Backstrap Loom Weaving

2015-Spirit-Weavers-0153In the Highlands of Guatemala today many Maya women practice backstrap loom weaving, an art which has been a distinctive part of their culture since before the arrival of the Spaniards. The continuation of this type of weaving is one way women have resisted the culture imposed on them by their conquerors.

The traditional backstrap loom: the traditional backstrop loom is a simple apparatus, made up of various parallel sticks between which the warp thread are stretched. The loom’s principal sticks include the front and back beam rods which provide the backbone for the weaving; the front rod it attached to a pole and the back rod is attached to the weaver’s waist by means of a leather strap, called a mecapal or backstrap. The other sticks include a shed roll, a string heddle rod and a rigid rod. One of the most important parts of the loom is the batten, which is used to beat the weft threads into the warp and the shuttle, which carries the weft thread through the sheds. The tie cords are used to tie the loom to a pole or tree and for tying the backstrap to the loom. The Mayan weaver always has a basket by her side that holds her scissors and balls of thread.

Mayan Women learn to weave as babies in some villages:
After giving birth, the midwife works closely with the mother to heal her womb and prepare her for the next cycle of birth. The midwife prepares the mother for a series of seven (7) baths in the sweat lodge (temascal). The midwife in order to ensure that the womb fully heals, puts four – five dry corn cobs in a woven faja (sash) and wraps it around her waist. The mother has to wear this corn cob sash for 40 days. She has to take a healing bath in the temascal every two days. At the onset of mother’s 7th bath (approximately 3 weeks after giving birth), the midwife takes the 3 week old baby girl into her hands and carefully bathes her in the temascal. The mother then hands the midwife her newborn daughter’s weaving instruments, all miniature in size: strands of thread, a tiny weaving loom, scissors, basket and needle. The midwife opens the newborn’s hands and gently passes each instrument over and across her tiny hands, praying that the young girl will become a proficient weaver and strive to maintain the millenia weaving art traditions just as her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother did.

We are honored to have Sarah and Martina who will be returning back to us from Guatemala to share the Backstrap Loom Weaving.