National Geographic : 1990 Jun
Though weavers may spend weeks on a single item, the backstrap weaving device-produces goods that may outlast half a century T HE BACKSTRAP LOOM is so called because a weaver wraps a strap around her back and ties it to the lower wooden loom bar. The other end of the loom is anchored to the ceiling or a post. By leaning back and forth, the weaver can adjust the ten sion of the loom. Her hands are free to insert weft threads or, as this weaver in the village of Santa Rosa is doing, use a wooden tool in her right hand to separate the strands. The long rectangular piece the woman is making will be shaped and sewed into an alforja, the saddlebag carried by people or pack animals. Most Peruvian weavers use both wool and cotton. In the rural areas of the north coast some prefer wild cotton, sometimes homegrown but more often collected from the wild in such colors as brown, burgundy, and violet. The weaver may spend as long as two weeks to complete a single alforja. As more people leave rural areas to find work in town, fewer are left to continue this ancient tradition. The inventor of the backstrap loom is unknown, but the first representation of such a loom in Peru occurs on an extraordi nary Moche pot in the British Museum; it shows a series of women weaving with their looms anchored to poles of algarrobo wood. Moche textiles from ancient times are rare, because El Nifio rains dampened the soil, leaving textiles to rot. Those that have survived show the same high quality, complexity, and detail that characterize their ceramics.