A Hat is Born

A Hat is Born

6. Beginning the Weaving

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After the straw has been bleached, the weaver selects the best straw and cuts it to the length he wants to work with. Then he chooses one of the prepared strands to use to begin the hat. But first he must slice it to the fineness he wants. The straw has curled lengthwise while drying. He is uncurling the straw (right) so he can use a sharpened thumbnail to slit it to the desired width. This is not Simón. You probably knew that.

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At the left, José is getting ready to slit the straw with his thumbnail.

To the right, José’s hand was quicker than my eye. He quickly slit the straw lengthwise with a flick of his wrist. Judging by his age, and having seen him walk, I never would have guessed he could flick his wrist.

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Voilà! Two straws. (left) He examines them carefully to decide if they are both the same fineness and if there are any other issues that might require him to correct or discard one or both of the straws.

Next, we’ll watch Simón’s father, Senovio, as he shows us how to begin the hat. (below)

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He chooses two straws and places them carefully across the fingertips of one hand. (above left) He adds a second, third, and fourth pair of straws, arranging them carefully and holding everything in place as he adds the next pair.

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Below left, you can see how the four pairs of straws are overlapped to begin the hat. This is called the cruzado. Below right, Senovio begins the weaving that will become the center of the top of the hat.

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He overlaps the individual straws, weaving them over and under each other faster than I can follow. After a couple of minutes he has created a tiny beginning, which he shows us below right. This stage is called the armado.

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Senovio performs a finger dance with the straw. He weaves his little straw spot bigger, feeding in new straws as though adding new dancers to the stage. They loop, circle, bob in and out, always snugging up to each other in the center before they head back out for another go-round.

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Senovio shows us that the dance has been performed well. The hat is getting bigger.

A few hours of weaving will expand the hat to the size of a silver dollar. This is called the plantilla. (right)

Even when the hat has been completed, the entire top of the crown is called the plantilla. The photo to the right was made on a different day. Different year even. The photos of Senovio were made on Thanksgiving Day 2005.

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Marcial’s wife Josefa (on the left) shows us that she knows how to do it, too. Simón’s wife (on the right) assists. The Little Inspector makes sure they do it properly.

Thanksgiving Dinner.

Having Thanksgiving dinner in Montecristi gives a whole new meaning to “turkey in the straw.” The meal was prepared by Jorge (on the left), his wife, and staff at their beachfront hotel and restaurant. Yum. It was a rare treat, as in first-ever, for the weavers and their families to enjoy a restaurant banquet. Gringo madness. In Ecuador, it’s not Thanksgiving, just Thursday. (Jueves actually.) That’s Roff on the right. I asked him leave his hat on.

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Next, see the weavers do their stuff. NEXT PAGE

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Text and photos © 1988-2017, B. Brent Black. All rights reserved.

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