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Craft Techniques

Machine embroidery

The treadle sewing machine arrived in Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century. It was rapidly distributed from the major cities to the countryside mostly by rail.  To this day treadle sewing machines are used extensively and represent an important inheritance are passed down from generation to generation from mothers to daughters.

Tepehuas, Totonacos, Ikoots, Mixes, Zapotecs, Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Tojolabales, Nahuas and Mayas, are just some of the ethnic groups in Mexico that use treadle machine embroidery to decorate their clothing.

The process and iconography varies from region to region however, in general, the process begins with tracing the design on the fabric’s surface. In some places the embroidery is done free hand without prior tracing.  In other communities the embroidery it is embroidered on the face of the fabric and in other communities it is embroidered on the back or reverse side and the final pattern is not revealed until the artisans turns the textiles over. Once the preliminary outlines are made, the distribution of colors and patterns are decided by the embroider as well as the distances between embroidered areas and negative areas. The artisan next slides the fabric under the needle of the machine guiding it with her fingers.

To this day treadle sewing machines are used extensively and represent an important inheritance are passed down from generation to generation from mothers to daughters.

The pedal machine is a mechanical sewing machine, it is operated by the master craftswoman by balancing her pedal with her feet, it is not electric or automatic, but it is actually a tool; hands, feet and mind are in perfect coordination, they control the direction, shape, tension and width of the stitches necessary to generate the embroidery.