What is a backstrap loom?

Posted by Efi Guzman on

We have a few products at con intención that are made using a backstrap loom. Our partner artisans Rosario, Maricela, and Maria del Rosario from Cuanajo, Michoacán, México make their pouches using this prehispanic technique. I find it important to share with you the process so you can have a better understanding of the talent and dedication it takes to create each product. 

Let’s dive in!

In México, the most traditional weaving is done using the backstrap loom. Many textiles can be created using this technique like clothing, rebozos, bags, pouches, etc...



The backstrap loom is believed to have originated in México during prehispanic times. However, this method has been used in many cultures across the Americas. A backstrap loom is a tool that consists of a few rods, a belt, and thread. It’s lightweight and can easily be used anywhere. This technique requires a lot more time to make fabric. 



There are three components to this process: hilado, urido, and tejido. Hilando or spinning is a traditional method of preparing natural fibers to convert them into threads. Urido or wounding, is the process of wounding the thread on a warping board based on the design the artisan has chosen to follow. Tejido or weaving, is the process of weaving the thread. 



The thread is added to the loom. One end of the loom is attached to something sturdy, like a pole or tree and the other end has a belt that is wrapped around the artisan’s waist. The artisan uses their body by maneuvering back and forth to guide the thread to fit their design. It can take a toll on the body from constantly maneuvering back and forth and sitting in the same spot for hours on end. It is also meticulous. The artisan has to be very detail-oriented during the urido process in order to produce the desired design.

Another commonly used weaving technique is done using the foot pedal loom. It was introduced during the Spanish invasion. It is less labor intensive due to the rapidity of the weaving process. It still takes a toll on the body because the artisan needs to use a lot of energy to operate the loom, but the output is much quicker.  

Many more intricate steps are involved, but this is an overview of how the looms work. This technique is labor-intensive and allows for the creation of high-quality fabrics. Unfortunately, due to fast fashion and advanced machinery, many of these textiles are no longer as valued as before. It may take them a few minutes to create a textile, unlike a loom, which can take hours. 

Our artisan partners, Rosario, Maricela, and Maria del Rosario are masters of the backstrap loom. They started at a young age, by observing their grandmother. They started practicing until they became fluent. They create many textiles that are used for a variety of products, such as the pouches available at con intención.

When purchasing a product from con intención, you help keep these traditions alive. We value the artistry behind every product and strive to develop stable working conditions for the artisans that endure long labor-intensive hours. 

To support, please take a look at their collection by clicking here



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