Joyful Find: Hand-woven scarves

Way back we spent a lovely week exploring San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.  Home to both local craftsman as well as foreign artists San Cristobal is a shopper’s dream.  Tom and I definitely did our share of perusing the markets but our best find comes from Bela who showed us the most amazing shawl in modern colours.

Often the Mayan fabric, thought intricate and impressive, has pretty brash colours, at least to my eye, so when I saw a hand-woven scarf with rich purples mixed with bright lime greens and tiny details of teal I was interested to find out who made them.  Leave it to the French to track down a women’s co-operative of weavers, suggest a few modern colour combinations and, as they say, Voila!  Amazing fabrics in great colours.  Bela explained where the co-op was (well sort of) and we decided to track it down before we left.

On a whim, after returning from a visit to San Juan Chamula, I pulled Tom off the bus in the middle of nowhere convinced that the co-op was close at hand.  The soccer field and a white building where the two main landmarks Bela mentioned and after a bit of aimless wandering a group of construction workers pointed us in the right direction.

We arrived to a few small buildings, a play park and a couple of cars.  We poked around and were greeted by friendly gal who took us straight to the stock room.  Shelves from floor to ceiling were jam-packed with thousands of scarves, table linens, bags, tea-towels and shawls. It was pretty overwhelming and even more overwhelming to think every item was woven by hand, thread by thread.  We treated ourselves to a few things.

Modern Colours

Jolom Mayaetik, meaning “Mayan Women Weavers”, is a co-operative made up of 250 women from 11 different communities within the Chiapas Highlands.  A group of three women from each community form a General Assembly. The General assembly represents the co-op with different organizations in both Mexico and other parts of the world.  The women in Jolom Mayaetik are trained on the back-strap loom as well as the pedal loom and, for some, the sewing machine.  Many of the women receive training in book-keeping, administration and design.

Backstrap Loom
The products at this collective are by far some of the nicest weavings I have seen thus far.  Expect to pay fair prices, quite a bit more than in the markets.  You can check them out here (though the link seems to be down at the moment) or if you are in San Cristobal take a bus to La Quinta San Martin, get off at San Martin, walk to the right until you come to a big white house.

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  1. Krista’s avatar

    Ohhhhh! Something to look forward to during our drive. The scarf is my accessory of choice for the next year!

  2. Austin’s avatar

    Those are some seriously nice designs, great find!
    Do you have any photos of the big white house? :)

  3. kels’s avatar

    Krista — Yep you should stop there for sure, we also know a really great place to stay when you get there. We bought waaaay too much stuff there…6 scarves, a shawl and even tea towels (so lame!)

    Austin– I don’t have a pic of the house but I might have some friends that could take one for me!

  4. Linda’s avatar

    I bought a Jolom Mayaetek scarf for my mom for her birthday in January. She loved it and wore it to church. She called me asking for 4 more. I went to the co-op, and lo and behold…they were having a sale. Girl, I went a little crazy. Pillowcases, baby clothes for my neice, lunch bags, a diaper bag for my sis, a nice little hand-woven silver purse, and lots of hand towels for the new kitchen.

    I’m going back this week. To see what they have left.

    We miss ya’ll! Hope you’re doing well! We got the postcard you sent, thank you so much! Glad to know you’re safe.
    Linda Andrew and Bebe

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  6. kels’s avatar

    Linda…girl you are too funny! We went crazy there without the sale!!! I like the sound of this silver purse, do you have a picture? I’d love to see it.

    Glad you got the card, hard to know if mail will actually get to where it is going in CA. Hey how is the house coming along? Where is it in San Cristobal?

    Say hi to Bebe! Oh and Andrew of course.