Weaving at La Casa de la Makana may be the only place in the world to see how they make handmade Makana shawls with Ikat patterns.
A short drive from Cuenca, Ecuador to the town of Gualaceo is where you will find La Casa de la Makata. The location is a modest two-story adobe home, slash workshop. The Jiménez family live and work there keeping ancient weaving and dying methods alive. From the road, you can see bundles of colorful yarn hanging just under the roof along with the Ecuadorian flag proudly flying. A tour here is an amazing cultural experience.
The Ikat pattern and the weaving is a work of art passed down from previous generations. It is a family business. Jose and Anna Jimenez along with their children dye and weave in the same manners as their ancestor’s hundreds of years ago. The color making process is fascinating. The fibers can soak in a solution for several hours to several months to make different colors and various shades of each color. They use barrels to make their dyes. Each barrel holds a color and from that color, they make several more colors. To make these natural dyes they use nuts, flowers, rocks, insects, and many other things found in nature. For example, they use part of an insect to make purple and lavender. Then by just adding lime juice to this color, it turned to red. To create the traditional Ikat pattern, which reminded me of tie dying in the 70’s, some sections of the yarn are knotted and covered with cactus fibers before dying. They tightly wrap parts of the thread before dying to create a pattern that will appear after the weaving. Without a doubt one of the most complicated methods of dying in the world. The method of dying the thread and the distribution of the yarn on the loom determine the design.
Ikat designs are common in other cultures, but the weaves in Ecuador are considered the finest. Great skill is needed to make just one piece. One shawl takes anywhere from three days to three weeks depending on the complexity. It was wonderful to meet this family who collaboratively make their livelihood while maintaining this rich Ecuadorian art. Witnessing this living art in an age of mass production is unforgettable.
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