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Embroidery is a decorative technique in which an artist uses a needle to carry a thread or yarn in and out of previously-woven cloth to produce a design. Embroiderers process the yarns used in their art by hand prior to their use. Most often, the artists re-spin the yarn to tighten it, then soak it in water and dry it to set it. Embroidery designs comprise both the broad shapes and bands of color and the negative patterning, the incorporation of the white or black fabric background into the design.

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When I make a mistake, I have to rip it. I always think to myself, ‘They’re not going to know,’ but I know it’s a mistake so I have to rip it out and make it right.
—Ramoncita Sandoval,embroiderer, San Juan Pueblo


      Many Pueblo people are active embroiderers today. There are of course, differences from the textiles made during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but there are also marked continuities. Demand remains strong for ceremonial textiles for the Pueblo community, and some non-Pueblos collect embroidered textiles. Some contemporary embroiderers are able to make a living at their craft. Many of these embroiderers have a strong desire to share and pass on their knowledge and techniques to others. Despite the huge investment of time required, embroidery survives as the most viable and most commonly practiced of all the Pueblo textile arts.


Image: Shawn Tafoya Spinning yarn, 1996.

  School for Advanced Research