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Make loads of clothes with your weaves – start with the Huipil inspired Maya top

Maya Top Handwoven
I think I take my sewing skills for granted. And I image everyone else has the same skills.  But increasingly, because we haven’t had to make our own clothes, we don’t need those skills.  I understand that others have more valuable skills to earn money. But to make your own clothes…that’s a freedom. To weave the cloth for them…even more so. You can save money, value what you make more, choose your fibres,  have less clothes, and have clothes that actually fit you. This year I’ll be taking more about clothing, sewing and how weaving fits in with it all in the Saori way.


This is the Maya top with versions of the huipil overlayed on top.

As a weaver, I’ve always made some clothes from my cloth but I haven’t been as productive in cloth yardage as I am now with the Saori loom. In the ’80s there were many books on clothing from rectangular and narrow widths which are often found in other cultures who use the backstrap loom. One of these is the simple and elegant Huipil. Like the Kimono, the beauty of the clothing is in the design of the cloth rather than the cut. It’s also about not wasting the energy and resources that go into the weaving and making the most out of the cloth without cutting it.

You can see here some of the Huipil versions overlayed on the Maya top. The most important thing is the seams. Narrow widths are joined to create the width required.  Some people find seamed cloth a poor cousin to the wider cloth, but it’s not!  Get excited when you get an opportunity to make a seam somewhere. (especially after mistakes like I often make). This makes the perfect excuse for having a irregular and unique touch to your handwoven garment. 

The next important thing is the shoulder line. Often simpler clothing doesn’t incorporate a shoulder slope. A shoulder slope will make the garment fit more in the way we are used to.  Then there is the neckline shape. This is sometimes more difficult than it looks.

I thought I would try what looked like a nice pattern shape in the Maya Top by Marilla Walker. She drafted this pattern with the Huipil in mind and that is what caught my eye. I did a few mods to the pattern and some of the odder ones that I may not over mention were actually mistakes of mine which I had to overcome. I think the pattern shape is great and I would recommend the pattern as a great one for handweavers. There is minimal cut off waste and the neckline and shoulder shaping is good. The main modification was to create a centre front (CF) and centre back (CB) seam from the pattern. As the woven and finished fabric was only 37cms  I couldn’t cut the CF and CB on the fold, so I added 1.5cms on the foldline and cut 2 pieces for the front and 2 pieces for the back. These were then joined together to create the entire front and back. This isn’t a problem for Saori weavers…we love an excuse for irregularity. Marilla Walker’s pattern suggests a lapped seam to really make the top very serviceable and finished.  In Saori clothing design we usually use a flat felled seam which we prepare as we stitch rather than cutting one of the seam allowances after the first stitching. But you can see here how it is done on general cloth

Maya top handwoven backWhen I cut out the pattern on my cloth I forgot to have the nice curved back so I added it – yay! another excuse for irregularity. So I also threw in the fringe end of the the woven cloth that I was going to discard, but only on one side.

This cloth was woven in a mix of  Saori style woven shibori and more exacting kasuri, all overdyed.  It had a tencel warp and the weft was linen, stainless steel, wool, cotton and silk. Throwing some wool in really works with this type of weaving because it didn’t dye with the rest of it which was dyed for cellulose fibres.

I hope sewing and garment construction posts will be of use to others and we can weave, weave, weave and sew, stitch, dye, wear and enjoy.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Meg #

    You do! Sewing is a very special, valuable and precious skill!

    January 20, 2018
  2. Noeleen Fleming #

    Thanks for all the tips. I need all the help you can give for garment construction, but do want to use the weaving more and more for wearing.

    January 31, 2018

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