Vintage Mexican Rug Collection
Unearthed in the northern part of Mexico, the earliest remnants of Mexican textiles date back to 1800 BCE and consist of woven chichicaste fiber, a type of durable, vegetable fiber similar to linen. In ancient Mesoamerican cultures, farmers used vegetable fibers to make clothing, blankets and rugs while priests and nobles used softer, more valuable cotton to make clothing and household items. Woven on back strap looms, vintage Mexican textiles included clothes decorated with embroidery (silver or gold threads, feathers or shells) and gorgeous wall hangings embellishing palaces and temples.
Dyes Used in Vintage Mexican Rugs and Other Textiles
Indigenous, pre-colonial Mexican societies derived dyes for textiles from vegetable and animal sources. For example, the vibrant reds you see in Mexican rugs collection online came from an insect living in prickly pears called the grana cochinilla. By the end of the 16th century, Turkey and China, enamored of the quality of the dye, imported the dye to use in their own textiles. However, the grana cochinilla dye could only be used on wool because it would not remain in cotton.
Deep blue hues found in vintage Mexican textiles came from the indigo plant (indigofera). Growing in the sandier, drier climates of Mexico, indigo plants require precipitation and infusion to produce this beautiful dye. In Oaxaca, a small town called Niltepec still produces indigo dye today as their ancestors did centuries ago.
In the western part of Mexico, people used to collect a type of snail living in the Pacific Ocean to extract a substance that, when oxidized, turned purple. The extraction process involved snail collectors blowing into the snail to expel a colorless fluid that first turned yellow, then purple. This dye can only be applied to natural cotton since synthetic cotton undergoes chemical processes inhibiting fixation of the color.
Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico
For over two millennia, the Zapotec Indians have been weaving rugs and other textiles on backstrap tension looms. Eventually destabilized by numerous invasions, the Zapotec Indians became subjects of the Aztec and Mixtec empires. Rulers revered the weaving skills exhibited by the Zapotecs and expected them to regularly pay tribute to their kingdoms with handmade textiles. Eventually, Spaniards invaded Mexico and brought sheep wool, the spinning wheel and the fixed frame pedal loom to Zapotec weaving culture. Today, a vintage Mexican rug collection may contain modern Zapotec rugs and textiles since this Indian tribe (now living in Teotitlan de Valle) continues to create Mexican textiles traditionally, using natural dyes and 100 percent wool.
Call Esmaili Rugs & Antiques today to learn more about our Mexican rug collection: (214) 651-7847.