One of the main forms of artesanía in the Suchitoto region is the production of Añil (indigo ink) dyed clothing and textiles. There are a few places where you can do an Añil workshop in Suchitoto, but Luis from Sapito Tours introduced me to Irma in the Women’s cooperative as we were walking around the town on our gastronomy tour and I decided to help this wonderful initiative by creating my masterpiece there.
Fortunately, given my love of scarves, the workshop was to make a “bufanda” (ie a scarf) and the first step, obviously, is to choose a design. Unfortunately, visualisation is not something I’m terribly good at but in the end I chose to do two stripes of diamonds near each of the edges of the scarf, with a different pattern running down the centre. Irma set about laying down some guides on the scarf and then showed me how to sew the pattern down the edges.
After about 1/2 hour of us both sewing, it was clear that my design was going to take too long to do (it was towards the end of the day). I am a terrible at sewing and definitely not fast (in the end Irma sewed 3/4 of the diamond patterns while I managed to sew only 1/4) so I ditched the idea of the different pattern down the middle, which was fine – I wasn’t 100% certain about it anyway.
Once we finally got the sewing done, Irma pulled all the threads to tighten them so the ink would not stain the pattern, and then it was off to actually dye the material.
I donned long rubber gloves and an apron and set to work swishing my bunched-up scarf under the foam that floated on top of the barrel of dye that had been prepared using 1kg of Añil powder + 50L water + bacteria!
The bacteria actually turns the dye green, but when the dyed material is exposed to oxygen, it changes to the blue colour we are accustomed to. For this reason, after swishing my scarf around for a minute or two, we wrung it out thoroughly and hung it up to air for a bit, making sure that all surfaces were exposed.
In order to achieve the deep blue that I wanted, we had to repeat this process 5 times, Then we washed the scarf really well in water (probably about 10 minutes worth of washing) to get rid of the excess dye, and then dunked it in white vinegar to “set” the dye.
Once that was done, Irma removed the threads that we sewed into the scarf and there was revealed the pattern! Really happy with it actually 🙂 Another one for the collection!
Recommendation: Although there are a few options for Añil workshops in Suchitoto, by doing it through the cooperative you help these women earn money to support their families. They rely on people buying merchandise from their small shop or doing this workshop.
Booking: The workshop at the cooperative is not advertised well and the Amigos de los Turistas office initially send me to an up-market Añil shop to ask about workshops. To arrange the workshop, all I did was call into the cooperative and ask to speak to Irma.
Time Required: Depends on the pattern you choose. To create this took 2 hours.
Cost: Cost for 1 person = US$25 which covers the cost of the materials and the workshop itself. There is also an option of making a wider scarf for US$30 but you should let Irma know in advance if you would prefer this option.