San Gil, Colombia, is known as the place for extreme sports. Travelers come here for paragliding in canyon Chicamocha or rafting down one of the rivers. However, there is much more to do in the area of San Gil. You will find several cute villages that are mostly skipped by foreign travelers. Off the beaten path, visit a weaving mill in the village of Curití and learn all about the beautiful hand-woven creations made there!
Curití: the fique village
The village of Curití, like San Gil, is located in the department of Santander and has less than 4,000 inhabitants. The little square with the beautiful old church marks the center of the village.
There are several caves around Curití that you can visit. However, Curití is best known for its beautiful woven products made from fique. Remember the article about making paper in Barichara? That same fique is used in Curití to make mats, bags and much more.
In the small village of Curití you will find a fique weaving mill, where they make beautiful hand-woven creations from this fiber. You can visit this weaving factory and learn all about this Colombian craft.
Ecofibras: a well-known fique weaver
Since 1995, in Curití, you’ll find the weaving mill Ecofibras, a company dedicated to preserving a special textile tradition originating from the indigenous culture of Guane.
Its main goal is to improve the quality of life of artisans specializing in handicrafts with fique, through weaving and spinning with fique and other natural fibers, such as cotton.
In the weaving mill, production is in full swing, and although many looms and spinning wheels have been modernized in recent years, everything is still done by hand. By the way, the old machines are still in the museum, and you can see how until a few years ago the work was even harder.
Ecofibras products are sold as typical handicrafts in Colombia, as well as exported to Europe and the United States.
The process: weaving fique
The first part of processing fique is the same as in making paper: the fibers are taken from the large leaves of the plant and washed.
Next, the washed fibers are brushed. With a pointed brush, the fibers are combed and removed from the tangles for subsequent processing.
Dyeing the fibers. To dye the fique fibers, they are soaked in water of a certain hue specific to fique. The strands are then washed with soap and water, and then placed in water in which a certain color of paint and a plasticizer are applied. Then, in large containers, the water with the fibers is brought to boil to allow the color to soak in well. After cooking, the colored fibers are washed.
The colored fibers are re-brushed. Only then they are ready for weaving.
Process the fibers into weaving yarn. With the fingertips, thin threads are extracted from the fibers that are tied around a spinning coil.
The weaving yarns are tied on a loom. This is when various colors are turned into a beautiful creation, such as a mat, bag, purse, placemat or chair. The large bags used to store coffee are also produced here.
Shaving the final result. After weaving a mat, for example, a lot of residual fiber remains, which is neatly shaved off and cut. Now it’s really done!
In this weaving, work is also done with cotton and with combinations of fique and cotton:
There are several options for patterns and color combinations:
The products made of fique have a rough feel, like rope. Unlike the familiar cotton, which is softer and more flexible. Because of its sturdiness, fique is ideal for making products such as bags that need to carry a lot of weight.
Visit the weaving mill: practical information
From the Terminalito bus station in San Gil (Calle 15 # 10-2), a minibus will take you to Curití in about 30 minutes. Upon arrival in Curití, get off at the central square near the large church. On a side street you will find Ecofibras at carrera 9 # 9 (here on the map).
Previously, you could take a tour of the weaving mill. Visit the weaving shop to ask if this is still possible. At least you will find a store where you can buy local products.
Go off the beaten track and discover Colombia!