Guatemalan Weaving Adventure

Mayan Handsmayan hands collage tour

Guatemalan Fair Trade Weaving Adventures

January 20-30, 2016

Host, guide, and translator Deborah Chandler, author:

Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives
Learning to Weave and Guatemalan Woven Wealth

mayanhandsny@mayanhands.org

To register: Mayan Hands Tour Registration Form

 What You Will Do

MH2– Meet Mayan Hands weavers In their homes and communities

– Try your hand at backstrap weaving

– Shop the world-famous Chichicastenango market

– Visit Mayan sites and museums, including Museo Ixchel, named for the goddess of weaving.

– Savor delicious traditional Guatemalan foods

-Explore Guatemalan Highlands, beautiful Lake Atitlan and the colonial city of Antigua.

 Click HERE for complete itinerary.

What You Will FindMH6

Experience the natural beauty of Guatemala and immerse yourself in Mayan culture, ancient and contemporary, in the homes of weavers, in extraordinary markets and museums and in your connections with Guatemala’s greatest treasure, her people.

You will return home with your spirit renewed and hope restored.  Plus of course, a suitcase of gorgeous handwoven fabrics!

The DetailsMH 1

– Trip cost of $1895 includes all lodging (double occupancy), most meals, local transportation, translation, entrance fees and $400 donation to Mayan Hands (with tax deduction receipt). Airfare and personal expenses not included.

– Discounts available for Mayan Hands supporters. Contact us for details.

Guatemala banner

For more information and trip itinerary click here  or email Deborah Chandler at weavingfutures2012@gmail.com

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Sharing stories and dreams

Sharing stories and dreams

It’s been a long time since I last wrote…

Since I left Guatemala….Oooh those wonderful days!!!

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I came back to my home in Mexico City and I continued with my different natural dye projects, always inspired by my Mayan friends.

But magic always appears in my life in such wonderful ways. I’ve always thought that everything happens for a reason, and that the people we meet, and the things we do are no coincidence. Life works in mysterious ways.

All the wonderful women I met in the “Tintes Naturales Project” (the Guatemalan and the American) have made a difference in my life, and I will always carry them in my heart.

Helped by my American friends, I will be travelling to the U.S. in a few days.

I will be talking at this years WARP (Weave a Real peace) meeting in San Francisco. I will have the opportunity to share my experience during my days in Guatemala and to talk about the Importance of textiles in this country.

I will be giving cochineal workshops as well. Irene Schmoller and Robin Lynde organized a cochineal workshop at the Meridian Jacobs Farm in Vacaville, California.  Donna Brown organized another in the Denver area at Recycled Lamb, Golden, Colorado.

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I’ll be teaching a Cochineal Workshop in California and Colorado 

Plus a slide show presentation of my experiences with the women of San Rafael, Guatemala.

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In the Bay Area?  Come hear my presentation on

“The Importance of Textiles to Grassroot Economies in Guatemala”

I trust this will help the women from Guatemala sell more kits!

This Project has helped them to earn a fair wage for the first time.  At the end of 2014 they have earned twice the money (in just 3 months) that they normally do just by weaving the whole year.

They are now selling 3 different types of Friendship Towel kits for both rigid heddle and 4-shaft looms! Now you can even weave vests, jackets and baby blankets!! Cotton Clouds will have these kits at the WARP Annual Meeting May 29-31, 2015.  Also available online at Cotton Clouds.

vest

Friendship Vest by Lois Weaver

jacket

Friendship jacket by Lois Weaver

baby blanket

Friendship Baby Blanket by Robin Lynde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I hope to see some of you there!

May our paths cross one day, so we can share stories and be part of the same dream for a moment… a fragment of time in this awkward and wonderful world.

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The beginning of the end…

August,19th,2014


The beginning of the end…

This journey is almost finished…

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The river in San Rafael

I left San Rafael yesterday, it was a sad goodbye but I leave with my heart full of joy and great memories !

The women prepared us a great meal! They prepared a soup with turkey in it, and some tamalitos (made of corn).

Deborah, Julo and Damaris were there, and we all celebrated at Gilberta’s house.

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Women cooking

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Deborah, Damaris and Julio

It was a busy day, the women arrived at Gilberta’s at 6 in the morning to start cooking. They were all smiling and making jokes, as they always do!

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preparing “tamalitos”

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women cooking

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Berta and Elvira preparing tamalitos

The women gave me a gift! A beautiful black huipil!

They are so nice, I was very moved…

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Abelina teaching me how to do some weaving techniques

They also helped me set up the warp on my backstrap loom, so I could be able to weave on it at my home back in Mexico.

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Abelina setting up the warp

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Me, weaving!

At the beginning of the day we were all very happy, Deborah and Julio arrived at 11am, but as the hours passed we started to feel sad. I couldn’t believe I was leaving that day!

