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Definitions of Terms


Backstrap Loom – Traditionally used by the women, these looms are portable and versatile. The warp threads are stretched between a stationary object (tree, post) and a belt that passes behind the weaver’s back. Tension on the warp is applied by the artist leaning backwards. The length of the sticks (which run across the warp threads) varies, depending upon the width of the finished product.

Corte – The corte is the Mayan woman’s skirt. The term comes from the verb cortar, meaning “to cut”.  The fabric is a cut (or length) of cloth which is typically handwoven on a foot powered treadle loom.  This cloth is produced in bolts (or rolls) and a section of fabric which forms the skirt, usually many yards in length, is cut from them.  This fabric isn’t sold by the yard, but rather the length or “corte“.  Much of the fabric is woven in Salcaja and Totonicapan.  Not all villages produce this corte fabric by the bolts, for instance many of the villages in Huehuetenango weave their skirts individually, reflecting their village identity.  Though the styles vary, most commonly the corte is sewn in a tube-like fashion and it’s worn by stepping inside of the tube, wrapping the balance of the fabric around the hips in a very tight manner.  The corte is then secured with a sash tied at the waist.  These skirts are usually mid-calf to floor length.

Faja – The faja is a belt or sash, worn wrapped, usually several times around the waist, securing the wrap-style skirt with the huipile tucked inside.  Fajas are of various widths, with the majority approximately 1 1/2″ wide.  Many are village specific.

Foot Loom, also known as Floor Loom or Pedal Loom – Traditionally used by the men, it is becoming more common to see women weaving on these large self-standing looms. In these looms, the harnesses are moved by foot pedals or treadles, leaving the weaver’s hands free to operate the shuttle.

Huipil – The huipil is the Mayan woman’s blouse, and is an important part of her personal and village identity. It is constructed of 2 or 3 panels woven on the back strap loom. These panels are then sewn together and a hole is cut for the head. The side seams are either left open or sewn shut below the arm openings. This blouse may take months to create and the weaving is often very elaborate, and it is sometimes decorated with embroidery, applique, and/or beads and sequins – the patterns and decorations are village specific. These poncho-like blouses are always sleeveless, with the exception of 2 villages, Solola and San Juan Atitlan.  They are produced in various lengths and widths depending on their use and the village they are from.  For instance daily use huipiles from Palin and Coban are short and lightweight as those villages are in hot lowland climates.  The huipiles of Chichicastenango and Todos Santos are heavy and provide warmth necessary in the mountain climates.  A ceremonial huipil is usually very large and often times worn over the daily huipil.  Young girls and sometimes even babies wear huipiles as well.

Jaspe – In this technique, more broadly called the Ikat technique, artisans tie hundreds of very small strings in knots around thread bundles, then place the bundles in dye before weaving on either a back strap loom or a foot loom. Location of the knots are carefully calculated to create specific designs in the finished cloth. Jaspe is most commonly done on the warp threads, although you can sometimes find it on the weft threads, and sometimes on both the warp and the weft of a woven item (usually a corte).

Quetzal – The brightly colored resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. At 13″ long, it is a fairly large member of the trogon family. It is also the name of the Guatemalan currency.

Randa – The randa refers to the joinder of two pieces of woven corte fabric. This seam is often decorated with colorful hand or machine embroidery.

TipicaTipica is formally defined as typical, or characteristic, as well as quaint, picturesque; full of local color; rich in folklore; traditional. In Guatemala it refers to hand-crafted items, both traditional and modern. These products include traditional Guatemalan weavings and products made from those weavings, as well as products made by using the traditional Mayan weaving techniques in more modern applications.

Traje – The traje is the native dress of the Mayans. The traje is the term used to refer to the entire outfit worn by the Mayan woman – it includes the huipile, corte, faja, and often a tzute. Every village has its unique traje and you can often identify where a woman is from based on her traje.

Trust Bank – A group of 7-25 clients who meet monthly for loan repayments and non-formal education sessions on topics such as women’s rights, family, business development, and health. These groups provide solidarity and accountability for Friendship Bridge clients on their journeys toward empowerment.

TzuteTzutes can be simply referred to as ‘multi-purpose’ cloths.  The tzute is an important and traditional part of the Maya Indian’s daily dress. It is by far the most versatile and individual piece of the Maya costume. It’s uses range from very utilitarian, such as a handkerchief or food covering; to the most ceremonial purposes, both religious and civil. As with most Maya textiles, the tzute is village specific. The color, design, size, and style of weave may vary according to village. Typically a tzute is rather square in shape with simple hemmed edges, but it’s not at all uncommon for one to be very long and have fringe as well. Tzutes are worn by both men and women, and are most commonly seen laying folded on top of the wearer’s head. This provides shelter from the sun, but can easily be removed for another use. You may see tzutes used as a veil for entering church, used to secure and bundle goods from the market or firewood, arranged into a pouch for use a purse, a baby carrier, folded into a small pad to prevent rubbing on the back of the neck for carrying a heavy load, a cloth for wrapping important religious figures and ceremonial staffs, and so on. The uses of the tzute are unlimited.