Natural Dyeing Techniques

Maya Traditions’ partner cooperative in San Juan La Laguna integrates natural dyes and Ikat into their backstrap woven textiles, creating unique and intricate designs. Each of these techniques is traditional to Maya culture and the region, adding complexity and beauty to their textiles.

Ikat—or jaspe as it is known to Maya weavers—originates from the Indonesian word Menigikat, meaning to tie. Guatemalan artisans developed "warp" ikat, a method where only the vertical threads on the loom are dyed and feature the design.

  1. Arranging- Warped thread is stretched out between two posts and divided into specific-sized groupings.
  2. Designing- Artisans use additional thread to tie knots at pre-determined intervals creating different designs including diamonds, women, baskets, corn and dolls.
  3. Dyeing- Once the tying is complete the natural dyeing process begins:
    1. Preparing the Thread— Artisans use banana leaf as a natural mordent that helps the dye to set. To prepare the thread artisans first boil banana tree bark for 2-3 hours and then soak the thread in the liquid to prepare them for dyeing.
    2. Creating the Dye— Plants or insects are cut into small pieces and then boiled for 30 minutes. Once the dye has reached the desired color artisans strain out the plants and insects and the dye is ready to be used.
    3. Dyeing the thread— The prepared threads are added to the dye and allowed to soak for anywhere to 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on the desired color.
    4. Drying the thread— Once the thread has reached its desired shade it is removed from the dye and allowed to dry.
    5. Revealing the design--- Once the thread has dried, the knots are undone and the thread is placed on the backstrap loom to create unique and intricately designed textiles.

The typical process of backstrap weaving the dyed thread is then followed.

Experience Maya Culture and support local entrepreneurs by traveling to Atitlán, Guatemala.