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Rugs & Textiles From Unexpected Places

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

You might be familiar with "the rug belt," an area from Morocco to China responsible for most cut pile handwoven rugs sold worldwide.

Rug weaving map
The most common rug weaving areas in the world

However, A few rug weaving areas exist outside of the rug weaving belt. One example is a small production of handwoven rugs being woven just north of Mexico City, Mexico, yes, Mexico!

In 1969, Sofia and Don Mario traveled to Pakistan and learned the art of making handwoven oriental rugs. They brought the craft back to Mexico, establishing rug weaving in San Pedro Abajo, Temoaya, Mexico.

San Pedro Abajo is about an hour and a half northwest of Mexico City, and the tradition of handwoven cut pile oriental rugs is still woven there today!

These rugs are similar in weaving style to Pakistan Bokhara rugs woven on a cotton foundation, except they have a double side cord. The color and designs are traditional and reminiscent of Chimayo weaving.

hand woven rug from mexico
Hand woven Mexican rug

Hand woven oriental rug
Hand woven rug from Mexico

Rug Weaving In Mexico Today

Rug weaving workshops still flourish in Temoaya; some are small workshops without websites and little consumer access, but there are two with an internet presence.

Chicashtti Temoaya Otomi Rugs is a local producer of handwoven rugs.

Local rug weaving co-op makes small to large size rugs.

Wool In The Americas

The first sheep, the Churro breed of sheep, arrived with Christopher Columbus’s second voyage in 1493. While sheep were easily adopted in the Americas and by the Navjo, Or Diné as many prefer to be called

It leads many to think that weaving with animal fibers started after the introduction of sheep weaving in the Americas, Yet, rich and long history of weaving existed before 1493

Pre- Columbian Weaving History

Cut pile rug weaving is relatively new to the American continent the art of weaving in the Americas isn't new and dates back thousands of years.

The oldest weaving found so far is fragmented from Guitarrero Cave, Peru dating back to 10,100 to 9,080 BCE. The oldest known textiles in North America are twine and plain weave plant fiber fabrics preserved in a peat pond at the Windover Archaeological Site in Florida, dating to 6,000 BCE. While not woven rugs, these early textiles show the fundamentals of weaving that existed long ago, some ten thousand years ago in the Americas.

Instead of wool, these weaving cultures used cotton and Camelid fibers ( Camelidae ) family, including llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.

The Mayan and other pre-Colombian civilizations had developed weaving and fiber dyeing culture over 2,000 years ago. The Paracas below is an amazing example of pre-Columbian culture; a careful study of the colors and composition of this piece amazes a rug snob such as myself; its composition is anything but haphazard. The camelid fibers are finely spun, and the dyeing is deep, rich, and consistent, stable natural colors.

In fact, it's every bit as sophisticated a weaving as any weaving being produced any place else in the world at the time. Little is known about the weaving cultures often; this level of development indicates skill specialization. Meaning that the spinner, dyer, and weaver were full-time occupations.

A pre columbian Paracas weaving
Peruvian (Paracas), first century C.E

Peruvian (Paracas), first century C.E

Pre columbian weaving 1200-1400 AD
Chancay culture, Central Coast, A.D. 1200–1400

Sadly, we have gaps in our knowledge and understanding of pre-Columbian cultures.

Population estimates range from 54 million to 100 million pre-Columbian people living in the Americas. It's believed from 1492 to 1600, the population dropped to 6 million.

The resulted from war, massacres, forced displacement (often resulting in starvation), and diseases brought by europeans to the native populations they had no immunity to.

I marvel at the few examples that survive today. I can't help but think about what was lost in time

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