Weaving Miracles

Weaving Miracles

7. Weaving the World’s Finest Panama Hats

I have been photographing weavers for almost twenty years. These are some of my favorites.

First, a fond remembrance of José Espinal, Master Weaver.

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I photographed José many times. He was a great weaver, nice man, good husband. In the photo above left, the one right above that, and the top left photo on this page, take a look at the tree-limb tripod he uses for weaving. I bought it from him and shipped it to Hawaii. I use it every day when I block hats. I rest the block on José’s stand while I work with a hat. I like to think that working on his stand somehow keeps me connected to José, connected to the village where the world’s finest hats are woven. It definitely keeps me conscious of them. Vaya con dios, José.

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Remember at the end of the previous page there was a photo of the plantilla about the size of a silver dollar? In the two photos above, you can see a much larger plantilla in the right foreground. When the plantilla is as large around as the top of the wooden form, the weaver turns the weave down and begins la copa, or crown.

If you look back at the top left photo on the page, you will see a small plantilla hanging from between the round forms. In the top right photo on this page, José is weaving the small plantilla bigger.

In the close shot of the plantilla on the right (a beauty by Marcial Espinal), you can see how he marks his place when taking a break from weaving by tying the straw.

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Above left and below left, the classic weaver posture. Bent at the waist, chest resting on a cushion, sometimes just a folded t-shirt. When the crown is tall enough to reach the bottom of the form, it’s time to weave the brim. The hat is held in place on the form by a half-inch-wide leather belt , pulled tight by laces, then tied. (all four photos above and below) While working on the plantilla and crown, the hat is held in place by the weaver’s weight and the wood form placed on top of the plantilla. (Photo at top of page on right)

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Below, Simón’s father, Senovio, weaves the brim.

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Next, see how the brim’s edge is woven. NEXT PAGE

8. Getting the Edge go to

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

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