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.

Austin Yarn Shops

One of my favorite cities in Texas is none other than Austin. Austin is our state capitol and home to the University of Texas Longhorns. Austin hosts the Austin City Limits music festival (just ACL for the locals) and the South by Southwest (sxsw) music and film extravaganza. For the young – and young at heart – there’s the nightlife on 6th Street. Go antiquing on South Congress (SoCo) and watch the bats come out at dusk from underneath the South Congress Avenue bridge. There is no end to the things that Keep Austin Weird!

A place as groovy as Austin is bound to have some awesome yarn stores. Here are three that are sure to please.

Gauge logo
5406 Parkcrest Drive, Austin, Texas 78731, Tel. 512.371.9300

(Source)

At Gauge, I ran into a fellow knitting enthusiast who showed me around the shop. She didn’t even work there! As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by this pompom mobile.

Gauge 2

The shop has all the expected cubbies full of colorful yarn.

Gauge 3

I liked this crocheted cacti!

Gauge 4

Gauge has a nice back room where you can sit and knit. A class was in session so I quietly perused the sock yarn options.

Gauge 5

This display featured hand-dyed yarns from nearby Georgetown, Texas. The colors just popped!

Gauge 1

The next stop was Me & Ewe, a combination yarn and fabric store.

4903 Woodrow Ave., Austin, Texas 78756, Tel. 512.220.9592
4903 Woodrow Ave., Austin, Texas 78756, Tel. 512.220.9592

(Source)

Me & Ewe is located in a cute cottage with bright yellow and aqua trim – very Austin. The front room is full of lovely yarn.

Me & Ewe 1

Me & Ewe 2

Adjoining the main room is a smaller alcove where you ring up your purchases. Hanging along the entryway were these adorable, handmade Barbie clothes. It turns out that when a customer found out she was having a baby, she began meticulously hand-knitting a closet full of dress-up clothes for her future daughter to play with. Alas, the daughter never quite got into dolls and the wardrobe was mostly unused. It is now lovingly in display at the shop.

Me & Ewe 3

There are two more rooms in the cottage dedicated to fabrics – lots and lots of fabrics. I loved the modern prints.

Me & Ewe 4

Me & Ewe 5

The third yarn store is not actually in Austin, but about 40 miles east in Paige, Texas. It is absolutely worth the side-trip.

logo
130 Gonzales Street, Paige, TX 78659, Tel. 512.253.0100

(Source)

Yarnorama is a fiber-enthusiast’s dream. They carry looms and threads for weaving, …

Yarnorama 3

Yarnorama 2

…wheels and fiber for spinning, …

Yarnorama 1

…and plenty of yarn for knitting and crocheting.

Yarnorama 4

There was so much to see and touch, I didn’t even know where to start!

I also stopped in at Hill Country Weavers, one of my fave yarn stores ever. Because I had been many times, I didn’t linger and do not have photos to share, except for this one.

All You Knit is Love - Hill Country Weavers

Need I say more?

Stockholm Yarn Crawl

For our holiday in Stockholm, we found the most adorable apartment through Airbnb. Monica’s apartment had everything we could possibly need – a comfy living room, narrow but incredibly well-organized and stocked kitchen, and a fold-down bed that didn’t take up much space. The lift to the third floor was one of those old-fashioned ones that just fit two people and had a metal accordion door. The apartment was located only one long block from the metro. The SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) neighborhood was very eclectic and bohemian with antique stores and fab pubs nearby. My husband and I wanted to just take up residence in Monica’s apartment forever, but we figured she needed it back eventually.

It’s impossible to visit Sweden and not run across yarn shops. Yet another reason why I ❤️ Sweden. I had a list on the ready for our forays around town. Our first stop was Stick it Up, located in SoFo only a brisk 15 minute walk from Monica’s apartment.

Stick It Up - Exterior

Stick it Up is a small shop with a nice selection of yarn in natural and man-made fibers. The owner was kind and friendly and explained the sources of the various yarns. I narrowed my selection to these 100% wool skeins intended for Lovikka mittens, which the owner explained were traditional in Sweden. Once home, I looked up the history and found a nice summary about the origin of the mittens on the Heart of Lovikka website. I brought home two skeins of a lovely green (not pictured here). Stick it Up is located at Ringvägen 64, 118 61 Stockholm, tel. 08-642 00 13.

Stick It Up - Yarn

Content with my purchases, we headed over to Gamla Stan to explore the old town center. As we meandered through the cobblestone streets, I spotted this in a dark window – yarn!

Makeri 14 - Window Shopping

Alas, as I got closer, the shop was closed. All I could do was cup my hands against the window and look longingly at the baskets full of yarn. The shop was tiny, meant only to walk in, buy and leave. Makeri 14 is located at Köpmangatan 14, 111 31 Stockholm.

Makeri 14 - Exterior

The next yarn shop was located near a statue of St. George slaying the dragon. I easily spotted it because this was hanging outside the door.

Anntorps Väv on Österlånggatan 11

Anntorps Väv was also somewhat small but had a luscious collection of yarn in natural fibers. Just look at these 100% silk beauties in the window! The proprietress spoke a little bit of English and I spoke not a bit of Swedish but we managed to point and understand each other perfectly. The silk is spun for the store and she hand dyes it in these jewel-tones.

