My Native American heritage and my travels all around the world seeing so many different cultures and arts leaves me in awe and it will never cease to amaze me. I have spend a lot of time in Mexico, in and around Toluca and Pueblo and even more time soaking up the wonders of Yucatan and Oacaca. I knew that there was trade in the far past between the Navajo Nation and the Aztec, Mixtec and Mayan communities, especially when weaving was concerned. So that is when I thought of this new blend combining a plant fibre used by both cultures and the ever important Churro sheep of the Navajo Nation: into existence came m y quest to create a blend of both cultures that have meant so much to me in my fibre art: the Agave plant (Maguey) and the Navajo Churro. Finally I have finished all the prepping and blending of these fibres together with some magical Angora Bunny and cashmere goat, making today the first announcement of the “Frida” Adventure, named after Frida Kahlo, artist extraordinaire and an exhibition of her paintings is coming to Sydney from June to October!
If you can, go see it and if not, watch the movie “Frida” . Such a powerful woman and artist. How a life full of pain and adversity can lead to create so much colour and art. An Inspiration. That is why I decided to name this adventure “Frida”, a recognition not only of her art, but also of the strength of combining your roots with the ”Now” and never let anybody or anything hold you back.
It is not only a craft , but also a way of translating how we look at the world and incorporate its magic into a two dimensional framework. Even the way that we see looms are different: the ropes to hold the warp threads are the thunder and the the warp itself is the rain falling down from heaven to earth. I was always taught never to weave when there was a lightning storm because of that.
Ofcourse sitting at a large loom , exposed to the elements , is never an extremely good idea when a big lightning storm hits, but you see how it all interweaves into ones life. Everything has a meaning, everything around you is transformed and has its own magic. Just look at how the corn rug below resembles reality...abstract and yet so similar.
There are so many things going on in a navajo rug, whether it be something minuscule woven into certain spots like a feather into a horse blanket to make sure that the horse is fast as an eagle, or bits of hair or plants, all have their meaning.
In the old days , the midwife collected corn pollen and then a horny toad was found and the pollen was put on its head and mouth. It was an extremely good omen that the toad spat out the corn mush and often that is why these kinds of ceremonial birthing rugs have yellow woven in to them, much like this one here:
The rugs sing a song, tell a story and that is what makes them so magical. If the past and the stories are forgotten, then the rugs won’t mean anything. Not only are there rugs but also other items that are woven : baskets and so called Tump line weavings ( an object woven with a warp of Agave and wool or just agave fibres) , worn over the head to help carry heavy loads) Here is a photo of one that survived from the pre-columbian times (= pre 1500s)
There is so much to tell and so little time. I may have to do another blog about more of the magic in the rugs and more about story telling!
In about 2,000 BCE, maguey was grown in Tula, Tulancingo and Teotihuacan, where obsidian scrapers have been found, suggesting the agave was used for aguamiel or pulque. The ancient Aztec riddle asked "What points its finger at the sky?" and the riddle's answer is "the Maguey Thorn."
When the Conquistador Hernan Cortez wrote to King Carlos V of Spain in 1520, he noted, "honey is also extracted from the plant called maguey, which is superior to sweet or new wine; from the same plant they extract sugar and wine, which they (the natives) also sell." In The Agaves of Continental North America, Howard Scott Gentry wrote, The hunting and gathering tribes had good reason to regard agaves with special attention, because agaves supplied them with food, fibre, drink, shelter, and miscellaneous natural products. Protection may have been one use, for when planted around a cottage, the larger species make armed fences, a common practice in modern Mexico. While much about the first beginnings of agriculture will always remain obscure, there is a great deal now known about the history of man-agave relationship.
Prehistoric and historic Indian archeological sites in the Southwest USA show evidence for agave roasting pits, as well as some evidence for agave agriculture. Prehistoric peoples in the Sonoran Desert may have transported agave pups from as far away as Mesoamerica (the great city states in southern Mexico) and may have planted tens of thousands of these agaves in fields that covered square miles in the northern Tucson Basin. The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum internet site says the Indians of the Hohokam Puebloan tradition cultivated the Hohokam agave in areas that covered hundreds of thousands of acres: "All of the agave populations from Caborca, Sonora, to New River, Arizona, are so similar that they may be one genetic clone.” Agave was considered sacred by many Pre-Hispanic people. The oldest records come from the Aztec codex, the Tonalmatl Náhuatl, ("Aztec pilgrim's papyrus"), which tells the story of the Mexican people. According to the codex of Nutall, Laud, Florentino and Mendocino, natives had many different uses for agave and its sub-products: food, threads, needles, shoes, roof tops, clothes, nails, weapons and paper among others. The seeds have been ground into powder to make bread or to thicken soup.