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Eating and having a good time at Gilberta’s

But the hours passed quickly and by 3 in the afternoon, we had to go.

We all had tears in our eyes… it was a very moving goodbye!

But I know it’s not a goodbye.. it’s just a see you later!

 

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Mishel, Karen and me

 

 

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The women and me (and the Handwoven magazine)

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The women and me… the goodbye!!

I’m in Guatemala City right now… feeling kind of strange!

I spent 2 months living with these women and I got used to everything. Things like making tortillas, seeing women carrying stuff on their heads, or walking in the mountains became normal to me.

It’s amazing how we get used to things!

And here I am.. back in the city, where normal things like taking a shower with hot water seem amazing to me!

It was a great experience! One I will never forget.

Our paths cross for a few months, weeks, days, hours…. Seconds! But I will carry these women and their families in my heart for life.

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Berta, Elvira, Fulgencia, Abelina and Gilberta (from left to right)

I learned great lessons and meeting these women with great souls, so connected to nature, will make me a different person.

And I hope you will carry  a little bit of these women in your heart too…

This week Deborah will take me to visit some other places in Guatemala, and I’ll be finally going back to my home in Mexico City on Saturday.

So I say “wiila wiib” (goodbye) to you for now….

This is the END of this adventure… but I’m surely the BEGINNING of more!

 “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nim-

Wiila wiib’

Rocío Mena

 

Hearts working together!

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

August 7th, 2014

versión en español

Hearts working together!

This last week was crazy!

We have been dyeing , winding and packing to get more kits ready.

We were expecting the Handwoven magazine article until september, but for some reason we don’t understand, the article came out earlier.

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Women winding balls at Elvira’s house

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Some of the packages ready to go!

So that’s why we only had some kits ready. But we have been working a lot to send more kits as soon as possible!  We finished 117 kits yersterday! Now we just need to wait for them to arrive to the U.S.!!!!

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Abelina carrying the yarn and boxes form one place to another.

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Kits ready to go! Women smiling, the work is finished!

 

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Women packing the kits

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Elvira and Berta packing kits

 The Friendship towel kits

This project started like 5 years ago, and since then,  a lot of volunteers have been working to make this possible.

Catharine Ellis and Donna Brown came down here last year to teach the women more about Natural Dyes, and then last march Donna Brown came back for a week with Diane de Souza and me.

The towels were designed by Sarah H. Jackson.

Irene Schmoller from Cotton Clouds is helping to sell the kits without any profits at all.

There’s also all the Mayan Hands team in the U.S (Anne Kelly and Mary Joan), in Guatemala city (Julio Cardona), and Brenda Rosenbaum, the founder of Mayan Hands.

And of course Deborah Chandler, this couldn’t have been posible without her.

All this people working together to make this Project succeed!

Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

The kit includes 11 balls dyed with different Natural Dyed colors: Dark cochineal, light cochineal, osage orange, natural, madder, light indigo, dark indigo and osage orange+indigo (green).

It also includes the instructions on how to weave 4 beautiful towels.

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Kits ready to go!

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Kit seen from the back, you can appreciate all the different colors!

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Friendship towel kit

TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS KITS  click here.

TO ORDER FRIENDSHIP TOWEL KITS  click here.

But of course we couldn’t be talking about this Project and the Friendship towels without this 5 incredible women: Fulgencia, Berta, Abelina, Elvira and Gilberta.

They had faith in this Project since the beginning, and they have continued working hard, even if they didn’t have any profit on the beginnning.

This last week we discovered I should have been spending 13 days instead of 12 on each women’s house. So I returned one more day with each one of the women.

Just like a perfect review for you to meet them:

Fulgencia

IMG_4295She’s the mother of three children: Chente (18), Glenda (16) and the youngest one (13).

They all go to school but the boys need to work some days by night, making bread. Glenda has   a Mayan Hands scholarship. Her husband works in Guatemala city, and he only comes home every two weekends.

They have a beautiful house on the other side of the river. It’s called Chisaliá.

I could describe Fulgencia as a joyful woman! She is very responsable, she always arrives on time and she really pays attention to the details. His husband is very good at fixing things, so they also fix bicycles and different things.

The children are always helping their mother. They all like winding balls! Glenda has learned how to weave from her mother, it’s amazing to see how the knowledge passes from one generation to another. Between them, they only speak in “achi” (mayan dialect), but they spoke to me in Spanish.

Fulencia & Family

Fulencia & Family

Berta

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She’s is a single woman, she decided not to get married, so he lives with their parents and youngest sisters.

She takes care of her nephew, he’s one year old.

She is very funny and  smart!