Anntorps Väv - Window Shopping

The other reason the shop is small is because this large loom takes up most of the space. When we walked in, the proprietress was weaving on it. In the store were large fluffy blankets she had woven on the loom. Anntorps Väv is located at Österlånggatan 11, 111 31 Stockholm, tel. 0046(0)8 676 00 23. It’s a few doors down from Stockholms Gästabud Bar and Bistro where we had those fabulous Swedish meatballs (pictured in previous post).

Anntorps Väv - Loom

Window shopping in Gamla Stan is heavenly when you spot things like these skeins.

Galleri Yamanashi - Window Shopping

Galleri Yamanashi is located in a largish space in a busy corner with large windows facing the street. The gallery is very nicely laid out inside with plenty of room to look around. Throughout the space, there are examples of tools used in the spinning of yarn.

Galleri Yamanashi at 1 Köpmantorget

Their selection of yarns was nicely curated and presented. There were natural skeins of wool in burlap sacks and dyed skeins in large baskets. A large wall cubby housed skeins in various weights and colors.

Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Bag
Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Basket
Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Cubbies

During my visit, the shop had a special exhibition showcasing entries from the 2015 Wålstedts Textile Art Contest. The contest is a knitting and weaving competition between Sweden and Japan using Wålstedts yarns. To see the other winning entries in both weaving and knitting categories, go to galleri-yamanashi.se.

Wålstedts Textile Art Contest 2015 - 2
Left: Wålstedts Textile Art banner. Right: The chapell Notre-du-Haut by Ayako Murota.
Wålstedts Textile Art Contest 2015 - 1
Top Left: Weaver-Jyuri Nagayo. Top Right: Praying reconstruction and rebirth of eastern Japan by Mieko Sano. Bottom Left: Received Excellence Award, tomato by Weaver-Kaoru Yoneda. Bottom Right: Weaver-Maki Kimimori.

I was curious about Wålstedts yarns. According to the gallery’s website, the Wålstedts spinneri is one of the oldest spinning mills in Sweden dating back to 1934. Their fibers are sourced from Swedish sheep and have been cleaned, spun and dyed by four generations of the Wålstedts family. The following video from the Wålstedts Textilverkstad website depicts gorgeous Swedish country landscapes and the process the family uses to make this beautiful yarn.

There were several bags full of wool fibers from the Wålstedts factory dyed in rich colors around the gallery. Galleri Yamanashi is located at Köpmantorget 1, 111 31 Stockholm.

Galleri Yamanashi - Pink Fleece

Galleri Yamanashi - Blue Fleece

The final yarn shop I visited was Sticka, also located in Gamla Stan. At the entry, I was greeted by this ferocious ceramic bulldog – too cute!

Sticka at 37 Österlånggatan

The interior of Sticka looks more like a clothing shop than a yarn store. Displayed on racks throughout the space were beautiful, airy knitted items for purchase, such as shawls and sweaters. They had a small but nice selection of yarns from various countries but not too many local yarns. Sticka is located at Österlånggatan 37, 111 31 Stockholm, tel. +46 8 23 37 37. For some reason, the website will not display but here is a link to their Facebook page.

That concludes my Swedish yarn crawl. I know there were many more yarn shops that I could not possibly visit during my stay. Good enough reason to return one day!

A Day at the Fiber Festival

My very first spinning lesson was at the Kid’N Ewe And Lamas Too fiber festival a couple of years ago. This past weekend, I revisited this annual festival which is spread out over three large barns at the Kendall County Fairgrounds. There was weaving, spinning, felting, knitting and crocheting everywhere!

I spent hours swooning over fibers from animal and plant sources including camel, yak, buffalo, sheep, goat and silkworm as well as hemp, bamboo, and cotton. Many were hand dyed in stunning colors like these wool batts …

Gorgeous merino, bamboo, and angelina batts from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Gorgeous merino, bamboo, and angelina batts from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
Luscious browns and golds from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Luscious browns and golds from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
Glistening waves in a deep blue sea from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Glistening waves in a deep blue sea from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)

… and this hemp fiber in deep tones.

Hand-dyed natural plant fibers from the Fiber Lady. (www.fiberlady.com)
Hand-dyed natural plant fibers from the Fiber Lady. (www.fiberlady.com)

There were countless hand crafted tools throughout including this lovely assortment of spindles and shuttles.

These wooden spindles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn't pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)
These wooden spindles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn’t pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)
Turkish and top whorl drop spindles from Heritage Arts. (www.heritageartstexas.com)
Turkish and top whorl drop spindles from Heritage Arts. (www.heritageartstexas.com)
Unique hand painted wooded spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Unique hand painted wooded spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
Hand crafted glass and wood spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.orkieslave.etsy.com)
Hand crafted glass and wood spindles from Yorkieslave Artworks. (www.yorkieslave.etsy.com)
These wooden shuttles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn't pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)
These wooden shuttles are from Yarnorama (I think). I didn’t pick up a business card. (www.yarnorama.com)

Behind rows of vendor stalls in one of the barns, several teams were in full swing for the Fiber to Fashion demonstrations. Spinners using spindles and wheels were busily turning fiber into yarn. The yarn was fed to the weaver who meticulously wove it on a loom. The goal was to create a finished product – a 20″ x 72″ shawl – in one day.

One of the Fiber to Fashion teams working on their woven shawl.
One of the Fiber to Fashion teams working on their woven shawl.

The team pictured here held a raffle for their shawl. I bought one ticket for $1 but, alas, did not win. I watched them as they were making the fringe and putting the final touches on the shawl. It was absolutely gorgeous.

The air was cool, the sun was out, the animals were adorable, kindred spirits were plentiful, and there were three barns full of fibery goodness – perfect!