In 1577, the Spanish explorer Francisco Hernández wrote about the maguey in the central highlands of Mexico: "As a whole (maguey) can be used as fuel or to fence fields. Its shoots can be used as wood and its leave as roofing materials, as plates or platters, to make paper, to make cord with which they make shoes, cloth, and all kinds of clothes…. From the sap…they make wines, honey, vinegar, and sugar…From the root, they also make very strong ropes which are useful for many things. The thicker part of the leaves as well as the trunk, cooked underground…are good to eat…There is nothing which gives a higher return."
The agave is still used as food today, although it is not as critical to the natives as it was in the past. Agave syrup or nectar (aguamiel) has always been popular in Mexico, but in the past decade has become popular in the health food circles because it provides a good alternative to cane sugars that diabetics can also tolerate.
For millennia, the Hnahnu people used the agave as a source of material to produce more 100 different products including fibres for weaving, brushmaking and other crafts, construction materials, soap, small furniture, toys, ornaments, food and beverages, paper, medicinal products, firewood and even boundary markers in the countryside. The Hnahnu retain a deep traditional knowledge of the life-cycle, characteristics and uses of the agave.
Agave is still used as medicine, particularly in boticas - pharmacies - usually in alternative medicine boticas that offer natural or homeopathic remedies, often selling them beside religious icons and images on the same shelf. One botica online promises agave essence will cure "emotional immaturity, aggressive conduct, impatience, fatigue and premature aging. Before the mid-1800s, there were a dozen agave species used for tequila. But the producers were specializing, growing those that made the best economic as well as aesthetic product.
By the 1870s, the indigenous people of Mexico had so refined their cultivation practices that physiological ecologists of today have barely bettered them. By the 1870s tequila was reduced to the monoculture of blue agaves. In March, 2007, scientists at the University of Guadalajara have announced they believe the blue agave contains compounds that may be useful in carrying drugs to the intestines to treat diseases such as Crohn's disease and colitis.
Perhaps the biggest potential market for agave food products today is the growing agave nectar or syrup market. Agave syrup consists primarily of mostly the easily digested fructose and s smaller percentage of glucose, the amounts depending on the producer. It is sold as a sugar substitute in many health and grocery stores (agave syrup is three-four times sweeter than table sugar). While similar to honey, agave nectar's glycemic index is only 27, compared to honey at 83, which means it is absorbed more slowing into the bloodstream.
And ofcourse, the Agave is also used to produce Mezcal and Tequila !
But enough of sugar and other contents, I assure you that spinning this fibre blend does not impact negatively on your calory intake..lol .
viva Frida Tops
100+gram tops AU$24
Amazing to spin, combining supersoft with enduring beauty.
IxcHeL Botanical Dye Range Mini Skeins
+/- 6 – 9 grams per mini skein,
5 mini skeins per pack, IxCHeL Sock yarn
(hand dyed in the Yarra Valley and spun in Victoria, Australia)
AU$15one mini skein is enough for 1.5 hexi puffs using needles 3.25mm
IxCHeL Sock Minis Madder light to dark
IxCHeL Sock minis Indigo light to dark with one eco printed mini
IxCHeL Sock Minis Woad light and dark, walnut husks, eco printed x2
IxCHeL Sock Minis Madder, pear Bark, Walnut and 2 eco printed minis
New IxCHeL Club sign ups are starting !
October, November, December 2017
IxCHeL Fibre Club October, November and December 2017
The IxCHeL Sock Yarn Clubs October, November and December 2017
IxCHeL Funky Bunny Batt Clubs October, November and December 2017
Dark Side of the Moon Yarn Sign up
100 +grams/3.53 oz AU$28
Australian grown, Spun in Australia and hand dyed in the Yarra Valley
Dates to put in your Calendar !!
250 g tubs AU$26
Just contact me with the name of the colour you are after and I will get right back to you.
How To Order:
2. Message me on facebook or
3. Message me on www.ravelry.com where I am Ixchelbunny.
I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods.
Any questions? Any custom orders for yarn or dyeing fibre? : Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.