Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Cordeles (Sets of Tie-Dyed Warps)



Cordeles (Sets of Tie-Dyed Warps)


Sets of tie-dyed warp threads (called cordeles) have been sold in the markets of Guatemala for decades. Without doing the tie-dyeing (jaspé) themselves, weavers can use them to make simple patterns such as in a small tzutCordeles in various stages of being tied off, dipped in dye, then untied help explain the process of weaving in jaspé. All the threads were initially white, then certain lengths of them were tightly tied off with thread to preserve that white from the blue dyebath (1). When untied (2, 3) and placed on the loom in the proper sequence, then the weft threads inserted, the pattern becomes apparent.

More traditional examples were dipped repeatedly in indigo dye (1, and 3); each dipping attached more blue to the threads’ surfaces. In 1, which remains almost entirely tied, the indigo has colored the warps and the ties equally so it looks uniformly blue. However, if it were untied, as in 2, then the white and blue areas would appear.

Some cordeles represent a somewhat more complex process of producing tie-dyed warps. In 3, the white threads were first all dyed red, and allowed to dry. The areas that still appear red were then tied with tightly wound threads to keep them that way. A black dye, not a traditional indigo, was the final dyebath. Untied, now red stripes in black are apparent.

Geographic Area

Central America, Guatemala




20th century

Credit Line

Bright Collection of Guatemalan Textiles

Accession Number

2009.42.540; 2009.42.539; 2009.42.543A/C

Photo Credit

Photos by Michael McKelvey, 2017

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