February 21, 2020

Discovering the Ir - RESIST - able Art of Jaspe

Discovering the Ir - RESIST - able Art of Jaspe

Just as weaving is an ancient craft found around much of the world, jaspe (pronounced hah-spay) is a weaving technique found around much of the globe. In other parts of the world, it is referred to as ikat. One of the oldest weaving techniques, jaspe is a tie and dye or resist – dye method where patterns are created in the yarn through tie dyeing before the weaving begins.

A very elaborate and time-consuming process, jaspe requires 25 steps. In Salcajá, Guatemala, not far from our town of Cajolá, people and families break down those steps and specialize in different parts of the process. Some prepare the yarn for tying, some specialize in tying the knots to make the different figures, and others focus on doing the actual dyeing.

Our weaving cooperative is always ready to learn new skills, so when FUNDAP offered an opportunity to have a training in the dying and weaving of jaspe, we jumped! FUNDAP is a non-profit organization in Guatemala that seeks to eradicate poverty by providing support and education/training to lower income people and communities. One of the many ways they help communities is by supporting artisans like ours.  Nine of our weavers embarked on a 3-week training course under master weaver Clemente Ruiz and his assistant. The women learned and practiced each step of the process, all the way through the weaving of the fabric that incorporated their tie-dyed yarns.


The multistep process of jaspe begins with taking the yarn from the skein and winding it around a bobbin that holds the yarn neatly so it can be warped. The yarn is then stretched out to lengths that match the length of the finished fabric. Next, strands of yarn are counted, tied and knotted together in bundles before dyeing. The dye won’t penetrate where the bundles are tied – this is where the patterns form. The patterns, or figures, can be quite intricate (such as flowers, geometric forms or dolls). Simply knotting the bundles (the bundles contain different numbers of threads depending on the figure) leaving various distances between knots and having various thicknesses of knots creates an amazing number of different designs!

 Once the bundles are complete, the yarn is dyed. After the yarn dries, the work of untying all of the knots begins. It is important to unbundle the yarns carefully in order to maintain the design. From here, the jaspe warp is put on the loom. In our case, it took five people to coordinate the tension as they put the yarn on the loom so that the design stays intact.

There is a lot of excitement around our new skills and how we can use them. We just may be dreaming about incorporating jaspe in our Christmas weaving.