SEE OUR VIDEO ON PREPARING THE LOOM FOR WEAVING AND WEAVING
Evidence of weaving can be found as early as the Neolithic age and there are indications that it may go back as far as the Paleolithic era. Most experts agree that the Zapotec culture has been weaving in Oaxaca's Valle Grande since around 500 BC. Different villages use different materials, different types of looms (see photos at right), and have their own distinct styles of weaving. The Gutiérrez family members have been weavers in Teotitlán del Valle for as far back as they can trace their ancestors.
Traditionally, in their village, men have done most of the weaving but women also weave and men participate in dyeing and finishing which was done predominantly by women in years past.
• PREPARING THE LOOM TO WEAVE
Before a new piece is begun, there must be an idea for a design. The design not only involves the colors, motifs and symbols that will be included, it also provides a vision for how large a piece will be, how many threads per inch, and how it will be placed on the loom. When these things have been determined, the weaver measures out the number of warp threads that will be needed.
The next step is to tie the new warp threads to the loom. Typically a piece will have between 150 to 500 threads. Warp threads are never dyed because they are not visible except possibly on the ends of a finished piece, depending on how it is finished. Warp thread is purchased, not made by the family.
Once the new warp threads are on the loom, it is wound around the dobladillo pole until taut. Then the beater is tested for alignment, and adjusted so that it does not chaff on the warp or other parts of the loom. Finally, the treadles or foot pedals are put in place. Everything is tested once more and adjusted if necessary. Then the loom is ready. Only the bobbins must be wound with the colors needed for the piece and then everything is ready to be started.
To weave on the pedal loom requires coordination of feet on the treadles, hands on the beater, bobbins and shuttle, as well as keeping track of design details. Each time a color changes in a design, a different bobbin must be inserted. The more intricate the design, the finer the thread count and the finer the yarn, the longer a piece will take to complete.
Below are photos of the family at work:
Javier working on the loom
Porfirio tying new warp threads onto the loom
|• DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOOMS
There are many types of looms around the world. Below are photos of the primary types of looms found in Oaxaca. The upright pedal loom is the type used by Porfirio Gutiérrez and his family.
simple hand loom
upright pedal loom
OTHER TOOLS USED IN WEAVING
Shuttles are used when one color of yarn will span the width of a weaving. It is designed to slide easily across the warp threads and be caught at the other end of the weaving. You can see the bobbins nested inside of the shuttles.
Bobbins are used when a color changes often in a weaving, passing through only a few warp threads at a time
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