Category Archives: hand made shawls

Good Friends and Ugly Surprises

Threading a loom in Mitla.

Today started off like most days in Oaxaca: first the birds began to sing at dawn, then the sun followed, peeking over the mountainous horizon and bathing the surrounding countryside in a beautiful buttery light that softens even the oversized spiny agaves that dominate the area.

After enjoying a cup of coffee and a walk with friends, it was off to the races…

Today was Mitla, a town about 45 minutes from here which specializes in textiles such as blouses, scarves, shawls and more. We went there to pay a visit to my favorite “textile” family, Emiliano, Delfina, Gabino and Mayra. These people are honestly, the back bone of Latin Threads. They supply much of our jewelry, scarves, and rebozos and each time we visit, our time together stretches into hours  and we leave feeling as though we just arrived.

Today, however, was a disaster. In reviewing the work that was in progress we discovered that for some reason the thread used to make the scarves had a “sticky” quality that when woven produced a scarf that could only be described as bizarre and uncharacteristic. After much experimentation with different colors and threads, we determined we had  real problem on our hands…especially unfortunate as much of the spooling work and even the weaving work for hundreds of scarves had already been started. A call was made to the factory, plans were made to send samples to the experts and experiments with local thread were made for tomorrow. We will be checking back with Mayra tomorrow to see what comes of all this.

Unfortunately, consistency at the textile factories is a major problem here in Mexico. Lot to lot, color can change, weaves change and the the quality of the weave can be variable…  AND with the radical increase in the cost of cotton due to the loss of the cotton crop in Mexico, things are further complicated. Perhaps this is why my car is sitting outside packed to the roof with fabric that we will stockpile for our spring production. We have looked for other sources in Mexico but have not found alternatives to date. This is life in Mexico. One learns to roll with the surprises, to be resourceful, and to adapt to the situation.

Tonight I had a fantastic meeting with Eric at http://www.traditionsmexico.com. He has spent many years in Oaxaca, is an expert on the ceramics of Oaxaca and is a fountain of knowledge on all topics Oaxaca. Visit his site for information about his  exceptional, in depth tours of the area.

Tomorrow? Stay tuned….

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Fair Trade, hand made shawls, Living in Mexico, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, Textiles Oaxaca, travel/shopping in Mexico

New Discoveries!

Sometimes the best discoveries come with  effort. Last week I traveled a “short” 3 hours from Oaxaca to the Mixe region of Oaxaca in pursuit of some unusual bags and luscious shawls from a pueblo called Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec  (“Tlahui” for short, thankfully!)

The inhabitants of the pueblo are part of the Mixe ethnic group, which is located  in the northeast corner of the state of Oaxaca and is composed of about 85,000 people. It is an area that is generally mountainous, which at least partially explains why these people were never conquered by the Spaniards, Aztecs or Zapotecs.

After 2 hours of twisting and turning roads (sorry about the car sickness Mary!)  we arrived at the fog enshrouded mountainside pueblo. My friend Arturo, who knows the area and the weavers of Tlahui well was waiting for us there, and after a quick greeting, we set off, up into the upper reaches of the village for our “insiders” tour of the artisans of the pueblo.

Finding any of these workshops would have been utterly impossible without a person with local knowledge. Fortunately, Arturo was a teacher in Tlahui years ago and still knew his way around. We climbed up and up on criss-crossing  foot paths until we arrived at the home and workshop of  Fernando Gutierrez, where skeins of recently dyed cotton were hanging above his home to dry.

In a word, his shawls are spectacular! These soft, luscious 100% cotton rebosos are hand woven on a pedal floor loom by Fernando and finished by his wife, who ties the intricate patterned knotted ends. Their dyes are natural and come from plants such as banana, marigold, and tree bark.

After making our selections, we worked our way over to another workshop farther into the village which was of a completely different nature. The women we visited were busily sewing blouses and bags with very modern sewing machines. The interesting part is that they were using the machine as they would a needle and thread, in that they were hand feeding the clothing through the machines, twisting and turning the fabric to create unique designs. The result was fascinating as each blouse and bag was a one-of-a-kind work, with  a distinct style, unique to the pueblo.

