Backstrap Weaving Class with Maya Traditions Foundation in Guatemala

In December, I reserved a backstrap weaving class with Maya Traditions Foundation, a nonprofit social enterprise that aims to empower women artisans, their families, and their communities through Fair Trade and Social Programs that help to rescue, preserve, and promote their ancestral culture with a focus on backstrap weaving, thereby taking part in a larger positive social change for indigenous communities.

During the backstrap weaving class with Maya Traditions Foundation, you can create your own scarf or wall adornment design. The backstrap loom has been used by Maya women for thousands of years to create cloth that is both stunning and functional. The loom itself is simple in design, but ingenious. It consists of a set of sticks gathered in the forest then carved, a sash, and some rope. It is of excellent convenience; lightweight, portable, compact, and easy to start and stop. You can simply roll up the loom when not in use. When booking a backstrap weaving class with Maya Traditions Foundation, you not only have fun and learn about the entire process, but you also help to empower women and to preserve an ancestral culture!

In this post, I will tell you more about my backstrap weaving experience.

Step 1: Pick your colors

The artisans bring thread balls with different colors. From these balls, you can select up to 5 colors thread. It is important to keep the patterns and colors of the final textile in mind. I picked 6 different colors.

Step 2: Layer the design on the warp board

Layer the design painstakingly on the uridora, or warp board. Here, you can establish the final length and width of the piece as well as creating specialized patterns such as Maya. Once completed, the warp threads are carefully removed from the warping board and transferred to the backstrap loom.

Step 3: Prepare the weft

The horizontal weaving threads are wound onto a shuttle which will be passed back and forth through the warp of the loom, leaving a trail of thread that weaves in and out of the vertical thread. This is called the trama or weft.

Step 4: Tie the loom to a tree and wrap around your back

One end of the loom is tied to a tree, post, or wall. The other end other loom is wrapped around your back, allowing you to increase or decrease tension by moving forward or backward.

Step 5: Form heddles

The next step is to form the heddles. Heddles serve to separate half the threads of the warp so that when lifted they create a tunnel (the shed) in which to pass the weft threads.  Instead of tediously lifting one thread at a time to get the over/under of a weave, heddles pick up the threads all together.

Step 6: Start weaving and utilize brocade

Once the loom is set up, weaving can begin. The beater and the shuttle are the freely moving parts of the loom. If utilizing brocade, you create the pattern in this stage, by counting and pulling the threads needed to create the design.

Step 5: Role thread as a hanger

Once completed, the sticks of the loom are at the top of the textile and some thread is rolled to create a hanger for the wall adornment. I love this appearance, because it really identifies that the textile was made on the backstrap loom.

Have you tried backstrap weaving? Would you like to? When you take a backstrap weaving class with Maya Traditions Foundation you get to spend the day, one on one, with a skilled artisan as she helps you create your own textile. You end the day with a wonderful memory and your own work!

NOTE: this post is not sponsored and contains my personal and honest experience!

Author: Daphne

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  • Moderately Adventurous

    Hi Daphne, I am thinking of doing a weaving course while in Antigua or around Lake Atitlan. How much did this course cost and how long were you there? I see some courses are like 7-8 hours long, while others are shorter… Thanks so much! – Hanna

    • Girlswanderlust

      Hi Hanna, nice to hear that you are interested in doing a weaving course in Guatemala. I am not sure how much I paid, but the money was totally worth the experience with Maya Traditions Foundation. The course indeed took around 7-8 hours. I was happy with the 7-8 hours, because the weaving is a really difficult process and takes time to learn. Also a nice local lunch was included and lots of talking and laughing with the artisans. I believe Maya Traditions also offers shorter courses and/or at a requested location. Just sent them an email. If you have any other questions, let me know. Enjoy your time in Guatemala!

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