Friday, June 29, 2012

Colcha Embroidery Material

Miss Abigail has completed the first two levels of the 4-H embroidery project work. The next embroidery level includes the traditional colcha embroidery we saw demonstrated at the museum this last weekend. We have put off doing this next project largely because I didn’t know where to find materials and I haven’t felt confident enough to teach her. I’ve experimented with colcha a little and the stitch isn’t hard to learn, but skill certainly comes in as you try to decide how to break up and fill the spaces in the design. Another difficulty is in finding materials to use. Tapestry wool isn’t as common as it used to be! Coincidently, traditional materials for colcha embroidery were for sale at the museum on this last festival weekend and one of the museum volunteers offered to help Abigail learn the stitch and design a project.

So - we’re set to learn colcha embroidery this next year, with purely traditional materials, no less! I was able to buy a piece of the traditional wool backing, beautifully handspun and handwoven. The picture makes the fabric look a little like burlap, but it is perfectly even and much softer. I understand that the fabric tightens a bit after being washed. This wool thread is also handspun and hand-dyed as well. Traditional materials are not necessary for the 4-H project, but it certainly is more fun anyway. Hopefully, we’ll have a report coming along by winter.

If you would like to know more about this unique Spanish Colonial embroidery, this link gives information along with a great short video filmed at El Rancho de las Golondrinas.


  1. I am so happy that I recently found your blog. It brought back memories of my own mother's cedar hope chest. My grandmother had stocked it for her little by little, and by the time I became familiar with it, the original items were long in use and my mother was using the chest to store her treasures. With prompting from your blog, I talked to my 17 year old daughter about my mother's hope chest and she immediately asked me to start one for her. She has long been a fan of my hand made items, although at her age she has little patience for completing projects. It warms my heart that my modern, sports-loving daughter is excited about preserving this tradition.

  2. Angela - I'm glad you found the blog too! I'm hoping to help revive the tradition, so I'm also pleased that your modern daughter is excited about a hope chest. Too many people just see no use for it. Good luck with your effort and I hope you'll stay in touch.

  3. Greetings,
    You may want to know that the background material (sabanilla) for colcha stitch embroidery is available at the Espanola Valley Fiber Art Center in Espanola, Paseo de Onate. They have a web site You will also found hand spun and natural dyed yarn.
    I agree with you that sabanilla is difficult to embroider on ---not to mention expensive for a beginner. In time, of corse, it is enjoyable. Sabanilla was not woven originally to use as a background material to embroider colcha stitch. It was use as a storage sack for grain, mattress cover, etc. ( see E.Boyd, former curator for 2 decades of the Spanish colonial museum, in El Palacio,E boyd, New Mexican Spanish Textile" May, 1954P.134 and a News letter of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts, Collecting New Mexico E Boyd and Cady Wells Jan.22-August 28, 2011. It became " traditional" when a lady from Las Vegas, a very talented weaver, wove sabanilla for sale.

    I am looking forward to see the progress of Miss Abigail. Cheers for a new colchera.

    1. Thanks so much, Monique, for the further information! The Espanola Valley Fiber Art Center is next on my list. I've been meaning to go for some time now - I understand that it is truly just a very interesting place to visit. And, I think I will have Abigail practice at first on fabric a little more tightly woven. Just so that she doesn't get discouraged with two many factors at once.

  4. Abigail will do just fine because she is guided wisely and with much love. Cotton background material will work just as well ( I know, it is not the same as working with material used centuries ago). That being said, cotton was used widely after the opening of the Santa Fe trail in 1821. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts exhibed colcha embroidered on silk.
    It is so heart warming to see a young woman involved in so many wholesome activities.

  5. Hi Do you have the info of who you bought the hand spun, hand woven wool background. Im looking for a blanket to start . I have been spinning my own yarn and it seems to be working out nicely. Thanks! Kathleen


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