As the story goes,  members of Tlahui more than 50 years ago were in a different pueblo where huaraches (Mexican rustic sandals) were being made. They noticed how quickly the machine could do the work and decided to bring some machines back to Tlahui to use in their own crafts. The pueblo has since become known for this distinctive textile style.

Before leaving, we made one more stop at the studio of Bonifacio Vasquez, where we purchased several of his beautiful shawls made in the same style as those we had seen earlier.

As we concluded our visit with Arturo and were making moves to head back to Oaxaca, he insisted we stop by the wedding he had been invited to for a bite to eat and to meet his friends. This is what I LOVE about Mexico! Plans are only ever general guidelines and life is mostly very fluid. Of course, we stayed, ate, met the happy couple and ultimately left Tlahui feeling that we had made friends, established long term ties with the artisans, and planted seeds for more visits.

Please do visit the “Shawls” page for a closer look at their beautiful work and  the “Accessories” page for samples of their unique designs on bags.

Coming soon, photos from Festival of the Radishes and recycled paper jewelry.

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Filed under hand made shawls, Mixe, Oaxaca

Boxes and Trunk Shows

At the San Diego Trunk Show.

I would venture to say that as I wrap up a very exciting, successful (and exhausting!) tour of San Diego, Portland and Hood River (coming up this weekend) I am becoming pretty good at packing and unpacking, though ironing remains low on my list of favorite activities!

These events have been a terrific opportunity for me to learn more about what people like, what fits well, and what my next steps will be. That’s part of the fun and challenge of starting a new business: figuring out where to go from here… The response to the mission, the quality, and the diversity of Latin Threads goods has been wonderful. I can’t wait to get back to Oaxaca and Chiapas to share the news with the talented artisans I work with and to start collecting more goods for the next set of events!

If you check the “Trunk Sales” page of my site, you will see where Latin Threads goods are now carried in specialty stores.

And, if you attended one of my shows, you just might find a photo of yourself in Latin Threads goods on the same page.

More news once I begin my journey back to Oaxaca. Thanks to all who have supported this new venture. There is a lot more of excitement on the horizon! Stay tuned!

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., hand made shawls, Mexican blouses, Oaxaca

Bags, Beauty and Blogs

If I thought when I started this business that it would be possible to have this much fun, I would have called myself a dreamer, but, incredibly, things just keep building and getting more exciting!

Last night my first ever Latin Threads trunk show event in San Diego opened to a very receptive crowd of friends and strangers who came to shop for the holidays and to learn more about my new business and the handcrafted goods I brought to sell. It was a crazy day before then, running around to get everything together in time (thank you, thank you, thank you, Cheryl,  Morgan, and Cathy!!!).  I found myself ironing blouses (probably not at the top of my list of favorite activities, especially when you are talking about hundreds of them), tagging and labeling the goods until well into the evening. Hopefully today at the second day of the trunk show, I will have more time to visit with people and to share the beauty of this business.

People were so impressed by the diversity and the quality of the craftsmanship of the textiles, especially in the shawls, with spectacular and diverse weaving from many different families and pueblos from the state of Oaxaca. Now that I think about it, the people of Chiapas seem to  make fewer  rebozos (shawls) than blouses and other textiles…hmmmm, I will have to pay more attention to that in the future.  Some favorites: the Etla bags, jewelry, and shawls.

Many of the people who attended were very interested in Latin Threads and were curious to learn about and listen to my tales of tracking down and acquiring these goods I sell.  I mentioned that perhaps next year I will put together a tour for a limited number of people to come down to Oaxaca with me on a cultural shopping adventure. This was an idea that was enthusiastically received!

Some of those who attended also had ideas for how to expand my business. In discussing their suggestions, many of which involved high volume production, I found myself responding passionately with thoughts that I had not really articulated until that moment. And I realized that in the five years I have spent in Mexico, I HAVE learned something about other cultures and their ways of life.

The roots of this little business are simple but strong and they grow founded upon relationships with people through understanding, respect, and appreciation. I love growing an enterprise that is involves beauty and a story. And YES! I look forward to expanding my business and being able to offer even more wonderful treasures, one relationship at a time.