It’s easier for me to communicate with her! In this house they speak achí, but also a lot of spanish. She has two younger sisters living in that house. Miriam is 16 and she’s in highschool and Irma must be like 23, she’s studying at the universtiy to become a professor. We really got along well!

They live on the mountains, far away. To go to town we needed to walk like 30-35 minutes and then take a pick up. That’s the same for Fulgencia and Abelina.  They have hens and chickens to sell, as well as pigs.

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Berta’s family and me

Abelina

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She is Berta’s sister, she lives just next door. She has 4 children. Three girls: Mishel (8 ), Karen (14) , Leyli (19) and one boy: Edwin ( 16).

Leyli has a Mayan Hands scholarship.

I got along very well with those girls, specially Mishel! Abelina’s husband also works in Guatemala city, he spends some time in here and some time in the city.

In this house they only speak in spanish!!

Abelina is always smiling and making jokes.

She is also very good at math, and she is kind of the secretary of the group. She is charge of writing everything down on a notebook. (all the dyeing procedures)

 

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Abelina’s family and me

Elvira

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Elvira lives closer to town. To go to town you only need to get a pick up ( you don’t need to walk between the mountains).

She has 2 boys: Misael (12) and the oldest one ( 14).

Her husband left to the U.S eight years algo , but she barely hears from him. She’s alone to do all the tasks, because she doesn’t have any girls, to help her cook or clean.

She wakes up very early in the morning to milk the cow, and then she makes cheese to sell. Her parents leave very close to her, like 10 minutes away.

She’s always very busy feeding the ducks, hens, pigs, and taking care of her children. We dye at her house, this is the place where we have been dyeing since the beginning!

 

Gilberta

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I haven’t lived with her yet. Maybe this weekend!

She’s finishing her house!!! She will have a new house to live! Exciting! So we are waiting for her to finish it, so that I could go spend my last days with her.

She is a very joyful and active woman!

She is the leader of the weavers, she started the Weaving Project like 12 years ago.

She has one daughter! She’s already and adult.

 

They are all very honest, kind and responsable women!! and they all want to improve their income, so their children could have a better way of life.

And of course, they all get along very well! They are very good friends.

This was a longer post, but it was worthed, for you to be able to get closer to this women.  Next week I’ll be going to Gilberta’s…

I only have a week and a half left!

 THIS JOURNEY IS ALMOST FINISHED!

Don’t miss my last stories!

Wilaa wiib’

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

 

 

 

 

A very different world!

June 26th, 2014

Versión en español

Women carrying baskets on their heads while crossing the mountains and the river. Gorgeous shining stones, lightning bugs and green mountains… This is how my life looks like this days!

A whole different world from the one I’m used to.

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View from the mountains

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Fulgencia weaving on her backstrap loom

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the view from Fulgencia’s house

Fulgencia’s house

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Fulgencia

I’ve been living at Fulgencia’s for the last few days and it has been a great experience for me. Life begins at 5:00 a.m., when the women go to the “Molino”, to grind “maíz” (corn). Then they start preparing “tortillas”,.  They call this procedure: “tortear”. Twice a day, every day this is their life.

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Tortillas on the wood stove

 

 

Actually they tried to teach me how to “tortear”. But apparentely I’m not very good at it! I hope I’ll get better with practice. It was amazing for me to see this, cause even though I’m mexican, I’m from the city , and I wasn’t familiar with this process.

 

 

 

 

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Fulgencia preparing the tortillas

The first day

Let me tell you the story of how we carried things from Elvira’s to Fulgencia’s house. I thought we would have to ask for a pick up or something, because we are talking about 5 women and pounds and pounds of yarn, plus extra materials.  But instead they decided to do it their way! Carrying the yarn and stuff on baskets on their heads. I was so impressed!

We walked for half an hour like that, crossing through the mountains and  across a river. I was having trouble doing that without any baskets on my head! Imagine them!

They look gorgeous wearing their “cortes” (traditional skirts) and the baskets on their heads, walking in the most gracious way.I understood that the clothes they use fit perfectly in their everyday lives.  Somehow crossing  the many rivers is easier when you are wearing a “corte”.

This is the only picture I have for now:

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Elvira and Gilberta carrying supplies on their heads

Languages

They are always speaking in “Achí” (Mayan dialect), and that has been challenging for me, because most of the time I don’t undestand anything they are saying!

It’s easier for me to communicate with children and men, I guess because they speak spanish all the time when they go to school or to work. And I think the women are not used to speaking spanish, since when they are together as a group, they don’t need to.    That just surprises me , I wouldn’t have thought it would be like that!

I know that in other houses they only speak spanish, but we’ll discover that later.  For now my whole world is in “Achi”.

 

The family

Let me tell you about Fulgencia’s family. They are very kind and loving people, and I’ve been able to see how close they are as a family.

