Needlearts Lecture Programs

These one-hour talks are on topics for needle artists. A small project is available with each talk.

Guatemalan Textiles

huipil copy

Brightly colored, dramatic wearable art, the indigenous clothing of Mexico and Guatemala displays embroidery and weaving that encompass historical symbolism, consummate skill, and artistic beauty. The ancient techniques of construction and embellishment continue today with modern materials. Still, the textiles contain the designs and patterns that have held meaning in the culture for centuries.

The tradition of beautifully woven and embroidered Guatemalan fabrics and their connection to Mayan culture intrigue me, especially because our community has welcomed Guatemalan refugees for a number of years. In this presentation, we will follow the journey of one small village, Saq Ja, to bring back textile traditions to their young people.

The included project is a small motif stitched in the colorful cross-stitch pattern found on a huipil, the traditional blouse worn in Guatemala.


Seven Symmetries


Imagine all the designs ever created by all the artisans, from every culture in the world, in all of human history. It’s staggering to think of the variety of patterns available to these creative minds. Now, narrow your focus to consider just those patterns artists might use to make borders: long repeating designs on wallpaper borders, or skirt hems, or samplers, or lengths of lace, or tiles, or rugs. It’s still hard to imagine all the designs there are, or have ever been.

And yet, if you narrow your focus just one level further, to the single design element of symmetry, an amazing fact emerges. If you consider border patterns and the mathematical symmetries they allow, there are only seven distinct patterns available to use! How can this be, and how might we as designers or artists use the knowledge of these patterns to enhance our creative capacity? Mathematics has the answer to why there are only seven types.

The talk requires no previous knowledge of stitching, and the elementary geometry explanations are accessible to high school students.

The included project is a sampler to remind you of the different kinds of symmetry motions of one-dimensional patterns. 

deconstructed snowman copy