Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Panama Hats in Monticristi, Ecuador

This is the shop where be bought Grandpa Oliverson´s hat.

The town church, which we didn´t have time to go in. Monticristi is a small town with lots of steep hills.

Once the hats are woven they are placed on a wooden form for shaping, then finished by pressing and back weaving the edges, some less expensive ones have the edge of the brim sewn. Old fashioned flat irons are used. There is a stove with a fire burning and flat irons in this shop which he is using to press the hats.

Wooden hat forms. Once the weaving is done the hat is placed on a form and steamed into shape. You can see the stove and flat irons on the left.

Our new hats!

While in Manta we took a short bus ride to Montecristi. This is where the world famous Panama Hats are made, that´s right Panama Hats are made in Ecuador. There is a special reed that only grows on the coastal area of Ecuador called toquilla (carludovica palmata), a palm like plant that grows 10 feet tall, that the hats are made from. The reeds are harvested monthly on the five days after the moon reaches its waning quarter,then the moisture is lower making the reeds lighter and easier to cut they are also more pliable making it easier to weave. The outer sheath of each stock is stripped away, and the inner fingers are split and separated, leaving dozens of yard-long, ribbon like strands attached to the leaf stem. The prepared stalk is tossed into a vat of boiling water for about and hour and then hung on a clothesline to dry. The hats are handwoven, some taking up to 4 months to make, and a well woven hat can be folded up so tiny it can fit through a wedding ring then be reshaped. These hats were being made long before the Spanish came and there are some ancient ceramic figures dating back to 4,000 BC showing natives wearing hats woven from straw to protect them from the sun, so the art of weaving these hats is ancient. The hats got the name Panama Hat because they were shipped to Panama for distribution throughout the world, also men working on the Panama Canal wore them. These hats may have a short life left as there are not many weavers left and China is flooding the market with paper hats that are cheaper. There is another small town a short distance from Montecristi called Jipijapa (hee-pee-ha-pa) that is famous for their version of the Panama Hat. There is some interesting history on the Internet if you want to read more about the hats. Dad bought himself a Panama Hat, or "sombreros de paja toquilla" as they are properly called, and I got a sun hat to wear. We also got one for Grandpa Oliverson for Father´s Day. Hope he likes it.

1 comment:

Trudy said...

You both look GOOD with those hats! Thanks for the history! How very interesting.