The organically way of dyeing gauchos ponchos has been kept this way for centuries.
Families of dyers zealously kept the secrets of their organical dyeing for gauchos ponchos techniques, that were only transmitted from one generation to the next, within the same family.
The dyeing native method is still based on three pillars: the washing, the use of mordants and the soaking of textiles in the dye bath.
The process to dyeing gauchos ponchos
In order to avoid problems when dyeing, the preparations of the skeins is of crucial importance. If we want to achieve an even colour, the skeins must have approximately the same weight, be loosely wound and tied, and the threads have to be kept separate.
Once the wool has been washed and the grease is removed, the process of dyeing gaucho ponchos can begin.
The function of mordants is to allow a better penetration of the dye into the fibre; it also makes colours resistant to the action of light, water and rubbing.
When the skeins are soaked in the dye bath they have to be evenly wet; the dyestuff correctly diluted in water and the water has to be hot.
A trick to enhance the shade of the colour is to rub ashes into the dyed wool so that it gets evenly impregnated and to soak it again in the dye bath.
Dye elements used by our aboriginal ancestors in Argentina for dyeing gauchos ponchos:
The seat of honour is for cochineal, the dried, pulverized bodies of certain female scale insects, “Dactylopius coccus”. This is a cactus-eating insect, native to tropical and subtropical America
Another important one was indigo, a leguminous bush which is the raw material for a paste that produces blue colour. It grew in subtropical and temperate zones and were used by Pampa and Araucano Indians.
Many plants were also used as dyes:
For purple: Piquillín, Cardón, Amarantus. For violet: Maqui, Palo rosa. Brown: Visco, algarrobo. Yellow: Pico de gallo, Quilcha, Aguaribay. Green: Jarrilla, Laurel, Tala, Molle. Black: Espinillo, Paracá, Guayacán.
Based in many different colors the ladies were weaving the ponchos of the gauchos, that were used for every day task at the Estancia or while herding the cattle in a tour through the Buenos Aires pampa.
Every design and mix of colors had a different meaning because the place were it was manufactured, because the person weaving it, and about the status of the native or gaucho wearing the poncho.
Extracted from the book: Argentine Textiles by Taranto/Marí: Buy the book here
For experiencing this artisanal process and some others from our local artisans in their own workshops in San Antonio de Areco you can take this unique Tour: Cultural & Arts Legacy of the Gauchos Full Day Tour