Myth has it that Grandmother the Moon, the goddess Ixchel, taught the first woman how to weave at the beginning of time. Since then, Maya weaving traditions have been handed down from mothers to daughters—evolving over 3,000 years into a rich array of techniques and designs.
For centuries, Maya women’s weaving has been a form of resistance. Spanish priests and authorities colonizing the land that is now Guatemala burned Maya books and destroyed cultural artefacts. Using a hidden language of symbols and colors, Maya women documented and preserved stories and culture in their textiles. Weavers were essential for the survival of Maya culture.
Today, wearing indumentaria maya(traditional handwoven Maya clothing) can still be an act of resistance. Maya women may face discrimination when they wear indumentaria, especially in professional spaces, but their choice is an expression of pride in Maya identity.
The backstrap loom is a remarkable technology: an affordable, portable, deceptively simple bundle of sticks. In the hands of a master weaver, this tool can make magic.
To weave, the top rod of the loom is tied to a tree or post while the bottom rod is attached to a strap that wraps around the weaver’s lower back. The weaver leans into the strap to create tension and hold the loom in place while she weaves, passing the weft thread back and forth between warp threads.
Mayan Hands products are made with numerous weaving techniques—some unique to a specific village in Guatemala!
These designs may look like embroidery, but in fact they are woven into the fabric using a backstrap loom. Weavers in San Rafael use a library of stylized geometric designs representing natural elements.
Weavers in Chuaperol have mastered the use of large foot looms, allowing them to work more quickly and make wider designs, like tablecloths.