When visiting markets around the world to find inspiration, we love discovering one-of-a-kind products. Which is why some of our favorite items at The Little Market are our huipil bags, because each one is unique. The bags are made from recycled huipils (pronounced wee-peel), the traditional blouse worn by Guatemalan women, woven to represent her personality and her heritage.
Huipils have been worn by women of Mesoamerica since the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas. Though indigenous dress has disappeared from most parts of the world, the traditional huipils are still worn in Guatemala today. Clothing is of great cultural significance to the Mayan people, and the huipil is the most iconic garment.
Traditional huipils are woven on a backstrap loom, using a technique that has been passed down through women for generations. First, raw wool or cotton is washed, combed, and spun, then stretched across the loom. As the cloth is being woven, colorful threads are added to create the intricate patterns. The weaver may use natural dyes, created from plants, insects, flowers and berries.
The Mayan women who weave the huipils memorize countless patterns. Each one is a work of art, and can take months to complete. The patterns that are woven into the cloth have great significance for the Mayan culture, representing the weaver’s heritage, marital status, religion, personality, and the village she is from. Every region and town in Guatemala has unique huipil patterns that distinguish them from one another.
When huipils are made well, they can last up to 30 years. When a woman grows tired of her huipil, she may sell it for extra income. Our artisan partners in Guatemala repurpose the huipils to create one-of-a-kind bags. Each huipil bag carries the unique heritage and history of the woman who made it. Once each bag is sold, we will not have another. These intricate huipil products tell a rich cultural story, while supporting the talented Mayan women who weave them.