Friday, July 30, 2010

Colcha

Ever heard of Colcha? Is it a food? A location? A disease? An animal? Nope, non of the above. Colcha is a New Mexico embroidery technique that emerged in colonial New Mexico when women began to embroider using handspun and handyed wool from churro sheep and used their handwoven wool fabric, called sabanilla. According to a publication by Mary Carolina Montano ("Tradiciones Nuevomexicanas: Hispano arts and culture of New Mexico") this type of embroidery was reported in the state as early as 1743. The word colcha means blanket in Spanish and uses a filler stitch. The designs are original to the stitcher. Many of the colcha pieces were often blankets, altar covers or wall hangings but when the Santa Fe Trail opened in 1821 access to cotton overtook wool. Now it is more of a decorative form of art. In the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe there is a display of large colcha piece from 1850-1865. The embroidery encompasses flowers and animals taken from Native American designs.
In a recent article from Mature Life in New Mexico (publication of Albuquerque Journal) there was a nice article on this special and regional technique.
Several years ago, there was the opportunity to study this unique art form at Taos Wool Festival. We stitched on handspun, handwoven sabanilla that the leader provided. She also had wonderful handspun handyed yarns--all singles. Sorry to say that project has not been completed but the chance to learn this stitch and style was experienced and studied.

Here are websites that will give an overview of colcha:
Needlework Tips
New Mexico History of Colcha
Spanish Colonial Art

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