Colombian Weaving Crafts

Doing research about Colombia’s crafts I learned they have many “artesanias” (handicrafts) that involve weaving threads. Here are are a few in order of relevance:

Sombrero Vueltiao

Meaning turned hat, it refers to the way this hat is made by turning and turning. The making of the hat originated amongst the Zenú tribes located in the Sinú river region, between the Córdoba and Sucre departments of Colombia since 200 BCE. It is believed that men from this indigenous people used the hat for sun protection when working in fields. The first hats are believed have been made around 300 years ago.

The hats are made of a type of cane called “caña flecha” (Gynerium sagittatum) through a very lengthy process.

Fresh Caña Flecha. Cr. afov0502.wordpress. com

First, the caña flecha leaves must be dried and the veins removed using a knife and a piece of leather to obtain uniform, sturdy strips. The strips are then dried in the sun until they turn from green to beige or white, and are sorted according to color. The beige, or “dirty strips” (Spanish: sucias) are then soaked in sand-free black mud. After about three or four days in the mud, the colored strips are washed thoroughly with cold water and boiled in vija, another wild plant, for at least a couple of hours. After this, the tinted strips are again dried in the sun for several days, and the coloring process is repeated until they have reached a uniform black color. (1)

After the desired colors are obtained, the caña flecha strips are woven into the braids that are used to form the sombrero. This can take many days, depending on the desired quality. The olma, or central part of the top of the hat, is the first part of the hat to be woven. The crown of the hat and later the wings are made. Once the manual part of constructing the hat is finished, the hat is completed by using a foot-driven sewing machine to sew the hat together. (1)

Here are some photos of the process:

Dried beige caña flecha. Cr. Artesanías de Colombia. com
Weaving caña flecha Cr. Artesanías de Colombia. com
Artisan from Tuchín, Córdoba, sewing sombreros vueltiaos. Cr. Ruby Restrepo
Beautiful finished products by the master: Maestro Marcial Montalvo.  Cr. Artesanías de Colombia. com

One interesting fact that I read about these hats is that the number of vueltas (turns) determines the sombrero’s monetary value, which is proportional to the amount of vueltas used to create the sombrero. The more vueltas or turns the more flexible it is and long lasting. These are the different types:

The Quinciano is the most commercially available Sombrero Vueltiao and also the cheapest. These hats are made in just three days, are loosely woven together, and use only 15 pairs of caña flecha strips to make the weave.

The Diecinueve, as the name suggests, uses 19 pairs of caña flecha strips to produce a finer braid that will result in a softer and finer sombrero. It can take up to a week to produce by hand.

The Veintiuno uses 21 pairs of caña flecha strands per weave and is finer than the Quinciano and the Diecinueve. These hats are usually custom-made to order and take 10 to 15 days to produce by hand.

The Veintitres is made of 23 pairs of caña flecha strips. The Veintitres, like the Veintiuno, is very fine and notably softer and lighter than the above. It takes from 12 to 20 days to make this sombrero from scratch.

The Veintisiete is the finest sombrero available and uses 27 pairs of caña flecha. It can be folded up and put in a pocket without being damaged. The weave is very dense, and is soft to the touch. The Veintisiete is the most expensive sombrero vueltiao and can take up to a month to produce by hand.

Another fascinating aspect of these hats are its designs or ‘pintas’. The pintas located on the vuelta’s design tend to make reference to the origin of the world. The design can allude to natural elements, such as flora, that are often represented through geometric designs such as the totumo flower (circles and triangles), the passion fruit flower (triangles), and the corn spike (triangles with diagonal lines). These designs identify the wearer’s clan for the members of the tribe. (2)

Here are some I found in the internet:

Cr. Pintarest
Cr. SentipensandoElCaribe (Facebook)
Cr. SentipensandoElCaribe (Facebook)

Isn’t it amazing how every craft has so much depth and symbolism? This video transports you to Colombia and this beautiful craft.

This hat made the international scene when a Colombian boxer, Miguel ‘Happy’ Lora used it after becoming the world champion in 1985.

