2009 Weave of the week #43: Mexican tablecloth

Mexican tablecloth

I’m taking a break from my blogging break to say “happy Thanksgiving.”  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday so this week’s featured weave is a food- and wine-stained Mexican tablecloth, handwoven in vaguely autumnal bleached-pumpkin colors (shown above),  that I have used for years and will use again for this holiday meal.  As is too often the case,  I don’t know where I bought it,  or when.   I assumed that it was Mexican because the stripes and the figure in the center look Mexican, but it wasn’t until my friend Penelope said that she thought it was Oaxacan that I started to do research.

I was in Mexico years ago,  before I knew anything about the country’s extraordinary textile history,  so I unfortunately missed going to Oaxaca, but while I was researching my tablecloth, the magic of the internet brought me to Norma Hawthorne’s website link here.

Norma Hawthorne is an American woman who has a deep love and appreciation and knowledge of Oaxacan culture.  She conducts weaving and natural dyeing (and painting and documentary filmmaking) workshops in Oaxaca,  so I sent her an image of  my tablecloth and asked if she could identify it.  She thought (correctly,  it turns out) that it might be from Mitla but suggested that I contact Eric Chavez Santiago,  Director of Education of the Museo Textile de Oaxaca link here.  Here is his interesting reply,  reprinted with his permission:

“For what I’ve seen,  it was hand woven on a treadle loom [they were brought from Spain in the 1500s];  these tablecloths can be found it Mitla,  Xochimilco neighborhood in Oaxaca City and the valley of Ocotlán.  The color combination is not exclusive to one of these places,  they traditionally use machine-spun cotton threads for warp and wefts,  dyed with synthetic colorants.  About the design … I know it is a traditional one  (the pattern is still being woven with variations).  I cannot see all the tablecloth in this picture,  but I see a man figure;  when they have couples woven on them they are used as wedding gifts,  sometimes families ask the weavers to weave the names of the couple into the tablecloth.”

Writing about my tablecloth gave me the opportunity to look at it more closely than I had before,  and it is a beautiful and ingeniously designed textile.  I’m not going to apologize for the quality of my photograph — there should be medals for even trying to photograph a 6-ft x 4½-ft tablecloth in a Brooklyn apartment with an amateur photographer’s 3-ft x 3-ft setup.  But here is a small selection of close-ups:

I am very grateful to Norma Hawthorne and Eric Chavez Santiago for being so generous with their time and their expertise.  The pictures of Oaxaca and its textiles (and its flowers) on their websites and blogs make me want to book a flight immediately.

Back to Thanksgiving.  Here is the photo that motivated me to take a holiday break from my hiatus:

Why did you give ME potatoes?

I wanted to share this photo,  which I took back when I was still using black-and-white film and serving jellied cranberry sauce out of a can,  and our beloved Puffy,  turkey’s number-one fan (shown above),  was here to celebrate with us.  I don’t miss film,  or cranberry sauce from a can,  but I miss Puffy profoundly (and his week-long vigils in front of the freezer with the frozen turkey in it — how could he smell a frozen turkey through a refrigerator door?),  and am truly thankful that I have this picture.  I hope that we all have a warm and delicious Thanksgiving — and now,  alas,  it’s back to my blog break for me.


4 Responses

  1. Hi, Holly, Sounds like Puffy and Huffy were kindred spirits : )

    Your comment means a lot to me. Thank you for posting it.

    Happy Thanksgiving.


  2. Your kitty Puffy reminded me of our old cat Huffy, a British citizen who only came to the US with the promise of endless turkey and chicken. She use to sit on a kitchen chair and stare at us while we ate. Come back often, I miss your blog. I’ve learned a lot from it.

  3. Hi, Eva, It’s funny but after writing that post I felt like I had been to Mexico too.

    Puffy was indeed a happy cat, but he didn’t usually sit at the table. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with my camera that night.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, and thank you for your kind support.


  4. Fern, I feel like I’ve just been to Mexico! I love the tablecloth and the historical and cultural facts you found in your research are fascinating. Puffy must have been a happy kitty with turkey treats and a place at your table…Happy Thanksgiving!

    p.s. I love your blog, please come back as often as you can.

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