Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Colorful Guatemala


My husband and I spent ten days in February touring Guatemala.  We were all over, starting in Guatemala City, then Tikal, Antigua, Lake Atitlan and surrounding areas. This is a land of color. Color in the fruit, the flowers, the garments, the crafts, the busses and even the buildings!





Of course I was most interested in the textiles and native crafts there and it was paradise! The first photo is folded blouses called huipiles which are woven fabric with embroidery around the neckline by hand or machine. I really loved that most of the Mayan women were wearing their native dress and tried to take photos of many of them. We learned at the Ixchel costume museum that the patterns, colors and styles are native to their areas. 

They were shy so many are of their backs but here is a variety…



Many of you know that I am a great fan of the fashion of NYC designer Koos van den Akker, who mixes colors and patterns in a sophisticated and rich manner and the Mayan dress reminded me of this so much. They have a patterned shirt with embroidery around the neck, a patterned belt and a different patterned skirt, then with a striped apron over all with embroidery on that…and a piece of folded fabric on their heads!   And they look so pretty and fashionable!

But let’s not forget my main objective was to shop and shop I did. The marketplaces were so full of color and crafts and so many different appealing items that I was on overload!  There are ‘markets’ all over every town and vendors that approach all the tourists constantly so when we came to a quiet courtyard in Antigua with quality wares just sitting in the center, I signaled my husband that this is where I was shopping. On some of the walls were the only patchwork quilts that I saw the entire trip.


Here I bought some yardage that perhaps will one day be a jacket or a skirt or a suit when the inspiration hits. DSC03405

I was bargaining with one woman for this black table runner when my husband saw the woman next to her taking this yellow weaving off her loom and just about to tie off the fringe ends.


He literally bought it HOT off the Loom!  He is a good shopper too! Guess who finished knotting the fringe?!  I really wanted a blouse that was not too ethnic so I could wear it here but never could decide on one.

The other thing that I wanted here were ‘belts’? It was yards of narrow embroidered pieces that I think they tied on as belts but looked like trim to me…widths varied to about 4” maximum and some were machine embroidered so I didn’t buy them.

I only saw a few women actually using a backstrap loom which is what I wanted to see. I wish that I spoke Spanish so I could ask more detailed questions. Virtually nobody spoke English that wasn’t in the travel industry.



We stayed at the most beautiful hotel ever called Hotel Atitlan on Lake Atitlan with 3 volcanoes in the distant view. They own a twin hull boat and we took a 25 minute cruise across one morning to the town of Santiago de Atitlan to tour and I found two exciting things…


This is a tiny store stocked with DMC threads that they use for embroidery. None of the others in the group were as excited to see this store as I was. I think that this means that the weavings and things that I bought are colorfast if they use these quality threads, unlike the weavings we got from Chile where the dye crocked profusely!

Then next door was this tiny shop with a treadle sewing machine and MEN working. If I spoke Spanish, I would have asked what he was making. My table runners have serged seams and machine binding etc.


I took 1100 photos and could write about the hotels, TIkal ruins, more on cities, more on shopping markets…what would you like to hear about? comment below.


  1. I have loved the Guatemalan textiles since I was a child. I am sure they are one of the big influences on my love of color.
    thansk you so much for sharing the pictures.

  2. What a bounty of color and joy! Thanks for posting. Did you end up buying any of the belts/trim?

  3. What an amazing trip and the textiles are gorgeous, they will be so wonderful to work with.