The four cardinal points

If you want to read the whole story, from the beginning! Click here.

July 30th, 2014

versión en español

The four cardinal points

For Mayas, the four cardinal points are sacred! They refer to them, and they bless them in a lot of ceremonies!

To me they represent their love to mother earth and nature.

This week, I changed my direction too, I’m staying on the other side of the mountains and closer to town. at Elvira’s house, the place where we have been dyeing since the beginning.

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Elvira’s corn field

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Corn field

Last Thursday we started our day by watching the MAIWA Documentary “Blue Alchemy, Stories of Indigo”. It’s a great film, and it shows stories from all different parts of the world.

I made the translation for them, and they were really touched by the part filmed in Mexico, where they could see an indigenous community dying with Indigo. The women of this community in Mexico make a cross before dying with indigo, just like a blessing, over the pot.

They really liked that, because to them the cross represents the four cardinal points. So now each time we start an indigo vat, we make a cross and we bless the cardinal points.

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Indigo vat

By watching this movie they could really understand where Indigo comes from and how people from other cultures and other parts of the world dye.

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Women reading the books

They are very interested in Natural Dyes, I’ve showed them some books and they really want to learn more about them.

They are even asking for some seeds to plant!

Everyday life

After watching the movie, we started dyieing. And we didn’t stop! Not even on Saturday or Sunday!

We dyed aproximately 70 pounds of yarn!

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Dyed yarn

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Cochineal, osage orange and madder

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Yarn at Elvira’s house

We had some problems…

I decided to grind the dried avocados pits on the coffee machine, but it didn’t work out! And I broke it!

Fortunately, I found out that in the same place they grind corn everyday, they have a coffee grinder. So we went there and they grind it for us! Problema solved!

But we did have to grind the cochineal by hand…

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Abelina and Fulgencia grinding the cochineal (red cochineal hands)

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 It’s really amazing how hard they work and how they do everything with a smile on their mouths!  Always laughing and making jokes!   That’s really something to learn from them.

They never stop, when they are not dyeing, winding balls or weaving, they are taking care of their animals (cows,ducks,hens,pigs), or working on their fields. Plus the normal housework because they all have kids and they need to take care of them.

Good quality is very important to them! and they pay a lot of attention to that.

They told me the other day: “Quality is very important because we want our clients to be happy with the product. If it’s not good enough, we need to find a solution and get better”

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Women packing the kits


Their persistence is incredible!

 Coming next…

We’ll keep up winding balls and making packages !

The kits are already out there! And they are selling like crazy!

Friendship Towel photo from HW

Example of the towels you can make with this kits

You can find them  by clicking here  or in this address:

http://www.cottonclouds.com/shopping/kit_info.asp?id=3074&cat=Weaving&panelID=2

 

Don’t miss my next days here! I will be moving to Gilberta’s and lots of new adventures.

Wilaa wiib’ (good bye in achi)

Rocío

 

 

 

Dying & Dyeing

If you want to read the whole story,  from the beginning! Click here.

July 23th, 2014

versión en español

Dying & Dyeing

Last week started with a funeral, a woman from San Rafael had died.

When somebody dies here, all town attends to the funeral and the different ceremonies.

The first night we went to the “velorio”, which takes place in the house. We prayed the rosary and we made company to the family while eating bread and drinking coffee.

It was kind of an adventure to get there, because we had to walk though the mountains in the middle of the night to get to the house, just with a flashlight to see our way.

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The funeral, people carrying the body

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The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal

The next day we attended to the funeral. It started at noon, when the family members gave “pinol” (traditional food) to hundreds of people in their home.

Then we walked from their house in San Rafael down to the cementery in Rabinal (2 hours walk). The volunteers (all of them men) were carrying the body in the front, and we all walked behind them while a band was playing.

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The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal

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The cementery , and “the ancianitos” praying!

It was a very interesting experience! The “ancianitos” (old wise men) were in the front, saying a lot of prayers in “achi”, and making reverences to the four cardinal points. They did that like 4 or 5 times on our way.

 Dyeing

The next day after the funeral, we started dyeing yarn!   We started by scouring and mordanting the yarn, but also by  making a lot of tests!

A few days before I did something crazy, I decided to buy 400 avocado pits from a guy in the market.  Actually we are trying to replace the tannic acid with avocado pits for the mordant part. The tannic acid is the most expensive product, so that would be perfect.  I think women can get this pits for free on the avocado season and let them dry.

We started by slicing them, and then they had the idea to grind them on a cheese grinder and it worked perfectly.

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Slicing avocado pits

 

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Avocado pits

We also made some tests on rayon and organic cotton.

