The treadle (or foot) loom was introduced by the Spanish to Mayan weavers shortly after the Conquest. Following in the Spanish tradition, initially, only men were trained to use the more expensive and less mobile treadle looms. Thus, the treadle loom never completely displaced the inexpensive and highlymobile backstrap loom, and the two coexist to this day. The process of weaving on these two types of looms is basically the same. The threads of the warp are alternately lifted and lowered while the weft is passed between the threads. Instead of lifting the warp by a heddle rod by hand as on a backstrap loom, the warp on a treadle loom is lifted mechanically by a series of foot pedals. Thus, the process of weaving on a treadle loom is much faster than weaving on a backstrap loom.
For a comparison of backstrap and treadle weaving, see this page.
The fabric produced is often used to make women’s skirts (cortes). Below are three samples of fabric made on treadle looms.
This is a sample of a double-ikat wrap-around skirt (corte) from Tecpan, Guatemala. Fabric that uses the double-ikat technique incorporates tie-dyed threads into the warp and the weft. This technique produces the white patterns seen running horizontally and the darker gray patterns running vertically in this sample.
This is another sample of the double-ikat technique. Here, though, the ikat designs are less intricate and more subtle. This detail comes from a wrap-around skirt worn by the women of Chichicastenango, Guatemala. While the design for this skirt may be old, the materials used are more modern and include rayon thread.
This sample is from a skirt worn by the women of Palin, a community in Guatemala. This skirt is much plainer than the ikat skirts shown above. This skirt is woven of heavy cotton, and the finished fabric has about the same weight as denim.