Thread Caravan is a new ecotourism company specializing in global workshops that empower local artisans and preserve traditional crafts by teaching travelers straight from the source. This June, I joined their pilot retreat to explore Guatemala's Lake Atitlan region and learn all about the Mayan art of backstrap weaving.
We were thrilled when Caitlin Ahern of Thread Caravan first told us about her new venture, which seemed to represent the direct interests of indigenous artists - and dovetail perfectly with our passion for handmade designs. And the trip didn't disappoint. In Guatemala, the first of Thread Caravan's retreat destinations, Ahern partnered with Maya Traditions, a Panajachel-based, fair-trade co-op that facilitates visits to far-flung rural villages in the highlands above Lake Atitlan where local female artisans are employed to demonstrate and teach their unique Mayan weaving techniques.
The immersive four-day retreat provided an intimate glimpse into a generations-old custom and it was truly humbling to witness how much work goes into making one single textile, from treating raw materials with natural, botanical dyes to spinning silken thread out of cotton seeds. At the end of the week, Caravan travelers were able to create their own woven garment under the guidance of the local artisans.
I also sourced Loti's new Found collection of Guatemalan textiles on the trip, discovering dozens of rare handmade textiles at a pop-up market in Panajachel. But the trip was much more than weaving bufandas and textile shopping.
Caravan participants bunk together in a rustic lakeside villa, with shared rooms scattered between three tiers of cliffside accommodations, from upper-level canopy views to direct lakefront access. Some of the best memories of the trip were sharing stories on the dock, cooking group dinners, and splitting tiny bottles of local tamarindo liquor in the patio hammocks.
There are still spots available on Thread Caravan's next Mayan weaving retreats - and they just announced a new "Mezcal + Mole" trip to Oaxaca in November. Follow along with their adventures on Instagram and use code LOTIMARKET to get $150 off when you book any trip.
More updates from the experience coming soon... Loti journal entries, weaving demos, and vintage Guatemalan textiles hit the market this month!