TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guest Artist: Erin Stoy of La Chapina Huipil Crafts

Used huipil Erin purchased in Santiago Atitlan's market.

Erin Stoy
is an American who’s lived in Guatemala for over a year, caring for the daughter she and her husband are in the process of adopting. The case has been frought with difficulties, making their stay an unusually long one. Despite the financial and emotional stress of the situation, Erin is grateful that – as Azucena’s legal foster mother in Guatemala – she and her husband have had the opportunity to have their little girl with them since the age of eight months. Another positive thing to come from the experience has been Erin’s new passion for Guatemalan textiles; she has been selling arts and crafts she makes from used huipiles (traditional, hand-woven Guatemalan blouses) since October 2007.

Erin with Azucena in Nov '07.

In August of 2007, a local orphanage was raided here in Guatemala, and political tensions surrounding international adoption were running very high. Agencies began suggesting that fostering parents, like us, stay inside with our kids until things calmed down. Rumors abounded that the police were going to question any gringos they saw with Guatemalan children. So for close to two months, I only left the apartment with our daughter, Azucena, a handful of times.

Market in Santiago Atitlan

As one would imagine, being confined to apartment grounds with a toddler for that long was challenging. Eager for something to do while Azucena napped or played on her own, I started looking at craft blogs for inspiration. I hand-sewed about 20 stuffed animals and little dolls out of Azucena’s outgrown baby clothes and, later, felt. It was a fun diversion from the stressful reality of our situation.

Baby Doll

I had long thought something really pretty could be made from the embroidered collars of huipiles. Once I got the sewing bug, I started visiting a shop here in Antigua that frequently had used collars and other huipil scraps for sale. The first things I made were some pillows that featured collars from Chichicastenango; I embroidered Spanish words like “esperanza” (hope) and “amistad” (friendship) within the circle formed by the collar.

One of the pillows Erin made from a huipil collar from Chichi.

For my next project, I purchased several small of bags of huipil scraps in order to make Christmas ornaments for some family members back home. Afterwards, I posted photos of the ornaments on my personal blog, and the next thing I knew, I had people leaving comments saying they wanted to buy sets for their own families. An online friend who was coming to Guatemala kindly offered to transport any items I sold back to the US for shipping through the USPS. I accepted and was thrilled to have the opportunity to earn some money to help with the many expenses we were incurring by having to maintain households in both the US and Guatemala. Largely through word of mouth throughout the online adoption world, I ended up selling about $2500 worth of Christmas ornaments over the next couple months.

Christmas ornaments.

After Christmas, I began making new items from the huipil fabric, including animals, simple baby dolls, fabric magnets inspired by Semana Santa street carpets, and personalized art for children’s rooms. Lately I’ve been doing more collages. This spring, I moved the craft items from my personal blog to a separate crafts blog and opened a shop on Etsy. I hope to continue making and selling arts and crafts from these beautiful used Guatemalan textiles; they are too lovely not to be re-purposed and enjoyed. Maybe I’ll even get a sewing machine when I get back to the States!

Christmas ornaments.

Erin’s work as can be seen on huipil-crafts.blogspot.com and lachapina.etsy.com.


  1. The work with huipil fabric is outstanding and Azucena is adorable!


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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