On the way back from the Cloud Forest last weekend, I paid a visit to a traditional weaver, Miguel Andrango. His family's workshop is perhaps the last bastion of the backstrap loom in Ecuador! Liz Zapf (ZabeZapf Handspun Yarns) was interested in a traditional backstrap loom. All clues pointed to Agato, this tiny town above the bustling market town of Otavalo. It was a wonderful find.
At the Tahuantinsuyo Weaving Workshop they do everything from carding and spinning the wool, to dyeing with natural dies (dead bugs make a lovely purple) in a pan over a wood fire, before finally weaving on either a backstrap loom or a "Spanish" loom.
The head of the workshop is Miguel Andrango. He's very interested in educating anyone and everyone about the tradition he learned from his father, who learned from his father. In the interest of preserving this heritage, he would like to start a weaving school. ( Email us if you are interested in this project.) He's concerned about the loss of the traditional ways. He took so much time sharing the traditional techniques with me. He is one of those people with a deep sense of peace and an intentionality that is hard to find. I hope to meet him again some day.
Here are a couple photos I took:
This is the smaller backstrap loom they use - approx. 42cm wide, I think. The backstrap is from cabuya (sisal?). You can see it hanging in the background.
A general shot of part of the workshop. Big spinning wheel, larger backstrap loom (which you will see in the utube video). Carding station, warp winder, etc.
I happened upon some YouTube videos: