Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Double Jaspé Corte (Skirt)



Double Jaspé Corte (Skirt)


Like Andean weavers of all periods and modern Guna textile artists (see Engaging the New), the Maya have always sought to master the most difficult fiber-working techniques. This woman’s skirt, though it is machine-made and thus reflects modern technology, represents this push to extreme creativity in textiles practiced by so many indigenous American cultures. It is what is known as a “double jaspé.” This means the makers have tie-dyed both the warps (here the vertical threads, as the piece is shown as it was woven rather than as it was worn) and the wefts (vice versa) before weaving them together. The planning for the way the pattern will result when the two types of threads intersect must be prodigious.

With black and white thread only, a sense of different layers and a third color, grey, is created (much like the adjacent colors in an Impressionist painting blend perceptually). Where white wefts cross white warps, an area of white appears; the black across black likewise yields black; however, where white crosses black, grey results. Such complexity was lavished on a skirt to be worn on special ceremonial occasions, such as saint’s days, weddings, and shamanic healings. Even if machine-made, double jaspé remains expensive, like velvet or silk, and carries the highest prestige of all the techniques.

Geographic Area

Central America, Guatemala, Cobán


K’ekchi Maya


Ca. 1965



Credit Line

Bright Collection of Guatemalan Textiles

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photos by Bruce M. White, 2014

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