Inspirational Stitching: A Guatemalan Huipil

| Comments
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneBuffer this page

My neighbor has a very lovely collection of fiber arts from Central America. I’ve shared a few of her molas here before, and she recently asked me to work on another piece of hers, a huipil from Guatemala.

*You can click on any of photos below to bring up larger images and see more details of this piece.*

Huipil Front- Reallyhandmade.comShe has several of these garments, and although they are all beautiful and obviously made with care, my favorite one by far is this purple number. It is made of four sections of fabric, which have been hand sewn together along the shoulders and the center front and back. It has then been heavily embroidered by hand with a pattern of bright birds, purple rope, metallic thread and large pink flowers. The hole in the center is rather small, but it can just be squeezed over a head.  The neckline is crocheted with a very thick cotton embroidery floss.

Huipil2Huipil’s are usually worn by women in Central Mexico and Central America. They are very loose-fitting tunics that are rectangular in shape and often adorned with embroidery, ribbon, lace and and bits of fabric. They can be short, like this one, or they can go all the way to the floor. Many of them are made with hand woven cloth as well, and this huipil is an example of that, likely having been made by one woman from start to finish.

Huipil3When I think of the time it took to embroider this whole piece, I’m just in awe. Who was the woman who made it? How long did it take her to do it? Did she wear it herself before selling it?

Huipil4It’s interesting to me that some of the embroidery thread appears to have been twisted before being inserted back into the fabric. See the stems on the flower leaves? Did the maker do that to add a bit of texture, or is there another purpose for that technique?

HuipilWholeI carefully sewed up the sides of this huipil so that the owner could wear it to a party. I think it’s lovely that more people will get to see and admire the work that went in to this piece.

So what’s your guess? How many hours do you think it took to embroider this?

  • Angie M

    wowza, that is absolutely incredible!! that is one skilled embroiderer. i cannot imagine the time it took to create the subtle shading on those birds! it’s really beautiful. tfs…
    *I have a quick question: on an episode of It’s Sew Easy, constructing a pair of cotton lounge pants was demonstrated. She sewed the pieces together on a sewing machine and THEN put them through the serger to finish the seam. I thought a serger could do both steps (including making a strong seam; she used 2 needles). Why would she add the step of stitching on a sewing machine first? Thanks! 🙂

    • Barb_R

      That’s how I do it, too, Angie. I like having the extra line of stitching to reinforce the seam. Plus I can still make changes if I seam with my regular machine. Then, once I’m happy with the fit, I go ahead and serge it. Hope that helps.

    • Isn’t it awesome? I’m sure my eyes about bugged out of my head when my neighbor pulled it out of a drawer!

      Yes, the serger can seam the pajama pants and finish the fabric edges at the same time. What she did was probably just her personal preference. I will sometimes sew things on the sewing machine first if I really want to be particular about the piecing and make sure the fabric pieces sit just so. I will then serge the two fabric edges together if I want a less-bulky seam allowance.

      If the seam will need to be pressed open, then I would finish the fabric edges with the serger PRIOR to sewing them together with the sewing machine. But, if you’re not seaming with the serger, then I would go with the 3-thread overlock on the serger to finish the seam allowance. Less thread means less bulk!

  • Barb_R

    This embroidery work is luscious!

    • I know! I couldn’t stop staring at it! I had to share.

  • Wow! And I thought my beading on my recent make, Cora Gwendolyn, was a lot! Ha! I can’t even imagine this! I once read that a bonafide couture garment can take 300 hours with a team of 12 people. If that’s true, and this involved only one person sewing, then upwards of 1000 hours!

    • I can’t imagine ever selling it after putting all of this work into it! Weaving the fabric and then spending weeks embroidering it, only to sell it for what did not amount to a lot of money in US dollars. I was shocked! Right now I hardly have the patience to finish things in my mending pile, much less do any beading like you. I absolutely love to look at it though!

  • Wow! This is so beautiful! I really love these birds. I can’t even imagine how much work went into this.

    • I can’t imagine the time it took either. I would really, really love to know, and to watch the woman who embroidered it. I wonder if she’s super fast or if this took her as much time as I think it did.

  • Stephanie

    This is simply stunning. Through a themed Christmas party last year I discovered the native dress for central Mexico and it is beautiful.

    Totally in awe of the workmanship on your top and others I have seen.

    • I have found so many amazing pieces thru researching more about the making of a huipil. It’s quite extraordinary to me that these woman really are involved in the entire process- from weaving the fabric, to designing the motif, to embroidering and then selling their work. I only wish they made more money for selling these garments! Too many people don’t see the work that goes into them.

  • Naomi

    That was a really interesting piece thank you!

  • Penelope Curtis

    This huipil is typical of the style created by the women of Santiago Atitlan a city on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The women there hand embroider as well as machine stitch. This one is beautifully hand embroidered. I have several from towns around Lake Atitlan that i purchased while visiting last year & this. They are for sale if you’re interested. The photo is of one that is machine stitched.

    • Yes, I believe that’s where she got it! The hand embroidery just blew me away.

      • Penelope Curtis

        The Maya women of Guatemala are incredible weavers using the backstrap loom to weave & embroider at the same time like the one here from the pueblo of Nahuala. They use ancient Mayan designs.