Indigo crisis

We dyed with cochineal, osage orange, madder and indigo.   All the other colors were a success! But we were really having troble with indigo. This time we made an organic vat made with banana juice (last time we tried with mangos and it worked well).

 

 

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Abelina peeling the bananas for the indigo vat

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Banana juice

We made two indigo vats, but we were having trouble to achieve the same shades of blue. With the first pound we got beautiful dark blues but then it was difficult to get even colors.

We let the vat rest, we added more sugar (hot banana juice) and more lime. And when we got back like 4 hours later, the vat was even worst!

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Women using leaves to carry hot pots from one place to another

The indigo wasn’t reduced!

At first I was desperate! But after trying a lot of different things, I just decided we should try a new one.

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Indigo reflections!

At the end we were even making jokes about how the indigo was sick and had died!

So, I don’t know what happened to that vat, it just made me realize that dying with Indigo, specially with an organic vat, is really a challenge.

The women are a little bit worried about Indigo, they don’t really understand it. But I will try to change that! It’s just a matter of practice!

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Indigo vat

 

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dyed yarn

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dyed yarn


Good bye Abelina

I’moving to Elvira’s today. So I’ll say goodbye to this wonderful family, Abelina’s family is wonderful. She has three daughters (Leily,Mishel and Karen) and one son (Edwin).

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Abelina’s family and me (wearing corte)

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Abelina and her daughter Leily

Mishel is 8, and we got along really well! She’s very nice and cute!

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Mishel (Abelina’s 8 year daughter)

I won’t be on this side of the mountains anymore. I’ll miss that!

It’s very far away from town, but full with nature and amazing landscapes.

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View on our way to Abelina’s home

 

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View on our way to Abelina’s house

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Abelina’s house

To go anywhere we need to walk like 30-35 minutes through the mountains.

Don’t miss my new adventures at Elvira’s… and more dyeing is coming!

Wilaa wiib’ (good bye in achí)

Rocío

 

 

 

 

Threads of life

July 13th,2014

Versión en español

Threads of life

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Preparing the yarn for weaving!

This week has been all about threads…about winding balls, counting yarn and weaving on the back strap loom.

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preparing the loom…

I’ve been thinking that winding a thread is just like life.

We continue turning and turning on the wheel of life just like we do on a winder, until we find a knot or a problem on our way, and that’s when we just stop.  Suddenly, we don’t know what to do and we start making the knot or the problem bigger and bigger. Instead of just trying to undo the knot, simply by loosening the threads.

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threads

When I was learning to wind yarn on the wheel, they told me it was very important to never tightening the threads. Sometimes it seems like there’s no way to continue and we get stuck. But we just need to find other way by loosening the threads.     Flowing! Like the river! Like in life…

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Preparing the yarn for weaving

This is one of the many things I’ve learned here! We should keep living! Flowing without making knots.

I’ve been observing how they weave on the back strap loom; they received some new orders so they ‘ve been weaving and weaving beautiful scarves.  I really like the back stripe loom, actually I ‘ve just finished my first piece.

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I’ve just finished my first piece on the back strap loom

Maiz, mazorcas y más (Corn)

I spent this last week at Berta’s house. Living in this house was a different experience, they speak Spanish almost all the time, so it was easier to communicate. The past few days had been about learning and discovering how things are done here.

I learned how they prepare atol (traditional beverage made with corn) and how they prepare some other traditional dishes, like boshbol ( leaves full of corn).

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Boshbol (leaves full with corn)

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Preparing dinner

 

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straining “atol”

I also got to see “the Molino” where they go every morning to grind corn for making “tortillas”.

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“Molino”- grinding corn…

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“Molino” seen from the outside

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Corn ready to make “tortillas”

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I found out that a regular family buys approximately 100 pounds of corn each 10 days. It’s amazing how their whole life turns around corn. Everyday I get more and more evidence on how their whole alimentation is based on corn.

Almost all of them have cornfields, and they eat from their own crop  or 9 or 10 months depending on the season, and then they have to buy the rest on the market.

Berta was saying the other say:

“We prefer to eat the corn that comes from our own field, because somehow it tastes better and we get more out of it. When we eat from the land we have worked, it has more uk’ux (heart).

It’s the heart of earth!  ” uk’ux ulew”      The holy mother earth!

Right now they are worried because it hasn’t been raining, Rain is very important in this season because it’s the harvest time, so if it doesn’t rain soon, all the harvest will be gone and the prices will increase a lot next year.

Coming next…

I’m moving to Abelina’s house this weekend. She is Berta’s sister so I’ll be just next-door.

