Guatemalan Textiles Bought

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Fall 2006

(click pictures to enlarge)

Nim Po't comments are from their excellent website (, where you can browse by pueblo or by type of clothing.  Their website is very informative, and nicely searches and displays hundreds of items for sale and items sold with prices.  Nim Po't is a large retail store / museum in Antigua selling new and used textiles, masks and other Guatemalan crafts.

Also of great interest, and very well done, are the two textile museums:  In Guatemala City, the Museo Ixchel and in Antigua, Casa del Tejido.  Our friend Linda who works for the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. was very impressed with the presentation and informative quality of both museums.  Scroll to bottom of page for some pictures of these museums/stores

For a look at the backstrap loom scroll to bottom of this page for Parts of a Backstrap Loom used for Mayan Weaving


ANTIQUE TZUTE  (All purpose cloth.)

(In close up, color washed out by flash)

Origin:             Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan

Description:    Predominately reds/rusts, luscious rich earth tones.  Woven geometrics (diamonds). Silk woven  around cotton.  Velvety luster.  Approx  4’ x 18” runner.  Excellent condition.

Condition:        Used.  85 years old

Bought:            Chichicastenango, El Quiche’ – Sunday market;  Oct. ’06.  From Tienda Tipica “Antiguedades”

Price:               Q850 (asked Q1100)  =  $113

Nim Po't:          [Not available]


CINTA   (decorative hair ribbon, wound around the head many, many times; tassels hang free)

Origin:             Aguacatán, Huehuetenango

Description:    2.8 meters (9 1/4  ft.) long.  Red backing.  Predominately pink tones with bright colors.  Geometrics (diamonds, zigzags, lines) with metallic thread and pompom tassels on ends. Excellent condition.

Condition:       Used.  Approx 12 years old

Bought:            Antigua;  Nov. ‘06

Price:               Q400  (asked Q750)  =  $53

Nim Po't:           The women's traje has as it's focus a beautiful single-faced weft-brocaded cinta (hair ribbon) woven on a backstrap loom on a traditional base of red cotton with two white warp-edge stripes. It is generally between six and eight feet long, richly brocaded, and finished with a set of three large tassels at each end. The motifs employed include stylized bird, plant and human forms, as well as geometric registers. The brocaded figures in the antique cinta were sparser, revealing the red base. New cintas in the antique style are still woven and are generally worn by older women. The newer style features a dense brocade that virtually covers the base cloth in a cool green and blue palette, although in the last few years a red-biased warm color scheme has been emerging [above]. The cinta is first wound around the ponytail, covering it and taking up most of the cinta's length. The ponytail is then wrapped halo-like around the head with a section displayed across the top of the head, protecting the nahual spot. The arrangement of the cinta is calculated to leave the pompoms hanging beside the ears.



Origin:             Santiago Atitlán, Lake Atitlán

Description:    Blue medium-weight material with blue/purple trim; embroidered neck and bodice with many types of birds in detail; neck decorated with green and purple beading

Condition:        New

Bought:            Santiago Atitlán, Lake Atitlán;  Nov. ‘06

Price:               Q500  (asked Q1300)  =  $67

Nim Po't:          [Not available from Nim Po't.  This pueblo is known for their intricate and realistic bird  designs.]



Origin:             Patzún, Chimaltenango

Description:     Red lighter-weight material with vertical multicolor stripes, embroidered flowers around  neck/ bodice/ shoulder

Condition:        New

Bought:            Santiago Atitlán, Lake Atitlán;  Nov. ‘06

Price:               Q240  (asked Q400?)  =  $32

Nim Po't:          Patzún is one of the few highland towns that prefer hand embroidery to woven brocade. Patzún huipiles are backstrap loomed in two panels of predominantly red plain weave ground cloth and supplemented with dense evenly spaced groups of thin warp stripes bordered with blue and green pinstriped edges.  The huipil includes hand embroidered floral motifs and is popular with women from throughout the highlands as a more prestigious version of the ubiquitous machine-embroidered flowered blusa. The design motifs of these garments have undergone a transformation from embroidered geometric, sun/moon, and feather figures to the new floral style, an evolution that roughly parallels the rise in popularity of the machine embroidered blouse. The large ceremonial/ wedding huipil is worn over the wrap-around skirt, in pre-Hispanic style. Ceremonial huipiles can be identified by the feather motif, often extravagantly embroidered in silk around the neckline.



Origin:             Nahualá

Description:     Coral medium-weight material, woven reds/pinks with black and bright color blocks; geometrics (diamonds)

Condition:        Used, 30 yrs old

Bought:            Santiago Atitlán, Lake Atitlán;  Nov. ‘06

Price:               Q210  (asked Q600)  =  $28

Nim Po't:           Made of two backstrap-woven panels with four selvedges each, this post-1980 daily use huipil is in very good overall condition. The materials employed include rayon, cotton, and embroidery floss. Neck and arm openings are buttonhole stitched. Traditional motifs include the “woven floor mat” design and animals composed of diamonds. This piece also reflects the unique to Nahualá practice of deliberately choosing threads that bleed onto the white base fabric.




