How Rebozos are made
Tenancingo is a small village, 95 km West of Mexico City, where rebozos have been made for years. Learning how to make rebozos takes years of practice, as the process changes according to the pattern, but generally these are the steps involved in making a rebozo. You can see why they’re so special!
The cotton thread is first spun and later the threads are prepared (warped), counting anywhere between 3,800 and 5,000 threads per rebozo. Next, the threads are soaked in water with starch and left to dry in the sun.
Now that the threads are dry, they are ready to be “drawn”. Using a pattern-maker, the artisan marks where the threads are to be dyed and where they will stay white.
According to the pattern drawn before, an artisan who specialises in this process will tie a series of knots on the cotton thread. Wherever he ties, the dye will not penetrate. The more knots, the finer the pattern. On average, each rebozo has 1,000 knots.
The thread is washed again to remove the starch and prepare for the dyeing. It is then dyed in aniline (an organic compound, chemical-free) in different colours – traditionally dark blue, brown or black
Once dry, the original knots are removed using a sharp knife. The artisan doing this needs years of expertise in order not to cut the thread itself.
The dyed cotton is mixed with other threads of un-patterned cotton, to make the body of the rebozo. Interspersing the colours will give the rebozo its final look. The threads are placed in the loom one by one, ready to finally be woven together. Each thread is placed separately – all 3,800 of them.
The rebozo is finally ready to be woven. The artisans work in foot-treadle looms, a practice that takes years to master. You can see a video of an artisan using a loom in our blog.
The rebozo is now practically finished, except for the ends. Traditionally, it’s the men who produced the rebozo (the main cloth). But for this final stage, it is almost exclusively women who work on it.
No less laborious than the previous steps, the women must now tie by hand every single strand to create patterns, drawings and often writing on the rebozo. They use no physical patterns, they simply have an idea in their head and go with it.
No less than 12 steps later (and anywhere between 4 – 12 weeks), the rebozo is ready. It is ironed, stretched and sometimes startched, ready to sell.
And this is where Chilpa comes in. We know that it’s a craft that has the risk of disappearing – the artisans are growing older, taking their knowledge to the grave, while the younger generation looks for a future elsewhere.
We appreciate the love, craft, tradition and years of practice that goes into making one. And that’s why we bring them to you. Always 100% handmade, always paying a fair price.