Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Woman’s Ceremonial Perraje (Shawl)



Woman’s Ceremonial Perraje (Shawl)


More complex patterns are made with tie-dyed threads only in the warp direction, in the piece at left. For a motif with curves the tying off before the dyeing takes considerably more time to accomplish, and precise planning and manual dexterity become more demanding.

No matter how elaborate the patterning, the characteristic look of jaspé, its blurry edges where colors change, comes from the fact that tying off with thread is not completely exact (see examples of tie-dyed warps here). Some indigo inevitably seeps into some threads more than others during dyeing. When the warps are pulled taut on the loom, one changes from white to blue a little before or after its neighbor. Real jaspé has the exact same pattern on the front face of the cloth as the back, whereas recent printed imitations do not.

Though the word comes from the Andes, the Quechua concept of ukhu—the hidden revealed—seems applicable to tie-dye. When making the warps, what is hidden from subsequent colors becomes the pattern. In addition, when they are reunited in the final cloth, their potential to make patterns has become fully revealed.

Geographic Area

Central America, Guatemala, Samayac




Ca. 1935



Credit Line

Bright Collection of Guatemalan Textiles

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

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