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Tuesday
Mar232010

Guatamalan Ikat!

Guatemalan fabric is completely hand woven of hand-dyed cotton on a traditional treadle loom. The loom is foot powered and no electricity is used whatsoever. The entire weaving process is completed in the homes of many different Maya people from several villages in the Guatemalan highlands in the departments of Solola and Quetzaltenango, thus making this a 'cottage industry'. Most of the fabrics contain jaspe (ikat) design work. This is a common element of many Guatemalan fabrics and an art form in itself. It involves the binding and dyeing of yarns prior to weaving to produce patterns with blurred edges.


The Maya traditional treadle loom is used to weave multi-purpose cotton fabric, corte fabric,  and scarves among other textiles (narrow, scarf fabric is depicted in images). Introduced by the Spanish and traditionally operated by men, the loom is foot powered and no electricity is used whatsoever. Textiles woven on a treadle loom are regularly referred to as "machine made" by the Maya people. The implication of this claim that the process is similar to that involving a modern electric machine is deceiving.


The tense warp threads are alternately lifted and lowered with the use of foot pedals; meanwhile, the weaver passes the weft between the warp threads. Hand woven fabric often contains jaspe (ikat) design work. This is a common element of many Guatemalan fabrics and an art form in itself. It involves the binding and dyeing of yarns prior to weaving to produce patterns with blurred edges.
 
In contrast with the treadle loom, the Maya back strap loom utilizes a simpler technology and is mobile; however, the weaving process is more time consuming. Typically operated by women, the backstrap loom is used to weave huipiles, among other textiles.

This article was written by Valley Fiber Life partner, Whitney Taylor.  Whitney has traveled worldwide with her own online store, Little Mango Imports, and her family's business, Happy Mango Beads.

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