Guatemalan woven fabric
Blouses or Huipiles
The Mayan blouse is called a huipil or güipil, or in on the more common Mayan languages – Kaqchikel – it is called a po’t. A huipil is generally woven by hand on a backstrap loom. The woman weaver generally spends several hours a day seated on her knees weaving the panels to make the huipil. This work can take up to 6 months for one huipil.
Each garment is uniquely decorated with a variety of designs and symbols, each with its own sacred meaning. The symbols range from the diamond, representing the universe and the path of the sun in it’s daily movement including the four cardinal directions, to geomorphic representations of mountains, rivers, animals, corn plants, and people. Sometimes a weaver will sew a small representation of her nahual in a discreet location on her garment so that it can always be kept close. Among the Quiché Maya (K’iche’) each person has his or her own nahual who watches over and protects him.
There are also variations in the garments based on the climate. In high mountainous regions, where the weather is cold and there is sometimes snow, the huipil can be very thick and heavy to keep its wearer warm. Some can weigh upwards of 5 pounds. In warmer regions, where it can be very hot and humid, the huipil might be lightweight and almost gauze-like in its design.
Skirts or Cortes
Skirts or cortes are generally woven on a foot-powered, treadle loom and are usually woven by men. The fabric is much wider, longer, and thinner than that of a huipil. The corte is a wrap-around skirt that consists of a cut of cloth joined to form a tube into which the woman steps. Excess material is wrapped around the body and folded at the waist in pleats, and tied with a faja (belt). The women purchase the corte fabric by the yard, and then join the sides and decorate the seams to fit their needs.