2010 Weave of the week #3: The accidental detective

"Pantalones Solola" Photo: Judy Sidonie Tillinger

It was not the striped pants pictured above that prompted me to write this post,  but what they are and how I found out what they are.

If the pants look familiar, it could be because you read my Faux Ikat post last year ( here), about knocking off a similar woven pattern.  Unfortunately,  in that post I incorrectly identified the original fabric (which I don’t have anymore) as Mexican.  Because of two accidental and serendipitous discoveries,  I know now that the original ikat fabric was actually woven on a backstrap loom in Sololá, Guatemala.

The first discovery occurred last year while I was researching a blog post about a Guatemalan cinta (hair ribbon) (post here).  I used a powerful image from Judy Sidonie Tillinger’s online photo gallery to illustrate how the cinta is worn.  Judy is a New York photographer and textile lover whose work I admire.  She has traveled to some of the world’s handweaving meccas and shares hundreds of her dazzling photographs online.  While I enjoy browsing through all her galleries, the traje (link here) in particular contains some of the most spectacular textiles I’ve ever seen.  And among that collection I happened to see an image of ikat-striped pantalones (photo at top of post) from Sololá,  Guatemala, that looked very much like the “Mexican” textile that I had copied years ago.  Below are close-ups of the true ikat (on the left) and my version (on the right).

Of course I was glad to be able to correct my mistake,  but the coincidence of finding the textile (which I hadn’t even been looking for) astonished me.

For the Guatemalan cinta post, I also got help from a longtime friend who is an expert in Guatemalan textiles,  Bhakti Ziek.  Her book, Weaving on a Backstrap Loom,  provided the second serendipitous confirmation of the cloth’s identity — the photo below of  “a woman of  Sololá wearing her town’s tied-dyed shirt.”

Photo: Bhakti Ziek

Her book also provided this insight:

Very often the women [of Totonicipán] purchase enough pre-tie-dyed material for a chosen number of stripes.  Then they need do only the weaving.  In Sololá,  men’s shirts and pants and women’s huipiles are backstrap woven of tied-dyed material.  Here,  too,  the women purchase the thread already patterned.

I nodded in recognition at finding that Guatemalan weavers take short-cuts,  too,  and I wondered whether they,  in their turn,  might nod in recognition if they saw my supplementary-warp version of their cloth.  I’ll never know,  of course,  but thinking about the question makes me feel closer to these marvelous weavers.

I enjoyed putting these pieces together,  and I’m bemused by the way in which the aptly named world wide web makes such (accidental) detective work possible,  by linking traditional weaving on backstrap looms in distant countries with modern commnication technology and digital cameras.

For their help with this article I would like to thank Bhakti  Ziek,  Judy Sidonie Tillinger,  and the weavers of Sololá,  Guatemala.  And before leaving this subject,  I would like to share this from my research:  ” Sololá has a breath-taking view of Lake Atitlán and ‘atitlán’ is a Mayan word that translates as ‘the place where the rainbow gets it’s colors.'” (More about Guatemala here.)


4 Responses

  1. As a big fan of ikat fabric, I really enjoyed reading your post. I just love the “pantalones.” Thank you, Fern, for a great article!


    • Eva, I love the “pantalones” too. The way that the Guatemalan people of this area mix patterns in their dress is worth a separate article, at least. Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad you liked the post.


  2. Hi, Bonnie, Great comment! Thanks so much for posting it.


  3. I love this post! I am such a fan of Guatemalan weaving, and it informs much of my own weaving. I am thrilled to discover that Guatemalan weavers will buy yarn already ikat dyed as I also search for yarn already dyed as well. I love the links too. Thanks!

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