Highlights of Talent: Bordado de Cadenilla by Colectivo Sugmar

In addition to being a cherished tradition, Mexican embroidery is a form of expression and creativity for those who create it. Such is the case for Sugeyli, a Mixe artisan from Oaxaca, the family collective she is a part of and the author of the stunning Cadenilla blouses at Lolo.

"Mainly, we've been inspired by the stories of my mother and aunts, who are six sisters and founders of what we learned. But we also decided to go out and study, and so, inspired by their memories and our culture, we created our own designs."

Using the traditional pedal-operated sewing machine, artisans at Colectivo Sugmar bring life to gorgeous huipiles, perfecting innovative and unique designs. Today, we are thrilled to introduce a bit of Sugeyli and highlight the impressive work Colectivo Sugmar does, always representing "Lo Bien Hecho en México," which is well-made in Mexico.


Nestled in San Juan Guichicovi Oaxaca, Colectivo Sugmar stands as a family collective that is showing the world a passion for design. Sugeyli, at the heart of the collective, shared her story and that of her community with us.

The collective is made up of 46 artisans. "The oldest member is my aunt Osmayra, who is 67, and she started embroidering at 14," Sugeyli shares, showing how the craft has been a lifelong passion for many. On the flip side, the collective is nurturing new talents. "The youngest member is my niece Zury, who is 17 years old, and she learned when she was 13 years old."

The Beginnings 

During 2020, the pandemic didn't just bring a health crisis; it severed the lifelines of local artisans to their traditional markets. Born out of necessity during the pandemic, Colectivo Sugmar's story is one of resilience and adaptation. "Our collective was founded when the pandemic forced the closure of Ajuchitlán, our largest market for selling crafts," Sugeyli recalls.

With the town's access points closed, the lifeline for their textiles was cut off. "They were the biggest sellers of our work," Sugeyli notes, underlining the gravity of the situation. However, this very challenge sparked a transformation within the community. "We had to innovate and create something original that would catch the eye," Sugeyli reflects on the pivotal moment when survival meant embracing change.

What started as a family's resolve to weather a global storm has become a robust collective. "It initially started as a family collective," Sugeyli shares, marking the beginnings of what would become a beacon of communal effort and creativity. The collective has grown organically from the original 9 members, welcoming more family members, neighbors, and friends into the Colectivo it is today.

Breaking down Bordado de Cadenilla

At Colectivo Sugmar, the creation of a huipil is a legacy passed down through generations, meticulously crafted with the 'bordado de cadenilla' or chain stitch embroidery technique. Bordado de Cadenilla style is characterized by its unique chain stitch technique, known as "cadenilla" in Spanish, which means "little chain." 

During our conversation, Sugeyli guided us through the process of their craft: "We start with pre-made fabric, then we cut the canvases, and depending on the size, begin to outline the design," she says, marking the beginning of a journey that each huipil undergoes. Also, she addressed the complex geometric designs found in the traditional cadenilla huipiles and noted that "depending on the type of stitch, we mark them in one square, two squares, three squares, etc," Sugeyli explains.

Bordado de Cadenilla is done using a pedal machine. A pedal machine, often called a treadle sewing machine, operates manually using a foot pedal and does not rely on electricity. Handling this machine requires significant skill and manual effort, similar to hand embroidery. However, it also requires a considerable degree of coordination as the artisan controls the fabric and the stitching with their hands and feet, guiding the design and the intricacy of the stitches. 

Like with most cadenilla embroideries, everyone at Colectivo Sugmar uses a pedal machine. "We use what we call the pedal technique; we use both feet and hands and work on the canvas always inside out. We can't turn it over until we finish the stitching; that's when we see the final result of our work." This embroidering inside-out is a fact that we were surprised to learn. Sugeyli made sure to point out that this is a unique aspect of their craftsmanship, requiring precision and foresight, as the true beauty of the work only reveals itself at the very end.

The time and devotion invested in each piece only proves the collective's dedication. "The time it takes to make each garment depends on the stitching it will have," Sugeyli notes, "if it's a 'un golpe' huipil, which is a single square but doesn't have much, it takes us 4 to 6 days to make." From a 'rejitaqué' huipil that takes about a day and a half to craft to a full suit demanding up to 25 days, each piece is a labor of love and patience.

Bordado de Cadenilla: The Legacy

While many in their Mixe indigenous community focus on farming or teaching, Colectivo Sugmar chooses a different path, one that represents their culture in tangible artistry. "Our community is a town of Mixe indigenous people; most are dedicated to farming or teaching, and we, as a workshop, as a collective, try to do something different."

The collective's approach to their craft is a tribute to their heritage, fused with a forward-thinking vision. At a very touching conversation, Sugeyli mentioned, "we try to rescue the techniques that have been taught by our ancestors, passed down from generation to generation; for us, that's the most important thing, to preserve the iconography." Being one of the few within her community to be able to do this, Sugeyli and the entire Sugmar collective really are setting themselves apart.

Innovation at Colectivo Sugmar is deeply rooted in tradition and, at the same time, incorporates fresh, creative directions. "We began by changing the quality of the fabrics, introducing finer fabrics, with the goal to offer something different to people. Then we started to design stitches that had never been done before but were inspired by our memories and experiences."

A clear example of this fusion of tradition and innovation is what she calls "the teekentyiik flower, or the tetiqué flower." Known by many different names, this is the flower of the shaving-brush tree (Pseudobombax ellipticum). For Sugeyli and her family, this flower played a pivotal role. "In our childhood, when we went with our grandparents to the coffee fields, we would play with that flower to see who could make it 'dance.' 'Making it dance' meant lifting the flower and letting it fall, and the one that flew for the longest time was the winner. That's why we created clothing with that flower, representing our childhood, our family, and our community."

Colectivo Sugmar's journey illustrates the spirit of Mexico—a spirit of resilience, innovation, and cultural richness. The collective's work, from the nimble hands of Sugeyli and her community, celebrates tradition and creativity in artisanal craftsmanship.

However, before we close this blog post, we invite you to support the work of Colectivo Sugmar and contribute to the livelihood of these talented artisans and the preservation of a craft that has been the heartbeat of their community for generations.

 Did you like Sugeyli's story? Where you familiar with this craft? What other artisan would you like to see a highlight from? We love to read your comments, which you can make in the comment section below. Also, as usual, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter if you would like to receive more articles like this one and to check out our shop to get the latest from Mexico, you can view our collection of artisanal clothing here.

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