There are three types of belt wearers- - people that wear belts to hold their pants up, people who wear belts as a fashion statement and then there are the people who take advantage of both! At Mayamam Weavers we weave men’s belts on a traditional backstrap loom in a variety of colors and styles which include our sporty striped canvas belts and our monochrome embroidered canvas belts.
The backstrap loom is used in many countries around the world and has been around since ancient times. In the Guatemalan highlands, Mayan girls are taught to weave on a backstrap loom by their mothers or sisters around the age of 7. Backstrap looms are simple, fairly small, portable and can be used to create simple as well as intricate textiles. This type of loom is made up of sticks/dowels, rope and a strap. One end is attached to a far wall/ceiling -- or tree -- while the other end wraps around a weaver’s back. The weaver sits on the floor or a stool as they work and leans their body back or forward to change the tension as needed.
In order to weave a belt on a backstrap loom, colors must be selected and the yarn must be warped on a warping wheel. All of the yarn that is needed for the length of the belting has to be wound on the warper. The weavers can stage the yarn on a small spool rack to make the warping easier. Before they can weave, they have to spread out the warping in the proper order hooked to the ceiling (or tree...). The warping is the yarn or thread that runs vertically whereas the weft is the yarn that runs horizontally. They begin their weaving close to their bodies and work out, moving their bench closer to the endpoint as they go. For a belt, lengths of 4-5 yards are woven which can take up to 40 hours for a length of embroidered belting. Once the lengths are finished, they are cut to various sized lengths and finished off with a scout style buckle.
Inspiration for the striped belts comes from the wristbands (pulseras) that the women weave, selecting colors that complement a man’s wardrobe. For the embroidered belts, the women select their own motifs, which are drawn from their collective memory or inspired by their surroundings such as nature, their güipils (traditional blouse), and their culture (duality, complementarity).
Handwoven belts add style to any outfit – they are the finishing touch!
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