Technique: Back Strap Loom
Backstrap weaving is an ancient art form that has been used around the world for generations and is still used in many regions today. Several of The Little Market’s artisan partners in Guatemala use this technique to weave the beautiful textiles used to make some of our most popular products, including overnight bags, luggage tags, and pillows. These intricate products tell a rich cultural story, while supporting the talented women who weave them.
The loom used for backstrap weaving is simple and portable, often made by the weavers themselves using wooden rods. One end is tied to a tree or post, while the other end is secured to the weaver’s waist using a strap — hence the name “backstrap loom.”
To create the colorful products, raw wool or cotton is first washed, combed, spun, and then stretched across the loom. The loom holds the lengthwise threads taut while the weaver passes a crosswise thread between them. As the cloth is being woven, colorful threads are added to create the intricate patterns. The weaver may use natural dyes, created from plants, insects, flowers, and berries.
Backstrap weaving is part of the culture of the Guatemalan highlands. Young girls begin to learn weaving techniques from their elders at a young age. The weavers memorize countless patterns, each one a unique work of art. The patterns can have great significance in the Mayan culture, representing the weaver’s heritage, marital status, religion, personality, and the village she is from. Every region and town in Guatemala has unique patterns that distinguish them from one another.
Women working with our artisan partner ProTeje in Guatemala have been preserving the backstrap weaving technique over time. Their pillows are made from cotton thread, which can be a natural and raw color, a product dyed naturally, such as with leaves and seeds, or cotton dyed chemically. Based on the size of the order, it takes the weavers approximately four to six weeks to complete an order. Every community has different techniques, and one can determine the region of Guatemala the weavers are from by looking at the weaving and design.
The Little Market is proud to work with the talented weavers of Maya Traditions, Mayan Hands, and ProTeje and to showcase their beautiful work. Every purchase helps preserve the backstrap weaving technique while supporting the talented women who weave them.