Through a law decree on September 8, 2004, the sombrero vueltiao becomes an official national symbol of the nation of Colombia.

In 2006 more than 400,000 people vote and make these hats Colombia’s number one symbol followed by coffee, the Carnaval de Barranquilla celebration and the flag of Colombia.

Mochilas Wayuu

The Wayuu people (pronounced ‘wah-you’) are native to the area of La Guajira Peninsula, facing the Caribbean Sea in the north. They a matriarcal sociaty where women are the center of their families and culture. The creation of their weaving is a tradition that is passed from mother to daughter as they become women.

La Guajira (in red) Cr. Wikimedia Commons

When a woman gets her first period (they call it the first bleed) they are placed in an “encierro”. This means they are isolated in a room with their teacher. It can be their mother or grandmother. They receive a ritual of purification and then they start learning the craft of weaving. They start with pieces of cotton and how to turn it into thread, then how to make belts, then bags and depending how long and skilled they continue learning making bigger things like hammocks. (1)

The Wayuu mochila takes anywhere from two weeks to month to complete depending on the skill of the weaver. Each bag is unique and its designs reflect the intensity of the Caribbean colors. They also tell stories passed down through generations.

Because of economic necessity men have started to weave as well and now they make more items like coin purses and cosmetic bags. Here are of these beautiful women and their incredible weaved crafts:

Cr. Meraki, Facebook
Cecilia Acosta a Wayuu leader weaving. Cr. tuuputchika. com
Cr. thesmallhome.

There is a Wayuu tale of how women inherited this craft… you can read it right HERE.

There are many videos showing how to make one of these bags… here is one:

How I wish I had the time to try to make one! Maybe a small one?:

So cute!!!

Traditional Wayuu settlements (rancherias) consist of five to six small houses (piichi or miichi), which are made of wooden posts and frame, with mud and clay walls. Inside these houses, hammocks (or chinchorros) are suspended for sleeping and for storing personal belongings. To the Wayuu people, their hammocks are the most valued possessions. It can take up to 8 months to complete a hammock. (4)

Cr. laguajirahoy. com
Cr. Mundo de Hamacas

Last but not least… here is… Roger Federer wearing both back in 2012 when he played an exhibition game in Colombia! ^ ^

Guacamayas Basketry

Guacamaya means macaw in Spanish. It is also the name of a town in Boyacá that produces a distinctive type of artisanal basket that, like the macaw stands out for their multicolor patterns. They look like this:

thebogotapost. com
Cr. artesaniasdecolombia. com
Cr. artesaniasdecolombia. com

To make these beautiful pieces artisans use hay or a similar like material called ‘fique’. They used to be able to find it growing in the mountains nearby but now because of the demand they buy it in markets. The leaves are made into threads using a machine that exposes the fibers.

A field with fique plants. Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá
Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá
Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá

They they are washed and dried.

Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá
Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá
Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá

They are classified by length and tied in small groups.

Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá

Some are died. Originally it used to be done with natural products like lime, aloe, oranges but now bright commercial colors are added to these.

Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá

Then the arduous process of coiling, wrapping and sewing begins. A thread of the same color is used to wrap around and around the fique…they add more and more fique as they do it.

Cr. Still from a video by Club Audiovisual I.E. T. San Diego de Alcalá
Cr. artesaniasdecolombia. com

Here is the video where all these images came from:

They place uncolored fique inside the colored fique to save time.

If you want to try a version of this craft I found a video where they use rope and wrap yarn/thread around it. She only sews every few steps:

I want to try this!!!

There are more beautiful crafts made from fibers, HERE a website showcases some more. There are also ‘ruanas’ (a weaved poncho).

Which of the three I showcased did you like the most? Thank you so much for following this long thread! ^ ^


(1) Wikipedia: Sombrero Vueltiao






  1. Increíble la diversidad del trabajo artesanal con diversos materiales que se encuentran en Colombia y sur America desde tiempos inmemoriales. En este segmento del post explicas muy bien de los sombreros vueltiaos y el tejido con fibras vegetales multicolores de cestas y hamacas. Excelente investigación . Me encantó

    Liked by 1 person

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