Oaxacan Silk
A visit to the last traditional cultivators of Spanish silk in Mexico.
Please also visit www.TraditionsMexico.com for pottery and weaving workshops, and back-cactus tours in southern Mexico
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1-In remote corners of the state of Oaxaca there are still villages the continue the ancient art of silk cultivation.


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2-In the Sierra Norte we visit San Pedro and San Miguel Cajonos as well as Yaganiza


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3-In these villages sericulture has been a cottage industry for almost 500 years


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4-And some households still raise silkworms.


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5-Reyna, a young weaver, shows silk worms eating mulberry leaves.


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6-a close up of the worms.


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10-The silk worms are raised in boxes, on mats and on tables in people's homes. They are fed mulberry leaves daily.


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11-The yellow cocoons are descendants of the original Spanish silk worms, the white ones are recently introduced hybrids.


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12-Otilia Masa spins silk straight from the boiled cocoons using a support spindle.


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13-The cocoons are pulled apart like cotton balls for spinning.


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15-Many spinners till use the ancient support spindle method


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16- But some are changing to spinning wheels, Here is a makeshift electric spinning wheel


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17-Men even get into the action


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19- And here, finished product, but in this case silk that has been reeled rather than spun.


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20- A skein of handspun silk is offered


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21- measuring warp


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22- sizing the warp with corn starch


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23- stringing the loom


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26-stretching the warp


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27- untangling the warp by beating it


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28-Otilia Masa was one of the last silk weavers in 1990 when a government sponsored revival of the industry began.


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29-Otilia uses a backstrap loom to weave shawls of handspun silk.


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30-The "machete", or beater the she uses is 250 years old.


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31-Otilia weaves in her courtyard, seated or standing as she sees fit.


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32-Reyna shows a silk shawl. She is knotting the fringe on this one.


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33-The macramé fringework can take weeks.


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34- a shawl dyed with cochineal


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35-jewelry made from silk cocoons


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36- 98 year old Delfina talks about how they used to do things. In fact they haven't changed much.


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