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Traditional and Natural Dyeing Methods
Guatemalan Textiles are some of the most beautiful in the world. Their use of colour is memorable and vibrant and creates a lasting impression on everyone that comes to Guatemala. Below are two techniques used by artisans to dye their fabric before weaving.
Today, we are working to aid and support groups who want to return to the cultivation and use of natural dyes in eco and human-friendly methods. Instead of using mineral salts as a mordant (the stuff that makes the dye fasten onto the thread), our groups are using banana plants, which means the production is not leaving behind any harmful chemical side effects.
In addition, these Maya women are using plants already found in their environment: Indigo, Avocado, Pepper, Pericon, Hilamo, and Coconut bark. Some groups are even returning to the use of cochineal.
1. Gather all the plants needed for the dye.
2. Cut up the trunk of the banana leaf and boil in water for a few hours.
3. Put cotton died up in to dye lots to soak in the strained banana leaf liquid, this acts as a natural mordent(the stuff that helps the dye set).
4. Prepare plants for dying, depending on the plant/product being used and the colour desired the amount of the plant varies. Most often the plant leaf/bark/roots etc. is boiled up in water.
5. The cotton that has been soaking in the banana tree sap is dipped into the water strained from the prepared plant mixture, a variety of colours can be made depending on the amount of time the cotton is left to soak.
6. The cotton is then hung in dye lots to dry (this is what the photo is).
Artisan groups from San Juan La Laguna are incorporating the use of natural dye in the creation of products for Maya Traditions.
Ikat Design Technique
Ikat, or Jaspe as it is known to Mayan weavers, comes from the Indonesian word Menigikat meaning "to tie". This traditional craft has been developed, mostly likely independently, in many parts of the world including: Guatemala, Peru, India, Indonesia, Japan and Africa.
Although the use of chemical dye is more wide spread in IKAT designs, increasing amounts of artisans are now creating these designs using natural dyes.
Ikat is a dye-resist process in which skeins of white cotton are tied at pre-determined intervals and then dipped into an indigo dye bath. The contrast of the indigo and the white (or un-dyed) areas is what creates the design in the final product. Guatemala is one the countries that has developed warp Ikat; a process with only the warp (vertical) threads resist-dyed.
After the dying process the threads are then woven into rebosos (shawls) or runners on a backstrap loom. Some of the popular intricate Ikat designs from San Juan are corn, dolls, diamonds and women.