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  • Place of origin:

    Guatemala (made)

  • Date:

    1875-1890 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Warp-faced plain weave cotton, undyed Gossypium Mexicanum, and red dyed cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Alfred Percival Maudslay

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Tzutes are used for many purposes: if two corners are tied together in front of the body the rest of the cloth forms a 'sling' across the back which can be used for carrying small children. It could be used as a shawl, or worn folded on the head, or used as a covering for baskets of food in the market or on baskets being carried.

Physical description

Woman's tzute made from two unequal panels joined with an overcasting stitch worked in cotton. There is a selvedge on every side. The pattern consists of wide and narrow stripes of brown, red and white.

Technical Details:
Warp: average of 43 threads per inch. (i) white cotton, Z-spun, paired threads; (ii) red cotton, Z3Z; (iii) blue cotton, Z-spun, unplied, paired threads; (iv) brown cotton, Z-spun, unplied, paired threads.
Weft: average of 14 threads per inch in left hand panel and average of 19 per inch in right hand panel. White cotton, Z-spun, unplied, usually 2 parallel threads per shoot but sometimes 3 and also 4. There is a loosely woven band in the right hand panel which begins about 6" from the lower edge and is about 4" deep. In this area there are 4 weft threads per shoot but only 8 shoots per inch. There is a similar but less noticeable band in the left hand panel beginning 6" from the lower edge.
Lower Edge: left hand panel: there are 3 threads of weft per shoot in the first 12 sheds; right hand panel: there are 3 threads of weft per shoot in the first 14 sheds.
Upper Edge: left hand panel: 3 threads per shoot in the last 8 sheds; right hand panel: 4 threads per shoot in the last 42 sheds.
Red cotton is dyed with Alizarin, patented in Britain and in Germany in 1871.

Usually the direction of twist in any plied thread is opposite to the direction of spin, but the red cotton used in this warp has an identical spin and twist (Z3Z), probably to give added strength to particularly short fibres.
Dr Rosario de Polanco, Directora Technica of the Museo Ixchel de Traje Indigena, Guatemala City said (personal communication 1989) that the wefts in the loose area mentioned above were not inserted with a needle as had been suggested when the object was first catalogued in the V&A. She said that Indian women finish their weaving by using heavier thread to complete the work more quickly.
E S Carter (personal communication 1995) said that the finishing off in a textile might be done with a needle or an improvised needle. He said that the spokes of broken umbrellas were used in the Alta Verapaz region. He said that thicker threads were never used. Instead greater separation of wefts is accepted by brushing the surface of the weaving with a bone pick to distribute more evenly the wefts that have been inserted.

Place of Origin

Guatemala (made)


1875-1890 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Warp-faced plain weave cotton, undyed Gossypium Mexicanum, and red dyed cotton


Length: 199 cm of longest panel, Width: 72.4 cm of longest panel, Length: 198 cm of shortest panel, Width: 67.3 cm of shortest panel, Width: 140 cm overall

Object history note

Registered File no. 2743/1931.

Descriptive line

Woven cotton; Guatemala; 1875-1890

Labels and date

TZUTE, made from two pieces of unequal size. This may be a woman's tzute, used for carrying babies with two corners tied together in front and the rest of the cloth forming a 'sling' across the back. It would also have had other uses - as a shawl around the shoulders, or folded and worn on the head as a hat, or as a covering for baskets of food in the markets or on baskets being carried.
Paired threads of Z-spun, unplied white, blue and brown cotton have been used in the warp, together with plied red cotton (Z3Z). Usually the direction of the twist is opposite to the direction of the spin (ie. Z3S), but five of the six items displayed in this case include threads with identical spin and twist, probably to give added strength to particularly short fibres. []

Production Note

Krystyna Deuss of the Guatemalan Indian Centre in London suggested (personal communication July 1995) that this tzute was made in Comitancillo in the Department of San Marcos. She also remarked that tzutes from Nahuala are similar in that they also do not have a decorative randa joining the two panels.
Ann P Rowe, Curator of Western Hemisphere Textiles in The Textile Museum, Washington DC suggested (personal communication 1997) that it was probably from Nahuala. She said she had not seen similar old pieces from Comitancillo but drew attention to 3-218 in the Eisen Collection (Schevil's Maya Textiles of Guatemala p. 162) which is totally different. However, striping is so generically Guatemalan that it is difficult to be completely certain of any specific village attribution.


Cotton fibre; Cotton (textile)


Weaving; Sewing

Subjects depicted





Textiles and Fashion Collection

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