A Thousand Stripes of Color Backpack (Mexico)

A Thousand Stripes of Color Backpack (Mexico)


  • From The Oaxaca Collection.
  • Handmade by Graciela and Gerónimo in the Valles Centrales of Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • 100% wool exterior.
  • Braided wool straps.
  • Zip closure with overlying, woven wool flap. Outside zip pocket.
  • Red interior with added pocket.
  • Handwoven on a fixed, pedal-operated loom.
  • 62 different colors!
  • 18” x 12.5”

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This is THE backpack. It is, without a doubt, the only one of its kind. The artisan named the backpack, and very aptly so, I'd say. It features 62 different colors, all made from natural dyes. This artisan has an absolutely unique and contemporary esthetic that is unrivaled in her craft. She is an exacting perfectionist in her work, and it shows. Her bags are not only the most well made of their kind I’ve seen, but also stand apart in their visionary color and design. No one in her village is making bags quite like hers. This backpack represents a completely new design, dreamt up entirely by her forward-thinking imagination. You will have it forever, if you can pry it out of my hands.

The amount of work that goes into making a bag like this is astounding and, if you see it in person, an emotional experience. The weaving alone on this bag took over two weeks. If you figure in the other processes discussed below, each bag can take months to complete. I have included a few extra photos here about the process, but I also wrote an entire story (see the story below) that explains the process and people behind this work in much greater detail. This particular bag was made by my friend in the story.

All five of the woven bags in this collection are made in the same village, where families of master rug weavers (and, now, some bag makers!) have been employing traditional methods of weaving for many generations. The sheep’s wool comes from local sheep, often raised by the families of weavers themselves, which is then hand combed and spun into large loops of yarn.

The artisan's mother spinning wool, who herself is a master weaver:

The natural colors of the wool—white, black (rarer) and brown—can be left as they are or dyed into a seemingly infinite array of colors. But they don’t use just any dye. Instead, each of the colors you see here is a product of natural dyes obtained from plants, flower, fruit and even insects (the cochineal bug) from the valley. These materials are often mixed with limestone or lemon, for example, to create unsuspecting, seemingly unnatural colors. It’s part chemistry, part art.

All of the weaving is done on pedal-operated looms, which are also constructed by local artisans. It’s incredible to watch the rhythm of masters weaving on these looms, feet and hands working together so quickly and elegantly, putting together tapestries one painstaking row (and, for the designs, a single thread or small line) at a time. My friend does the finishing sewing work on her bags on a Singer sewing machine, which makes me love them even more (Singer is my last name). This is truly a work of love that shows in the results.