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Backstrap Loom Weavers

Backstrap loom Guatemalan huipil Mayan women weaving

Weaving on a backstrap loom is practiced in many parts of the world. In China, Bolivia, Japan, Africa, India, China, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and other parts, this is a sacred art passed down from generation to generation.

We work with artisans and cooperative groups in Guatemala and Mexico to share their beautiful gift with those that may never get to visit their countries.

For Mayan women, weaving is part of everyday life; they make clothing for the entire family, tablecloths, towels, baby carriers, swaddling cloths and more. With the intricate textiles created on the loom, one would expect it to be an elaborate piece of machinery, but it is quite the opposite.  The loom is typically handmade by the weaver and consists of 6-7 wood pieces.  It requires no electricity and can go anywhere with little effort. The weaver is actually a part of the loom as she wraps the backstrap around her hips.

The two points of tension on a backstrap loom are the weaver herself and a post or tree on the opposite end.

In weaving, warp and weft are the two basic components.The horizontal or warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a loom while the vertical or weft is drawn through and inserted over-and-under the warp.The weaver can sit on her knees on the ground or on a small stool. The movement of her body creates the needed tension while moving forward and backward.

Depending on the size of the wood rods, different widths of fabric can be made. For larger clothing or tablecloths, the weaver may join multiple pieces of cloth with thick embroidery.

Backstrap weaving has long been an important part of culture for Mayan women. Girls begin to learn weaving around 7 years old so that by the time they have their own family, they are extremely skilled. Weaving continues to be a central part of a Maya woman's ability to contribute financially to her household.

Tradition credits the goddess Ixchel as being the matron of weaving, teaching the first woman how to weave from the beginning of time. For over three thousand years, Maya mothers have continued to teach their daughters from generation to generation.

Pictures used here are from mayaweavings.com and their site has wonderful information and videos. Spend some time learning; you will be glad you did.