Mexican Wool - All Natural From Dye To Weave

Weavers who work with natural dyes are few and far between. Scattered across the globe they live and work in humble homes, in back alleys, dirt streets, main highways, hillsides and flat-lands. Their studios are filled with the aroma and sights of natural materials — stinky indigo dye vats and wood burning fires. 

Steamy Dye Pot. Photo - Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

Steamy Dye Pot. Photo - Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

Dye bath. Photo - Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

Dye bath. Photo - Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

It is a labour intensive process. From the creation of the dye, the hand spinning of the wool, preparing the dye baths, dyeing the wool and then finally weaving, most often on simple back strap looms. Some would say that this is a dying (pardon the pun) craft form for a reason. Due to the intense time and labour involved in the creation of an end product, that can be mass produced by machines, in a fraction of the time. However, it is exactly this care and attention that imparts something special into the items made by artisans in this way. Items that have a story; to treasure and keep.

Nopal Cactus and Indigo. Photo - Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, Norma Schafer

Nopal Cactus and Indigo. Photo - Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, Norma Schafer

They start with the natural wool that comes to them from local sources. The best wool is hand spun for strength and has no additives, like some synthetic materials. Natural dye sources such as indigo, cochineal, wild marigold, pomegranate, onion skin, turmeric and many more are used to give a kaleidoscope of colour.

Cochineal shells. Photo - KeapSake

Cochineal shells. Photo - KeapSake

Indigo rock. Photo - KeapSake

Indigo rock. Photo - KeapSake

When the wool is coloured it is then ready to weave on hand looms. Depending on its size, complexity and material density a piece can take from one week to several months. It is a labour of love, and necessity, to work in this way. What comes out of this though are products that have both quality and meaning. 

Handloom weaving in Teotitlan del Valle. Photo - KeapSake

Handloom weaving in Teotitlan del Valle. Photo - KeapSake

The process is organic, sustainable and environmentally sound. By it's nature it is small scale, so will never be able to meet the demands of ever increasing global consumerism. Only a movement away from the mass produced, to the kind of products that are made to last; to keep and to treasure, will we then see a meaningful impact on both people and the planet.