For centuries, the loom has been used to create sophisticated and vibrant patterns and holds deep cultural and traditional meaning. The backstrap loom is deceptively simple in appearance, but mastering it is as complex as its history. So, here’s a quick look at the history of the backstrap loom.
Weaving with the backstrap loom can be seen as far back as 2500 BC in the Mayan villages of Guatemala and Peru and many other Central and South American countries. Backstrap weaving is one of the oldest forms of weaving, with the earliest evidence of it being traced back to the Bronze-Iron Age.
While some evidence of the backstrap loom is seen in parts of Asia, such as China and Japan, people in the Andes regions mastered the tool and consistently used it.
The backstrap loom is typically made up of seven rods to be easily rolled up, stored away, and moved. Not only can it be put away and carried anywhere, but it can also be used almost anywhere. One end of the loom is tied to a sturdy tree or pole, while the other end is tied to the weaver, so their body becomes part of the loom itself. This way, the weaver has complete use of their hands to work with the wool.
A traditional backstrap loom can weave about 26 inches, with anything wider needing to be sewn together. However, they can make tiny intricate details with cotton wool and natural dyes that create vibrant patterns unique to the weaver.
Historically, women began to learn the craft at the age of seven, and the tools were passed down from the generations of women that came before her. The backstrap loom tradition is more than just weaving for clothes and warmth; it is a tradition of self-expression and generational love.
The beauty of the backstrap loom is that it was made for anyone to use anywhere. As women were typically the ones creating the textiles, the backstrap loom became a wandering hub of sorts. Women and children would gather around it to craft, pass on traditions, and tell stories.
In a time where self-expression was not always prioritized, this was a way that women could tell stories and express their hopes and dreams in the form of art. It was in these women-centered circles of crafting that tradition, history, stories, art, and innovations were born.
While this is just a quick look at the history of the backstrap loom, its beauty and tradition are greater and more complex than we may ever know.
Atacama Home is a handmade home decor store with more than just aesthetic pieces. They work with artisans who have been using the back-strap loom for generations and carry pillows, blankets, and throws made entirely by this traditional technique. They offer one-of-a-kind pieces made with materials taken from the earth and placed into the hands of talented generations.