I have been writing about my recent trip to the IMA. What a wonderful place! There is a Mola Exhibit--Kuna Needle Arts from the San Blas Islands in Panama. The Kuna (or Guna) Indians are the indigenous people who live on small coral islands in the San Blas Archipelago along the Atlantic coast of Panama and Colombia. This is a small exhibit, but it is definitely worth a look. I took some pictures, but keep in mind that the colors are way more brilliant than what shows up in the pictures.
Mola, which originally meant bird plumage, is the Kuna Indian word for clothing, specifically blouse. The word mola has come to mean the elaborate embroidered panels that make up the front and back of a Kuna woman's traditional blouse.
Molas are handmade using reverse appliqué. Several layers (usually two to seven) of different-colored cloth (usually cotton) are sewn together; the design is then formed by cutting away parts of each layer. The edges of the layers are then turned under and sewn down. Often, the stitches are nearly invisible. This is achieved by using a thread color that matches the layer being sewn, using a blind stitch to sew down the turned under edge, and sewing with very tiny stitches. The finest molas have extremely fine stitching and may take three to five weeks (or more) to complete.
If you get a chance, check these out in person. In the meantime, enjoy these photos. (Take a close look at the stitching on these molas. On most computers, you can click on the picture to get a larger version. If you are using an iPad, you can usually expand the picture using the "pinch and release" method.)