Fulgencia and her husband have three children: two boys (14 and 18), and a girl (16).

Her  husband works in Guatemala City, which is hours away, so he only comes home on weekends. The entire family is always involved with whatever a family member is doing.  The other day,  we were winding  yarn to be dyed and the oldest boy was very excited to be helping us.

Her husband also helped us all weekend long, giving us his ideas on how to solve various problems that arose. It is so encouraging to see the whole family involved in every aspect of each other’s lives.

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Fulgencia’s daughter preparing “tamales”

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Fulgencia’s son helping with the yarn

Sons of Corn

It’s amazing to see how their life is! So far away from technology and so close to nature. To the essence of things! They know the process of everything they eat and do.

And this week I could really appreciate this by following the process of corn!      After all, mayas call themselves “Los hijos del maíz” (the Sons of Corn)

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Maíz (corn)

 

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View from the top

Coming next week

We’ll start dyeing at Elvira’s house next week, and then I’ll be probably moving to Bertha’s house.        Don’t miss out on my new stories!

My first trip to Guatemala!

June 13th, 2014

Versión en español

 Arrival in Guatemala!

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Guatemala’s view form the plane

So I ended up going to Guatemala last March to work for a few days with the women of San Rafael and help them with the Natural Dye Project.

Deborah Chandler received Donna Brown, Diane de Souza and me in Guatemala City. I had never met them! I arrived to Guatemala, just trusting and excited to meet new people. interested in the same things I am interested in!  Naturally dyeing and community support.

 

San Rafael

Deborah took us to San Rafael, a small settlement four hours away from the capital! We spent four days with the women. Our main goal was to try  to figure out why they weren’t achieving the bright, vibrant natural dye colors they should, on the cotton yarns they were using.

ImageOn our way to San Rafael!

On our way from Rabinal to San Rafael

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Elvira’s house, where we did the dying last march

The Natural Dyes Project

It’s important to mention that this Natural Dye Project started a year ago, when Donna Brown and Catharine Ellis traveled as volunteers to Guatemala in order to teach these women the process of natural dyeing so that they could support their income as weavers. They sell their handwoven products to Mayan Hands, at a fair market price. Deborah Chandler, who lives in Guatemala City and is very involved with the Mayan Hands organization, made this possible.

Mayan Hands is a fair trade organization founded in 1989. They work with over 150 women in eight Guatemalan communities.

Brenda Rosenbaum, a Guatemalan/American woman is in charge of it. They will help these women sell cotton yarn kits in the USA. More about that interesting project in a later blog, so stay tuned as I report from the field.

Catharine and Donna taught the women in San Rafael how to dye with natural dyes last year. The idea is to sell cotton yarn to increase their income. Which is less than one dollar per day.

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Dying yarn

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San Rafael, Guatemala. Small settlement 15 min away from Rabinal

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yarn dyed with cochineal

Troubleshooting!

We went to Guatemala this year, because they were having trouble;  the colors were very pale. After having a lot of theories about why they weren’t getting the right colors, we finally were able to solve the mystery!. The mystery? We discovered that they were using baking soda, instead of soda ash !!! In English we can’t really see how they made that mistake, but in Spanish the words are very similar:  carbonato de sodio (soda ash)/ bicarbonato de sodio (baking soda)

So that was the main problem! They weren’t mordanting with the proper product!

Those days were a success, we got the beautiful natural dye colors and then I could see that the women were now very interested in the project!

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yarn dyed last march: cochineal,indigo,osage orange,pomegranate, madder, pomegranate/osage orange+indigo for greens.

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Dying yarn with cochineal

I can communicate with them in Spanish (even if their first language is Achí, a Mayan dialect) And that’s how I ended up with this Natural Dye Project (Tintes Naturales)

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All together at the end of the workshop!

If you want to hear more about this first trip to Guatemala, you can visit the Dyeing2weave blog written by  Diane DeSouza. You’ll find amazing photos and stories!

My trip to the United States

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Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

It’s also important to mention that last month, I went to the WARP (Weave A Real Peace) conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I then spent almost three weeks with Catharine Ellis. She invited me to her beautiful home in Asheville, N.C. We spent that time testing natural dye formulas and learning more about natural dyes so that I could be ready to pass this information onto the women in San Rafael!

 

She taught me a lot!! And it was an amazing experience!! Catharine was great and I enjoyed meeting a lot of interesting people!

Preparing myself.. the last preparations!

So here I am for now, in Mexico City, my hometown, preparing for my journey. I’ll be in Guatemala next week. Sharing my experiences and adventures with you!

So don’t forget to register to receive notice of whenever I post a blog, so you too can be part of  my adventure!

I’m sure I will be learning a lot from these women and from this experience, and I hope I will be able to help them too.

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Sunset in San Rafael

Until next time, Adios!