By: Miguel Gonzalez

Francisca Xic

Is an artist of pointillism (a technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colors), but not with ink but with thread, needle, and frame. The skill of her fingers and hands embroider tiny knots of thread in the form of dots on canvases woven on a backstrap or foot loom. Stitch after stitch, and with a lot of patience and laboriousness, she forms figures such as birds, flowers, or mystical symbols of the Mayan culture. This is the technique of knot embroidery, a textile process that Francisca established years ago in Zunil, a town in western Guatemala, located 210 km from the capital. Without losing the tradition of the local costume, she innovates and her creations become local fashion and spread gradually in the region. "My handmade garments are the result of creativity, mysticism, identity, love, and effort for my art. I thank God for the ability I have in my hands and for the intelligence to create art in each piece I weave and embroider," says Francisca.

Embroidering knots

Requires skill, ingenuity, and patience, three virtues that Guatemalan weavers possess. The figures they embroider are outlined with stitching. Each petal of a flower or each space of a drawing is filled with tiny hand-embroidered knots. The craftswomen use silk thread of different colors to embroider on their fabrics, but without a doubt, the garment where the knot embroidery stands out the most is the güipil (blouse worn by indigenous Guatemalan women).

As is the case with many women in this country, Francisca was trained as a weaver and embroiderer since she was a child, until she became an all-around worker. She learned to weave sashes, cortes, güipiles, and other handcrafted pieces for domestic use. At the same time, she became skilled in drawing designs and making typical women's clothing.

With our handicrafts

we show our skills and maintain the identity of our villages, but in the end, they are a means to survive, to earn money, and support our families," says Francisca. The work of embroidering knots on a güipil can take almost two months, but this is a long time and becomes unprofitable for the weavers. Shortening this time became a challenge for Francisca, but she soon found a solution. She created a large frame or embroidery hoop, which allows three or four artisans to work simultaneously; this invention was a big step that reduced the time for embroidering knots but also reduced costs.

Warping, weaving, drawing, designing, embroidering, and assembling typical garments is a process that is described as easy and quick, but it is a learning process that takes years. Francisca learned all these steps and her genius is reflected in each handicraft she weaves and embroiders.

A güipil embroidered with the knot technique takes effort, a lot of color, relief, shapes, and design; but each figure and each symbol that stands out in this garment has meaning and messages of the identity of the Mayan culture.