Developing an Artist's Tools

Every embroidered piece created by Multicolores’ artists is a unique expression of the artist’s style and creative decisions. In every work of art, embroidery artists apply different skills:

  • Vocabulary of stitches

    Each artist learns dozens of embroidery stitches to create texture, pattern, and dimension in designs. Many artists began the program with no previous embroidery experience, but all artists have mastered many new stitch patterns.

  • Drawing

    Artists learn to draw faces, hands, animals, trees, flowers, buildings, and much more. Over time, artists build a repertoire of motifs and symbols, and use templates to trace the outline of commonly used shapes.

  • Appliqué

    The newest skill in the artists’ creative toolbox is needle turn appliqué, the process of layering and stitching pieces of fabric. Like collaging paper of different colors and patterns, appliqué adds color and dimension to artwork.


Dolls & Portraits

Using varied stitches, artists convey the symbol-rich designs and motifs ofindumentaria Maya (traditional woven Mayan clothing). Each doll and portrait contains subtle details that evoke personality and origin: accessories, facial expressions, and more.

Story Cloths

Like stitched paintings, artists create story cloths to express a narrative in visual form. Each cloth explores a distinct story inspired by the artist’s local legends, family, community, personal experiences, and imagination. 

Ornaments & More

Artists also create finely detailed bird ornaments and other products. Stay tuned for future expansion of the product line–always prioritizing products that showcase artists’ individuality and independent design skills.


The embroidery artists use fine cotton thread on cotton base cloth to stitch their designs. They source recycled fabric from secondhand clothes to add layers of fabric appliqué. To create a rich array of skin tones, artists use fabric colored with natural dyes from our partner Flor Ixcaco, a women’s cooperative in San Juan la Laguna.

Inside stuffed dolls and ornaments, you’ll find a mix of shredded plastic snack bags and fabric and thread scraps. Artists collect the snack bags in their communities, clean them, and cut them into small pieces to be used as filling– therefore diverting waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

How We Began

Many Maya communities incorporate striking embroidered motifs in the designs and adornments of their indumentaria maya (traditional Maya clothing). To complement this understanding of embroidery, Multicolores invited Sarah Brown to help lead the initial series of embroidery workshops. A doctoral candidate in Area and Development Studies and practicing embroidery artist, Sarah Brown consults with another women’s embroidery collective, Stitch St. Luce, in Madagascar.

Across oceans, languages, and cultures, the embroidery artists of Multicolores retain a connection to Sarah and the talented Malagasy embroidery artists of Stitch St. Luce. Many of Multicolores’ embroidery artists have been inspired by the detailed, vibrant, and evocative Malagasy story cloths, which often depict folktales and legends.