Trekking the Globe in Stitches: North America

The next stop on our tour of needlework from the seven continents is North America. In PieceWork’s March/April 2014 issue, Cynthia Lecount Samaké introduces us to the red huipiles (traditional square-cut blouses) worn by the women of Patzún in Guatemala. Inspired by the region’s vivid embroidered huipiles, Cynthia embellished a pair of espadrilles.

North America

Cynthia LeCount Samaké’s Red Espadrilles to Embroider. The shoes are lavishly embellished with embroidered flowers typical of Guatemala. Photos by Joe Coca.

In her article, “Red Is the Color of Patzún,” Cynthia describes the vivid embroidery she encountered in the market of Patzún.

  • At the market, I was thrilled to see that more than half of the women were wearing traditional dress—huipiles with wraparound skirts called cortes or morgas and wide belts. Florinda, dressed in a flowered red huipil, sat behind a long table covered with flat trays of pearl cotton embroidery thread. This smart businesswoman, knowing that embroiderers prefer (and can afford) to buy a few meters of each color instead of an entire ball in one color, offered dozens of colors in small quantities neatly wound onto squares of corrugated cardboard. Florinda’s own flowered huipil showed the new trend toward monochromatic flower hues with green leaves and yellow stamens. “Flowers make me happy,” she said, “and red is just the color we use here in Patzún.”
  • The embroiderers use basic stitches with great care and skill. Satin stitch is by far the most popular, with stem stitch a close second. Some women make details with French knots or bullion stitches. They also use unusual color combinations and outline shapes in stem stitch with a contrasting color to make them stand out. Each leaf, blossom, or bud often has four to six different colors, and a single huipil may show two to three dozen different colors of embroidery thread.
North America

Another view of the espadrilles designed by Cynthia LeCount Samaké. The exuberant embroidery was inspired by the embroidered huipiles (traditional square-cut blouses) worn by the women of Patzún, a town in Guatemala’s western highlands.

Cynthia embroidered a pair of purchased, red espadrilles for the March/April 2014 issue with floral motifs much like the ones embroidered on the huipiles worn in the market Patzún. Want to embellish your own pair of espadrilles and read more about how the color red was used in North America? See Cynthia Lecount Samaké’s pattern, “Red Espadrilles to Embroider,” and article, “Red Is the Color of Patzún,” in PieceWork March/April 2014.

If you’re just joining us on our journey, catch-up by reading about the amazing needlework of Asia, Antarctica, and Europe. Safe travels!


Learn more about the needlework from other areas of North America with PieceWork!


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