(In close ups, rich colors washed out by flash)

Origin:             Quetzaltenango  (Xela)

Description:     Variegated heavy-weight brown material, woven geometrics/animal in browns/greens/golds/rusts, with circular “spider” flowers around neck and at shoulders

Condition:        ?  probably new

Bought:            Santiago Atitlán, Lake Atitlán;  Nov. ‘06

Price:               Q100  (asked  ?)  =  $13

Nim Po't:         


BACKSTRAP WEAVING IN PROGRESS complete with wood "frames" and shuttles

Actual purchase not shown.  Above, sample of pueblo design (Nim Po't) and backstrap weaving in progress (La Casa del Tejido)).  Scroll down for drawing and description of a backstrap loom.

Origin:             San Antonio Agua Caliente (near Antigua)

Description:     Backstrap weaving in progress, with wood “frame” in place top/bottom and slide/shuttles (see sketch below).  It's about 4 ft. long by 15" wide and will be displayed as a wall hanging. This pueblo’s technique is considered among the finest, as the design is non-geometric and woven (as opposed to embroidery)

Condition:        New  (work-in-progress)

Bought:            Casa del Tejido (museum & shop), Antigua

Price:               Q1500  (asked Q2100)  =  $200

Nim Po't:          San Antonio weavers, who are renowned for the superb quality of their double-faced marcador technique textiles, use an image drawn on graph paper as a guide to create their brocaded designs.   Since about the 1930s, the popularity of figurative marcador designs has steadily increased to the extent that the designs sometimes cover the entire surface of the huipil. Favorite patterns include realistic flower, bird and cherub motifs, rendered in vibrant multicolored hues with orange and blue predominating.  Because new San Antonio huipiles are among the most expensive in the country, they have become a status-symbol trade-huipil when worn by women from other villages. A square, round or v-shaped neck opening trimmed in velvet and\or appliqué, usually indicates that the huipil was sold and used in another village.



 These are the parts of the backstrap loom used for Mayan weaving.  A = A cord or rope is used to tie the loom to a tree or post.
 B = End bars are used to hold the warp (vertical threads) to the upper and lower ends of the loom.
 C and D = Shed rods maintain the crossing of the warp's threads.
 E = The heddle rod lifts alternate threads of the warp.
 F = The batten helps to separate alternate threads of the warp to allow the bobbin (G) to pass through them. The batten can also be used to tighten the weft (horizontal threads) as they are woven.
 G = The bobbin, containing the thread of the weft, passes from side to side between the warp.
 H = This belt is worn around the weaver's back and connects her to the loom. The weaver controls the tension on the warp by leaning backward or forward.

Thanks to for this exhibit



Condition:        New

Bought:            Textura in Antigua   (shop with high-quality textiles)

Price:               About Q150 (US$20) each

Description:   Jaspe (called ikat in English), in Spanish meaning speckled or mottled, is a popular Guatemalan weaving technique, which puts the "white" into the fabric.  Men, using treadle looms, use tie-typed thread to produce intricate designs as the fabric is woven. 

The process of creating this type of textile is very labor intensive and time-consuming. Often, whole families are involved in the many steps required to prepare the yarns for dyeing and Mayan weaving. The first step involves wrapping a designated number of yarns together tightly with string at intervals required by a particular pattern.

In preparing a skein of yarn that is to be used for weft patterns, the skein is stretched between two sides of a frame made especially for this purpose, and the sections of the warp that are to remain free of dye are bound tightly with string. In preparing warps for dyeing, the yarn is stretched between stakes and the person wrapping it sits on a stool, gradually moving along the length of the warp as the work progresses. The person doing the knotting for jaspe patterning must know the position where each tie must be located on the yarns to be dyed. The wrapping must be done very tightly to prevent seepage, which would spoil the pattern configuration.

After the yarns are tightly tied, sometimes with hundreds of wrappings, they are immersed in dye; when dry, the ties are removed. The areas of the yarns that were covered by tightly tied string are left free of the dye that has penetrated the other sections of the yarns. These alternatively dyed and un-dyed areas form patterns and designs in the textiles woven with them.

Once the jaspe-dyed yarns are dry, they must be prepared for weaving. Jaspe warps must be stretched out full length and, with aid of a spreader, carefully arranged, so the designs are correctly sequenced. The warps are then transferred onto the warp beam of the loom, where they are precisely aligned to form the individual patterns, which are interspersed with stripes of plain colored yarns.

At right is an exhibit from the Guatemala City Textile Museum describing this process.  From bottom to top:  1) Natural, un-dyed yarn, or thread  2) Un-dyed yarn tied tightly at exact intervals with string  3) Yarn dyed, strings still in place  4) Dyed yarn with strings removed  5) Finished product woven with the jaspe technique.

Jaspe is used a lot in the traditional skirts, but usually in more subtle colors than our pillows.



Condition:        New

Bought:            Colibri in Antigua   (shop with high quality textiles)

Description:    Woven/embroidered covers with zippers.

Price:              About Q180 (US$24) each



Nim Po't  (Antigua) - "museum" and store of new and used textiles, crafts



Casa del Tejido  (Antigua)  -  museum, store and workshop of new and used textiles

Previously reviewed with pictures at Casa del Tejido on page 19.  To return here, click the back button on your browser.


Museo Ixchel  (Guatemala City)   -  textile museum and shop

Display of jaspe technique

(and good archeological museum next door at Museo Popol Vuh)



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