Ayate is a natural fiber that comes from the maguey plant, better known as agave – the plant from which tequila and mezcal are produced. Ayate’s origin dates back to pre-colonial times in Mexico’s central valley, the Mezquital region, a dry desert area where the agave plant was integral to the livelihood of indigenous people. The agave plant was central to the mesoamerican culture and economic development. Its uses range from food, drink, and medicine to fodder, fuel, construction materials, and textiles. Today, locals use the same labor-intensive techniques to make ayate as they did 3,000 years ago. Techniques that have been passed on from generation to generation. However, ayate production has decreased significantly and is no longer one of the leading economic practices for local communities. The introduction of plastic and plastic threads has substituted the utilitarian uses of ayate. The families that still make it do so mainly on a small scale for niche markets that value artisanal products.
Ayate fibers are white, long, and stiff but can be woven into soft, flexible fibers. They are very resistant to the effects of microorganisms like mold, which makes them a perfect multipurpose canvas.
Ayate threads range from thin to thick, depending on their use.
Fine threads are woven into soft fabrics comparable in texture to linen for clothing and adornment. Thicker threads are traditionally used to make bags for carrying seeds, wood, and other objects and to make “rebozos” – shawls for carrying babies and veils for sun protection. The thickest threads are woven and used for heavier utilitarian purposes such as containing and transporting raw materials and heavy objects.
SallyeAnder’s ayate wash cloths and ayate soap pouches are made the traditional way, hand-spun in a small community group of talented artisans in Mexico. They are part of a fair trade program providing local children with school supplies and lunches. When dry, the cloths and pouches feel coarse, but as soon as you wet them, they soften and are genuinely the best we have found for exfoliating to remove dead skin cells and massaging sore muscles.
The pouches are the perfect complement for holding SallyeAnder soaps! When wet, the pouch shrinks and “hugs” around the soap, making it a little easier to hold. It’s also helpful for storing small leftover soap pieces that can be difficult to use. Best of all, they are biodegradable and keep well in the shower as they are resistant to mold.
It feels great to shower with items made by hand with care, with so much knowledge passed on by a lineage of family tradition, products made to last and environmentally sound. It’s all part of the SallyeAnder philosophy!