Colcha is a Spanish word meaning bed covering or coverlet. As early as 1598, the Spanish Colonial settlers brought colcha embroidery to New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Bed coverings were embroidered with this unique couched stitch and the stitch was named the colcha. Traditionally it would be worked on hand-woven wool called sabanilla using handspun and dyed wool yarns made from the Churro Sheep. Sabanilla is a loosely woven fabric approximately 12-22 threads per inch.
The sabanilla were only 30 inches wide, limited by the size of the loom, and strips would be sewn together to make the bed cover. Then all of the fabric was embroidered, using the colcha stitch, to cover the seams and keep the top from puckering. In addition, the embroidery on the top is quite dense and created a double layer of wool making the bed covering that much warmer - which was needed before our gas furnaces!
Our class piece was done on an 11 inch square piece of silk/linen monk’s cloth using wool yarn from ordinary sheep. It is a surface stitch with very little on the back, and is quite fun to do once you get the hang of it! I am not sure whether I will frame this when done, or make a wall hanging or put it on a tote bag. Time will tell!