Well I'm home again after my month on the road. I'm tired and a bit jet-lagged and my mind is full of all the sights, sounds and experiences of the last 4 weeks. I have to sort through all my notes, organise my photos and get all the information into some sort of order so that I can move on.
So what was the one most outstanding event of the trip? Well there were so many that it is hard to pick but I personally liked meeting the Embroideress in the markets at Solola, Guatamala. I saw lots of women who spun and wove but she was one of the few I found who stitched. I saw lots of embroidered garments and there were lots of women buying threads and patterns but she was the only one actually stitching. Her long hair was wrapped with ribbons and lace and she was beautiful.
There she was in the market and as an embroiderer I appreciated the skill with which she plied her needle. All of the hand woven fabrics are produced from back-strap looms. This means that there really isn't enough width to the fabric to construct a garment. So traditionally this was overcome by embroidering lengths together. (The same as you see with faggoting.)
They use a frame which is about 1" in depth and the tension is balanced by a spring, rather than tightened with a screw in the European way. The needle is huge by our standard but the fabric they embroiderer on is a lot thicker than what we are used to. In the past the best garments were embroidered with silk but commercial rayon thread is used a lot today.
The stitching that she was engaged in was for the traditional skirt. I bought a second hand fabric length stitched in this same manner.
Although this piece had been stitched with cotton thread. The different patterns used today have become somewhat of a fashion statement with the women and all the different groups use different patterns. When you see the finished pieces on display, like those in the image below, it is easy to forget that a woman, like my embroideress, actually sat and stitched them.
I found that the quality of the embroidery was far better in the older pieces of work and I fear that as technology and the Western world influences the Mayan culture hand embroidery will be replaced by the machine and people like my embroideress will fade away and no longer be part of this rich culture.