Today, I introduce you to Sunbonnet Sue in Mexico. She looks lovely in her striped serape (or is it a rebozo?) and wide sombrero, but I’m not too sure about carrying a cactus! Ouch! This week I was looking for ways to vary my embroidery stitches and add interest to the applique. Well, I didn’t get too far off my standard stitches, but you’ll note the fringe of the serape is done in the long-tailed daisy stitch combined with French knots (I think the fringe looks way cool, by the way!). If you’re looking for great tutorials on a wide variety of embroidery stitches, consider checking out Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials (check my blogroll). The tutorials are well demonstrated and clearly explained.
I love Mexico. And I love Mexico City. Well, Mexico City has all the worst a city can offer — horrible traffic, terrible crime, smog, pollution, and more. But it also has the very best a large city can offer — for instance, the Basilica de Guadalupe is fabulously beautiful, and in numbers of visitors, it is second only to the Basilica in Vatican City. The city is overflowing with cultural pleasures — from the Catedral Metropolitano, an unbelievable architectural masterpiece built from 1573 to 1813 to concerts, museums, sidewalk entertainment, luscious restaurants, and more. If you’re a lover of museums (as I am), Mexico City offers a plethora for your enjoyment, from the Palacio Nacional with its spectacular Diego Rivera murals chronicling the history of Mexico, to the Palacio de Bellas Artes with its cultural events, art nouveau and art deco architecture, the world-class Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Museo Nacional de Historia. It will take several trips to see it all. In all of these places, the displays take you from pre-Hispanic Mexico all the way up to present-day Mexico. There’s plenty more to see and do in Mexico City, and if you have a chance, get out of Mexico City to all the wonderful regions of Mexico itself.
But you know what I’m all about here. Textiles, arts and crafts, especially of the indigenous variety, are what interest me. The artisans of Oaxaca and Chiapas provide the broadest variety of beautiful crafts and textiles, crafted with rich imagination and incredible skill. In the pre-Hispanic era, the Aztecs and other indigenous civilizations produced fibers from yucca, palm, maguey, and cotton which they wove into serapes and other useful items. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, silk and wool as well as European-style looms made their way to Mexico, where a cottage industry in weaving soon thrived. Many of these woven fabrics are dyed with natural dyes and, in today’s version, many of these handicrafts are still made within indigenous communities.
Mexico City has loads of fabric shops, but it is generally pretty difficult to find quilting cottons in most of them. Although, there are occasionally some surprises, especially on the discount tables, but even there you need to purchase with care. A cautionary tale: I once bought a beautiful floral fabric in one of these stores, carried it around for a few years, and then made it up into a quilt. When I washed it the first time, I ended up with patches of smeary white — the dye hadn’t been set or something, and I essentially ended up with plain white cotton. It was pretty disappointing. However, I do know that Mexico City has a thriving quilting community — while I know there are other quilting guilds, the Mexico City Quilting Guild is a good place to meet people and find out about other quilters, and I’ve heard that you can find a good quilt shop in just about every region of the city. I don’t know but isn’t the hunt for a great quilt shop part of the fun?
I’m leaving you with a flower growing in the cactus patch in my garden. Do you see the little butterfly sitting so still on the flower center? I hope that I’ve inspired you to quilt, to applique, to embroider, to create, and to take a look around your own neighborhood and see what quilting treasures you find there! Adios, amigos!