Tapestry Crochet in Guatemala

Ahhh . . . Guatemala! The land that introduced me to tapestry crochet so many years ago. In the late 1970’s, men from Aguacatan, San Juan Atitan, Todos Santos, and Nebaj tapestry crocheted flat, rectangular shoulder bags for their own use (or for sale) in colorful styles that were unique to their own towns. While most bags were crocheted with two colors at a time, as many as 7 colors were carried in the best bags from Nebaj.

Bag from Nebaj, Guatemala
Tapestry crocheted bag from Nebaj. (1978)

Detail of Bag from Nebaj, Guatemala
Seven colors were carried for the complicated pattern.

In the late 1970’s, most bags were tapestry crocheted with the same commercially spun and dyed cotton thread used for backstrap weaving.  Several threads were joined and worked as one strand when crocheting. Naturally colored black and white wool was also popular and acrylic yarn was just entering the market.

Crocheter from San Juan Atitan, Guatemala
This fellow from San Juan Atitan tapestry crochets a bag like the one that he is using as his wife looks on. (1979)

Only a few tourist items were available back then; flat circular shoulder bags and change purses. When I returned in 2002, I was thrilled to see lots of new tapestry crocheted items for sale, including cylindrical bags, hats, and hackey sacks. I also saw both men and women tapestry crocheting these innovative products with a variety of motifs. Most were crocheted with acrylic yarn and the quality varied from very fine to not so fine.

Market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala
Tapestry crocheted bags for sale in Chichicastenango. (2002)

Antigua, Guatemala
In addition to handwoven cloth, this Mam Maya vender in Antigua also sells tapestry crocheted bags, hats, and hackey sacks. (2002)

Mam bag and wool vender in Jacaltenenago
This Mam Maya mother (originally from Todos Santos) models a bag that she tapestry crocheted with the same type of acrylic yarn that her daughter is selling. Yes, I bought the bag – it is exquisite! (2002)

And guess what? Guatemala also has an ancient looping tradition. Shoulder bags are the items that were – and still are – looped and shoulder bags were the first items that were tapestry crocheted there. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I am convinced that loopers readily adopted, possibly even invented, tapestry crochet around the world. Each location had a unique looped product; shoulder bags in Guatemala, mittens in Finland, and hats in Cameroon.

Looped Bag from Guatemala
Looped bag from Jacaltenango, Guatemala. (2002)

Guatemala not only inspired my first pieces, but still influences my choices. Although I don’t always tapestry crochet tightly in rounds, my work features contrasting colors, the extra yarn is carried inside single crochet stitches, and the hook is inserted under the top 2 loops of the stitch below. My next blog will show tapestry crochet in Morocco.

4 Responses to “Tapestry Crochet in Guatemala”

  1. These looped stitches make me wonder if it’s the same way a toothbrush rag rug is made. If it isn’t, it is very similar. One of these days I hope to purchase some of your TC books. I would love to have all of them! lol I have drawn a cute pattern of something I’d love to have on a purse and I think I’ll do it in TC, but will have to experiment to make sure the picture doesn’t get distorted. When and if I ever get it made I’ll post a picture.
    Thanks for helping others to keep the art of crocheting alive and ongoing! I do not have a website now, but you’re more than welcome to look at my blog and see some of my designs in regular crochet.

  2. maria says:

    Thanks for the site – really informative and great to learn about!!

  3. Ruebena P Paraha says:

    Hi fellow admirers of tapestry crochet. I am from NZ and I am looking for a Guatemalan contact, a manufacturer of tapestry crochet goods. I am a designer and I would like to find a person who may produce my designs for me in the beautiful tapestry crochet style.

    Kia Ora from NZ

    Ruebena P Paraha
    55 Palmerston Rd
    Havelock North
    Hastings
    Hawke’s Bay
    NZ 4130

  4. Molly Hope says:

    Silly me! I didn’t realize that this is the same technique used in Cameroon.

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