Stay tuned for more up dates as the next crazy weeks unfold!

Cheryl in the chaos hours before...

Adele

Latin Threads are for men too!

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, hand made shawls, Mexican blouses, Oaxaca, Textiles Oaxaca

Latin Threads Trading is Born

Dear friends,

For those of you who have already been following the first steps of Latin Threads Trading, this announcement will come as no surprise, but to those of you who are new to this site, welcome. Latin Threads Trading was born out of appreciation and respect for beauty and the individuals in Latin America who create it through their hard work and determination for a better life.

The clothing and accessories you will find on the pages of Latin Threads Trading Company are made by people who depend on you, the consumer, to support their traditions and livelihoods through the purchase of their work. It is our goal at Latin Threads to contribute to preserving the artistic traditions of the people of Latin America, and most immediately of Mexico, while promoting the dignity and viability of mostly rural, mostly indigenous people.

Please take a look at our pages, I think you’ll be inspired by what you see.

Adele

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Adele on top of another load of beautiful clothing, bound for Latin Threads Trading customers.

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, hand made shawls, Mexican blouses, Oaxaca, Textiles Oaxaca

A few sights and personalities from San Cristobal.

 

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Rosa displays one of the beautiful blouses she has just finished.

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Delivery day of the blouses from Faustina's group of ladies.

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Satin "treasure bags" from the ladies in Aguatenango.

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Antonio creating string necklaces.

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Filed under Chiapas, hand made shawls, Mexican blouses

More treasure from San Cristobal.

Aurora

Aurora, daughter of Pascuala, and her family, showing an example of the beautiful blouses they just finished (the Pascuala blouse),

Wow, the night bus returning to Oaxaca was packed full of people on their way to Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead celebrations. I was jealously hoarding my two seats, (having spread myself out over both), looking forward to enjoying a little space on the way back after an exhilarating (and exhausting) two days, but that was not to be. I think I heard myself whimpering a bit as I had to make room for my seat partner…

The trip was better than I imagined it would be. Having placed orders with new groups of women, I was not sure what to expect with only one month to make the blouses but it was fantastic. I have been told by many people that Muertos is the time when everyone needs money to pay for their purchases for this all important holiday. Everyone, rich or poor, needs to buy their  Muertos bread,  special foods and drinks, flowers, and let’s not forget the music!  So, when I placed my orders, I had hoped to at least receive half of  them with this additional “incentive”, but these lovely women delivered everything I ordered and more! I am excited to put the new blouses up on my Latin Threads site and to add more pictures from my trip.

I asked them if it was difficult to get these done on such short notice (I will be taking these to my sales events starting this November), but they shrugged and said they simply  grouped together family members and members of their cooperatives to complete the work. The end result was great quality with a unique interpretation of each design by each artist.

I had also placed an order with a woman in town who keeps many of the women in one particular pueblo employed making blouses. She supplies them with the cut fabric and thread and they take it all back to their pueblo where after 4-6 months, they make a large delivery to the store (just before Muertos in this case) of 60 or so blouses, representing a group of 10-15 women. I was, by coincidence, at the store to witness to this delivery the evening before I left and it was a sight to behold. (Stay tuned for photos!)

On a future trip this spring I plan to meet with these women to talk about working together directly. Having visited the pueblo before it was obvious that virtually all the women in the town embroider but as I understand it, there are  issues re. problems with the fabrication of the blouse itself as they have no patterns. These are common problems but over time, through  cooperatives and other influences, these issues are being addressed. In the meantime, I continue to order directly where I can, and if I can’t get the best by ordering direct, I work with people who  have great relationships with these women to acquire these wonderful treasures. Wait until you see some of the extraordinary work I acquired from this last trip!

Also,  new discoveries this trip include more  jewelry, scarves and one of a kind blouses.

Well, I am off as there are altars to construct for Muertos and plans to make for our friends coming in today ( in an hour!) from Hood River, OR for the holidays.

Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, hand made shawls, Mexican blouses