1. Design

We might say that design is the first step in the creation of any new garment or textile. In that sense, the weavers who make our garments are certainly designers - but they don’t use the pens and paper familiar from a fashion designer’s studio. The weavers sketch their plans for colour and composition only in their minds. They weave according to their feelings and their mood, so every piece is unique and special. That goes for existing designs too - the weavers imbue their creativity and feeling into every single garment.

2. Yarn
The weavers often use cotton cultivated in their own villages. Cleaning the cotton is long, meditative process, whereby the weavers remove all the seeds. The cleaned fibre is then arranged in a special ‘bed’ made of leaves, where it is hit it with two sticks to make the cotton soften. Only now, it is ready to be spun. The brown cotton is called coyuchi (natural wild Oaxaca brown cotton).

3. Loom
Preparing the loom consists of measuring and tying on the warp threads, and making sure all the threads and parts are properly aligned. The weavers count all the threads to have the right measurement for what they what to weave.

4. Weave
The women use backstrap looms. They sit and usually tie up one side of their loom from a three and the other goes to her back so she can manage the applied tension on the loom. A kaftan (huipil) is created by passing a bobbin through the warp threads, shifting the warp threads with the machete (a blade-shaped tool made with wool by a man in the town), and repeating - the stronger the hit, the more structure the huipil has. Sometimes dozens of thread pieces with different colours are in play at one time.
5. Final Touches

When a woven piece is finished, the artisans cut the textile from the reaming threads to remove it from the loom. The next step is to hand-sew the large textile panels together, a job usually undertaken by women and recently for the amount of work that they are receiving, men in the village have joined the team. The time it takes depends on the number of panels and length of the panel. A single panel could take from three days to one week. The three-panel styles take almost two weeks. The panels are hand-sewn using a special macramé technique. The finished garment is washed carefully with natural soap, dried and finally ironed.

Natural Dyes

Blue Tones
Indigo is an organic pigment derived from plants and used for millennia across cultures. It it also one of the more complicated dyes to prepare. Where we work, the dehydrated indigo cake is usually bought from growers in the Istmo region of Oaxaca. It takes a minimum of three days to prepare before it is ready to dye the yarn. Steps include grinding the cake into powder, then adding it, with leaves, to filtered wood ash water. All steps must be carefully monitored for pH values and other factors.

Purple tones
The organic purple dyes from this area of Mexico are derived from sea snails (purpura patula). Indigenous people have long collected the snails sustainably, while respecting the land, sea and moon cycles, and conserving the environment. They pick them from rocks on the coastline during low tide and return the snails unharmed after extracting the dye. The snails produce an initially colourless secretion, which can be rubbed onto a skein of cotton. Contact with the air turns it yellow, green, and ultimately purple. In the 1980s, a foreign company came into the area and harvested the snails year-round, greatly reducing their numbers until a law was introduced forbidding them. Today only Indigenous dyers are allowed to work with the snails. Garments made from yarn using this dye are difficult to find and highly sought after.


Red tones
Cochineal is an insect that lives on the nopal cactus. It is a very laborious process to cultivate and harvest natural cochineal for use in dyeing. While some weavers raise a small amount of the live bugs, cochineal is usually purchased from professional growers. When alive, the insects look like white spots; when dead, small grey pellets. Before adding these to boiling water, they are ground to a fine powder using a stone tool called a metate.

Yellow tones
Cempasuchil is a yellow flower sometimes known as the "flower of the dead" thanks to its use in the ceremonies of day of the death. Collected in the summer season, when it is in bloom, the flower is dried and used throughout the year. Colour can range from a brilliant yellow to a light butter creme.