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Backstrap looms and more!
Backstrap Loom Weaving
Backstrap weaving is an ancient art practiced for centuries in many parts of the world. Peru,
Guatemala, China, Japan, Bolivia, and Mexico are a few of the places they use the
backstrap loom. Today it is still used on a daily basis in many parts of Guatemala by
Mayan women to weave fabrics for clothing and other household cloths.
The looms are simple - typically 6 sticks- often handmade by the
weaver. A backstrap loom is easily portable because it can simply be
rolled up and laid aside when not in use. The back rod is tied to a tree
or post while weaving and the other end has a strap that encircles the
waist and the weaver can move back or forward to produce the needed
tension. The weaver usually sits on the ground but as the person ages
that is more difficult and they may use a small stool.
In the western highlands of Guatemala the women have typically
used cotton yarn for their weavings and used natural plants from
their area to dye the yarn various colors. They still tint yarn by hand
but also buy cotton yarn that's already been chemically dyed. The
natural tints are softer colors than chemical dyes. These natural
tints come from plants and bark such as:
sacatinta - a blue color
coconut shell - brown
carrots - orange
achote - soft orange/peach
hibiscus flower - rosy pink
chilca - soft yellow
bark of the avocado tree - beige
quilete - celery green
guayabe - brown / gold
sacatinta & coconut shell - gray
Typical sitting style of the Mayan
weavers while weaving.
Naturally tinted cotton yarns hanging to dry.
The backstrap loom, also known as the belt loom or telar de
cinteron, can make different widths of fabric depending of the width
of the rods. Guatemalan artisan weavers can weave as narrow as a
belt or as large as 24 - 26 inch width and perhaps more.
If a cloth needs to be wider, the two pieces are joined together with
heavy embroidery stitches. An example of this would be the corte
(the skirt) of the Mayan women, which if hand-woven would have the
pieces joined with embroidery stitches.
Many weavers incorporate intricate embroidery patterns within their
Backstrap weaving is a part
of the culture of the western
highlands of Guatemala.
Young girls begin learning
how to weave at about 7
years of age. By the time
girls are ready to marry and
have their own home they are
extemely skilled weavers.
Education And More is a Fair
Trade organization and part of
our mission is to educate
children and we do not allow
any children to work on our
weavings. Girls need to be in
school receiving an education
not working. We guarantee
Intricate embroidery that is done while weaving.
Young girl learning how to weave.
Below are various parts of the backstrap loom and other tools used for
weaving. Education And More works with K'iche, T'zutujil and
Kakchiquel Mayan artisans and these are the terms they use.
A pattern woven by our artisans that they
usually call 'pinchon.'
Backstrap Loom - Telar de Cinteron
Strap for the weaver's back - Cinteron
Yarn or Thread - Hilo
Yarn Winder - Devanador
Weft - Trama
Warping Table - Urdidor
Rods - Palitos
Batten - Espada
Masa (dough for tortillas) is often used as paste to
secure the threads.
Education And More
is a Christian, Fair Trade charitable
organization providing assistance to
artisans and their families through
educational opportunities and Fair
Education And More is a tax exempt charitable organization recognized by the
Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) public charity.
Contributions are tax deductible according to tax code.
Copyright Education And More, P.O. Box 201, Burlingame KS 66413 USA
2007-2014 --- all rights reserved