Weaving on a Backstrap Loom

We are not expert weavers but this is information we have gathered from working with Mayan artisans; many of whom have used the backstrap loom for 20-30 years and longer.  We’d love to hear from you about your weaving experiences. You can also buy a backstrap loom in our online store.

A backstrap loom is a very simple loom but can create very intricate patterns and designs.  This type of loom has been used for centuries around the world but especially in Central America by the Mayans.

Parts of a typical backstrap loom

Education And More works with skilled weavers in the rural areas of Guatemala.  Some speak T’zutujil and others speak Kakchiquel — both Mayan languages — and some women in each group speak Spanish.  So with 3 languages and then the English language we have quite a few terms for the different parts of the looms.

Terms for the different parts of the loom include:

  • Palitos – bars or rods
  • Trama – weft yarn
  • Fondo – warp yarns
  • Hilo – yarn
  • Lancedera – shuttle
  • Cinteron – backstrap / belt
  • Espalda – batten
  • Urdidor – warping board / peg table
  • Devanador – yarn winder

The backstrap is usually made out of a woven cloth belt that the women weave but sometimes a leather strap / belt is used.  On a woven belt the ends are folded over and sewn to make a loop in which to tie the ropes.

The shuttle is usually just a small stick on which the yarn is wound in a sort of butterfly pattern.

Many women, as they age, begin to use a small stool instead of sitting on the ground. Older weavers have problems with their ankles and feet due to years of  folding their legs and feet under them while sitting on a little reed mat to weave.

Reed mats are used by weavers for kneeling on when weaving.

In the past women wove all the fabric they needed for clothing for the family as well as all types of cloths needed in the home such as towels, tortilla cloths, bedspreads, tablecloths, etc.  However, today with the availability of western style clothing in second hand stores many of the younger generation wear jeans and t’shirts.  It is much cheaper for the family to buy this second hand clothing than to buy the yarn to make clothing on the backstrap loom. Here are some pictures of typical clothing still made and worn by many Mayan women.

Handwoven Belt that is heavily embroidered.

Front of a huipil with the embroidered neckline.

Burgandy huipil from San Juan La Laguna

Even little girls have a blouse and skirt woven for them. This huipil is also from San Juan La Laguna.

These white huipils are for special fiestas such as a wedding and typically are not worn every day.

It is such an incredible amount of work to weave clothing like this on a backstrap loom but the finished pieces will last for years.

Be sure to join us on our Facebook page for Backstrap and Foot Loom Weaving and share your knowledge of weaving or ask questions from other who are more experienced.

Soon we will have details online about a tour to visit our artisans and to take lessons in Backstrap Weaving.

Watch for details on our website and Facebook page.

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One Response to “Weaving on a Backstrap Loom”

  1. millesantab146 Says:

    I like this pics!!

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