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Mayan Weaving

Centuries-old artisanal techniques

For centuries Mayan women have been weaving on the back-strap loom to produce clothing for their own families and for local sale.

The back-strap loom is a symbol of Mayan being and is part of the ritual of their daily lives. The weaver uses a strap around her back to hold the threads and manage the tension of the weave with simple back and forth movements of the waist. The back-strap loom is made of different sized wooden sticks. The size of the loom depends on the height and size of the woman that will be using it. In more recent history, the indigenous women have formed cooperatives that allow them to partner with fair trade organizations like Yabal, and extend their ability to sell products locally and throughout the world.

Yabal weavers only work with the highest quality threads from the Guatemalan brand ‘Mish’, that don’t fade or bleed, allowing us to guarantee that the colors are permanent. The brand “Mish” is approved by the European Union because of their use of toxic-free dyes facilitating fair trade exportation allowing Yabal to reach a broader audience for our ethically made products.

The weavings from the women of Pacutama and Chuicutama are distinguished by their unique designs which are inspired by nature and symbolize the traditions practiced in the Nahualá region. The technique that they use is so ingenious that it takes many years of practice to know the multiple detailed and refined designs that exist. These communities are known for the complex embroidery on their clothing. Each town has their own motifs and designs.

Many women from Chuacruz, in Solola, use the Ikat technique in their products, also known as jaspe. Ikat which originates from the word Menigikat, that means to “bind/to tie”. This traditional art form is also practiced in other parts of the world such as Peru, India, Indonesia, Japan and Africa. Ikat is a process that involves tie and dye- knotting sections of the yarn before dipping them in colors one at a time, and finally weaving them to produce motifs. The design on the final product is determined by the contrast between the parts that have been submerged and the white parts (or the parts left un-dyed) of the thread. Guatemala is one of the only countries that uses the ‘warp ikat’ technique, a process in which only the vertical threads are dyed; that results in weaves that can be used to provide a variety of artisanal products. Yabal is committed to creating quality fair trade and sustainable fashion products that can be shared and appreciated in many cultures.

The Momostenango family uses the foot loom to weave eco-friendly wool blankets and carpets. Momostenango is known in Guatemala as the center of wool products, woven on the foot loom. This technique has traditionally been done by men, but recently women are beginning to practice the art as well. The work done on a foot loom requires less physical work and can produce wider materials that have a better chance of selling. Yabal partners with the Momostenango family because their products are artisanal, organic and made with excellence.

Thank You!

With Your Purchase

You increase the opportunities and quality of life for women in the Western Highlands of Guatemala