scarf. It took a long time because I only worked on it in short spurts. But the motion of the needles and the fusion of the colors gave me something to focus on besides case studies on Starbucks and Amazon.

I found this amazing free pattern called Born Trippy on the Hedgehog Fibres site. I liked that the samples used all sorts of funky color combinations and it had cool uneven edges. I started with a lovely skein I had gotten at Homespun Boutique during one of my MBA residencies in Ithaca. This is Serenity Silk Single, a fingering weight yarn from Zen Yarn Garden: 430 yards, 75% Superwash Merino / 15% Cashmere / 10% Silk in Fr. Vanilla Blurple (bottom ball).

Then I went through my stash and looked for complementary and contrasting colors. This is what I came up with:

  • Leftover yarn from Copenhagen (the shimmery solid blue and gray): Duo Silk/Merino from Design Club DK, 65% Merino Wool / 35% Silk.
  • A partial skein of Fine Sock yarn (the minty blue-green): Spud & Chloe, 80% Superwash Wool / 20% Silk in Color 7806 / Calypso.
  • Another purchase from Homespun Boutique (yellow/green variegated): Ty-Dy Socks from KNIT ONE, Crochet Too, 436 yards, 80% Superwash Wool / 20% Nylon.

Here’s a close-up of the Ty-Dy ball.

img_3549

As I made progress on the scarf, I introduced the variegated yellows and greens, the solid blue and gray, and the minty blue-green. It all flowed nicely and those uneven ends were easy to make.

It’s important to block this piece so that the ends are nice and sharp.

Here is the FO (finished object) with its refreshing colors in the sun.

Someone wanted to hang out with me while I took the photos.

I am very pleased with the fusion of the colors.

The combination of wool, cashmere and silk give the scarf a lovely drape.

This is a great pattern to use when you have a single skein and leftover yarns in the same weight. You can repurpose those bits and pieces and make something beautiful.

Spurts of Knitting

Somehow between running multivariate regressions, drawing supply and demand curves, case studies and five forces analyses, I found time to knit.

The projects took longer to complete as I fit in spurts of knitting between exams and assignments. These socks started out at Mom’s house so it was fitting that they be for her.

This is the first time I used a Schoppel Crazy Zauberball and what a joy it was to knit. The colorway is Papagei (parrot). The colors flowed into each other languorously. Row by row, the transitions morphed into rich textured colors.

Knitting these socks was like a process of discovery wondering what the next color combination would look like.

These were a labor of love knitted in small spurts. The time out from school was like a special treat, like smoking cigarettes behind the gym between classes.

Mom loved them. She called to tell me she put them on as soon as she opened the package. Her feet were cold and she was trying to get comfortable. From my hands to her feet. Feet that paced the floor while she held me in her arms, scurried around the kitchen while she prepared dinner and which stayed firmly planted while she scolded me for some childhood transgression.

I didn’t tell her they were in the mail. I could almost see her ripping the package open wondering what was in it. I hope she wears huge holes in them.

 

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.