The Creation of a Mola-Part One

Laura on January 15th, 2008

The infinitely unique mola begins its journey to art as a humble stack of cloth. Two to six panels of cotton fabric cut to an abdominal-sized rectangle (as these panels are prepared in sets to become blouses) are aligned with the bottom most color representing the future primary accent color and the uppermost layer the dominant color for the finished design.

The uppermost panel is sketched upon in pencil to layout the largest elements of the chosen design. The fabric panels are then basted together and the real work begins. With all panels basted together the Kuna woman begins to cut through the top layer of cloth to reveal the chosen panels/colors below. As she works to reveal the primary accent color, she will turn under and hand-sew the cut edges to begin to reveal neat line work. She will continue her design work by next attending to the large islands of cloth remaining, carefully cutting down through the layer to expose the desired color and sewing the edges under with armies of small, parallel hand stitches. This process unique to the Kuna women of the San Blas Archipelago, Panama has become known as reverse applique although, many modern molas are finished with minimal traditional applique of the uppermost layer.

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