Brazil's triple heritage -- Tupi-Guarani, African and Portuguese -- is reflected in its arts, crafts and folklore. French artist and co-founder of Brazil's Royal School of Arts, Sciences and Crafts, Jean-Baptiste Debret, documented the daily lives, arts and crafts of African slaves and indigenous people of Brazil in his art between 1816 and 1831. His watercolours and later lithographs documented Brazilian arts and crafts that might otherwise have been lost to art history.
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Favela de Mare' Dolls
The bright-coloured, scrap-fabric dolls made by the women of Favela de Mare' in Brazil, near Pernambuco, can be any size. The dolls are often sold in pairs or as circles of dancing children, holding hands, according to Sheila Thomson, editor of the Maria-Brazil website. You can use any basic rag doll body template, stitch it together and stuff it with anything you have available, including dried grass, beans, beads, lentils or polyester fiberfill. You can also purchase ready-made rag doll bodies at most craft stores.
Cut strips of bright-coloured fabric to wrap around the dolls as clothing, or stitch pieces of fabric together to make shirts, skirts and blouses. Disassemble baby clothes to make patterns, or use doll clothes patterns from websites such as Amber Dusick's MakeBabyStuff.com or De Powell's Oh Sew Dollin.
Fuxico: Brazilian Yo-Yos
Children can practice a basic running stitch by making fuxico, which resembles the flowerlike scrap fabric craft known in the Appalachian region of the U.S. as yo-yo quilting. Fabric scraps are sewn into circles before being connected into quilts, pillowcases, tablecloths and curtains. This same technique is also used to make "penny" rugs.
Make your fuxico by using a running stitch 1/4-inch from the edge, all the way around a fabric circle and pulling the thread tight to bunch the fabric. Use your fingers to pull the fuxico into a button shape. Depending on the diameter of each fuxico, you may need up to 12 of them for every square foot your completed item needs to be, according to fabric crafter and yo-yo quilt-maker Carol Evans.
Lavagem do Bonfim Wish Bracelets
Brazilians march through the streets of Salvador, Bahia in Brazil every year on the second Thursday in January to the Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim to wash the church steps with scented water and flowers. Festival participants tie knots in coloured ribbons before tying them on the wrists of friends and loved ones. When the ribbon wears out and breaks, the wearer is granted three wishes, states Pravina Shukla of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Cut three pieces of bright-coloured satin ribbon, each eight inches longer than your friend's wrist circumference. Lay the ribbons on top of each other. Make a knot at the centre point of the ribbons, and two additional knots to the right and left of the centre one.
Thread a bead onto the ribbons at the right end, about three inches from the ends. Knot it in place on each side of the bead. Repeat for the left side. The beads will prevent you from pulling the ribbons too tight when you tie your wish bracelet on your friend's wrist.
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