Lidia Lopez Teaching the Art of Backstrap Loom Weaving

Lidia Lopez is a Mayan woman from Guatemala. She is very experienced weaving on a backstrap loom and teaches people from around the world the art of weaving. Here she is demonstrating the technique she uses to a group of visiting Americans and Japanese women.

Maria Wearing a Huipil and Holding Pineapple Cake

Woman in Traditional Dress With Pineapple Cake

Maria is showing off the beautiful (and tasty) pineapple upside down cake she baked. She is dressed in traditional Mayan clothing called ‘traje.’ Her pink top is called a huipil. Huipils are handmade and reflect the wearer’s personality and what village she is from.

Guatemalan Woman and her Daughters Wearing Traditional Mayan Clothing

Girls Wearing Huipils.

This is a woman with her two young girls dressed in traditional Guatemalan clothing. The tops women wear are called huipils. They are made from panels of textiles handwoven on a backstrap loom. Each huipil is unique and decorated with intricate brocade designs.

Guatemalan Woman Weaving on a Backstrap Loom

Guatemalan Woman Weaving on a Backstrap Loom

The art of weaving on a backstrap loom dates back to ancient Maya and has been passed down through the many generations of Guatemalan Women. It is the process in which they create beautiful vibrant colored textiles and Huipils. The weaver starts with raw cotton, which they clean, dye, and spin into thread. The thread is made into a warp and placed on the loom where she can then begin weaving. Many times intricate brocade and embroidery patterns are incorporated into the cloth. The process of weaving has changed very little over time and the techniques used today are virtually the same as they have been for hundreds of years.

Guatemalan Weaver Utilizing a Yarn Winder to Wrap Yarn Around Pegs on Warping Board

Guatemalan Woman creating a warp from thread on a yarn winder.

Guatemalan women have been weaving on backstrap looms for centuries. They first start with raw cotton that they clean, dye, and spin. The dry thread is wound around a yarn winder to keep it from tangling while they weave it in and out of the pegs on a warping board. This warp will be set on the bars of the backstrap loom, and then they can begin the process of weaving Huipils and other beautiful textiles.

Candis Krummel Winding Yarn Around Pegs on a Warping Board

Guatemalan women wind yarn around the pegs of a warping board to create the warp when weaving textiles on a backstrap loom.

For many generations the women of Guatemala have woven beautiful Huipils and other textiles on backstrap looms. They start with raw cotton to make the yarn. After the weaver has prepared the yarn the next step is to wind it around pegs on a warping board. The different colored strings are crossed at some points to separate the colors and create a striped pattern. This is called a ‘warp’ and it is attached to bars of the backstrap loom when it is finished. The length of the warp determines how long the textile will be.

Candis Krummel’s Weaving Center and Museum is a must-see if you are visiting Santiago Atitlan.

Guatemalan Woman Preparing the Raw Cotton for Weaving

Guatemalan woman preparing raw cotton for weavingThe women in Guatemala often use raw cotton when weaving textiles.  They must first prepare the cotton by picking out the seeds, cleaning it, and then beating it with forked sticks.  Then they can spin it into yarn and dye the threads with natural dyes: indigo to produce blue colors, cochineal for red, etc.