Excitement was in the air as the weavers learned the intricate technique of designing a pattern, arranging the threads and tying them off, then realigning the threads after dyeing them - all before even placing the thread on the loom. Just a week ago, we finished a two-week intensive training in ikat (or jaspe) dyeing for our artisan partners in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. This cooperative of foot-loom weavers is the first group Mayan Hands ever worked with. The cooperative came to life in the 1980s during the civil war, as a way to help the many of widows of the conflict in this region find a livelihood. For twenty five years, Mayan Hands has purchased their beautiful cloth made into placemats, tablecloths, napkins, and handbags.
After all these years, we wanted to offer this group the opportunity to learn new techniques and create new designs. We figured that introducing ikat into their cloth (a complicated art of tie dyeing the threads before they are woven) would give more variety and versatility to their textiles which, in turn, would help to sell their products better. Our friend Clemente Ruiz, a Quiche master weaver and ikat expert, traveled to Rabinal to work with the women.
The weavers from Rabinal just sent us their first yards of cloth with the new ikat designs. They look promising and we are dreaming of possibilities!