Days pass so quickly! I can’t believe my days with Berta are over, but I have met wonderful people and I leave this house with my heart full of great memories!

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Berta’s family and me

 

 

Dyeing & Moving !

July 10, 2014

versión en español

Dyeing yarn

Watching the depot

Watching the pot

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osage orange

Last week we started dyeing. We walked between 35 to 40 minutes to get to Elvira’s house, we took the regular road, crossing the river and walking in the middle of nature. The women carrying all sort of different things on their heads, from packages to plants.

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On our way back to Fulgencia´s house

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On our way back to Fulgencia’s house

The dyeing was great! We dyed 25 pounds of yarn using indigo, osage orange, cochineal and madder.

Keeping their eye on it all the time

Keeping their eye on it all the time

It was a new experience for me, being in charge and making so many decisions.

I wasn’t used to it! But I’ve learned a lot and I hope to get better!

So many things to plan ahead!

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Indigo vat

Cochineal coming out of the depot.

Cochineal coming out of the depot.

The first day we forgot the balance at Fulgencia’s house. And that was very problematic, because we are doing everything by foot.

We also had an issue with soap. We were using a neutral soap, and that’s not easy to find here.

When we arrived at Elvira’s we found out they had run out of soap, so we tried to buy more, but for some reason we couldn’t find more of the same neutral soap.

Elvira lives in San Rafael, so we were far away from Rabinal (the biggest town nearby.

Yarn dyed with cochineal, indigo and osage orange. What a beautiful rainbow of color!

Well, that’s how our first day dyeing started! But thankfully at the end everything turned out to be ok.

I really want to thank Diane, Donna and Catharine for answering my questions, and specially to Deborah for helping me and making this communication possible.

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cochineal

Moving to Bertha’s

On Monday I moved to Bertha’s, I started my day by taking a bath on the river and weaving on the back stripe loom. (I started my back strap weaving lessons with Fulgencia).

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

In the afternoon, Bertha and Abelina arrived and we moved everything to Bertha’s.

At his point I thought I couldn’t be more impressed. But seeing Abelina and Bertha carrying my things on their heads was really impressive.

Two cultures meet: Abelina carrying my luggage

Two cultures meet: Abelina carrying my luggage

Abelina carried my 18kg luggage on her head, while Bertha was carrying my bed on her head too. They crossed the river like that!

Crossing the river of beautiful stones

Crossing the river of beautiful stones carrying my luggage on their heads

 

I really insisted on renting a pick up. But they refuse.

They just kept saying:  “it’s not heavy! It’s nearby!

Coming next…

 My new experience at Bertha’s house, right now I’m still getting use to it.

A new family, and new stories!

We will be doing the next step… counting and winding yarn!

See you soon!

Wilaa Wiim   (good bye in achí)

Goodbye Fulgencia!

July 3,  2014

versión en español

At Home With Fulgencia & Her Family

Fulgencia and her family

Fulgencia and her family

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Fulgencia’s mother wearing traditional skirt and “Cinta”

 

My days at Fulgencia’s house are gone….twelve days have already passed!
Time passes very quickly and there are just so many experiences to tell.

Fulgencia's house

Fulgencia’s house

Simple things like bathing on the river, walking on the mountains, or picking shiny stones on the road are part of my everyday life.

 

shiny stones from the river

shiny stones from the river

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Women carrying baskets on their heads

Memorial

 Last week I attended to a memorial, they were celebrating a year of someone’s death. It was a very interesting and overwhelming experience.

A mix between the catholic religion and the Mayan traditions.

The celebration was taking place in someone’s house, they women spent all morning preparing “tamales” (traditional food made of corn and pork) and “tortillas”.

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women making “tamales”

At noon, the ceremony started, there was an old man in charge of it.

when the ceremony started

when the ceremony started

It was just amazing to see them praying in achí (a Mayan dialect) with candles on their hands, in a very devoted way!

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Alter with candles, flowers and pictures of the deceased

We were there all day long, with prayers each three hours.

People kept coming with flowers for the death man, and they all went away with “tamales” (that’s the tradition).

praying outside

praying outside

The most overwhelming experience happened that night, when they were praying in the dark with candles on their hands. And at the same time there was a sick woman on the other room, so some of them were praying while the other ones were all worried looking for plants and alcohol to heal her.

people praying

people praying

It was just too much for me!

The next day Fulgencia told me the woman almost died, but at the end she got better.

My next blog will get us all back to work and dyeing, what I feel most comfortable doing! This certainly was an interesting cultural experience like I’ve never had before.

See you soon!

Wilaa Wiim   (good bye in achí)

Rocio