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The Process of Weaving

Woman weaving using a traditional backstrap loom.

The weaver starts with raw wool or cotton that must be washed, combed and spun. She first stretches the long (warp) threads along a warping board to the desired length and attaches them firmly to her loom. Then she begins the complex process of weaving.

To brocade, colored yarns are woven into the cloth to create the designs as the cloth itself is being woven. This differs from embroidery where the colored threads are stitched into a completed garment. The weaver adjusts the tension of the loom by leaning forward or back because of the strap that fits around her back, hence the name "back-strap loom." A brocaded garment may take many months to complete.

natural dyes
child's huipil
Child's huipíl from Tenejapa

The weaver gathers the flowers, plants, berries or bark, prepares the dye bath and mordants that help set the color, and dyes the wool.

The process varies with the properties of the plants and the color desired, and requires considerable time, effort and knowledge. As with brocade weaving, knowledge of natural dyeing techniques had to be recreated, because it too had been forgotten.

red Tzoj te' palo de Brasil (Brazilwood) Haematoxylum brasiletto
yellow K'an ak' barba de leon
(lion's beard)
Cuscuta tinctoria
coffee Tzon te' musgo (moss) Usnea barbata
lavender Makom zaramora (blackberry) Rubus sp.
black Ik'al lum tierra negra
(black earth)
blue Pitz'otz palo de Mula (Mule tree) Monnina xalpensis
green Sakatinta sacatinta (drycolor) Justicia spicger
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