Here comes the Loin Loom Lab of Mac & Magic Loom Design.


At the Loin Loom Lab we are working on the construction of so-called backstrap looms (loin looms). With a focus on Austronesian and Austro-asiatic loin looms. At the end all kind of Asian loin looms derive from both groups, who were actually neighbours in ancient times at the Yangtze River. Nobody rellay knows, but there is the possibility, that all loin loom-types on the world may derive from that one area. Oldest found model (foot loom) can be traced back up to 7.000 years. Its decoration work and the fact, that it was found in a royal tomb shows out, that the culture of loin loom weaving may be much older. But where it came from, why it was invented, from which prototype and when it all begun; these are questions, nobody wants really to answer, because science has no clue yet. The facts of genetic pool researches are pretty young; so the ethnology has to re-arrange older conclusions again.


  1. What was the reason the loin loom was invented?
  2. Was the purpose mobility or is it another technical mix leading to new skills, that won't work out with a frame loom?
  3. Or it is just putting a tribe onto the global stage?
  4. What made the tribes keeping this method all the centuries into present tense alive, even Austronesians in most cases don't have an idea of being Austronesian or Austro-asiatic? 


These questions in mind led us to open the Loin Loom Lab; to find out on practical manner while building or weaving, what it is all about!


In short terms, the first model of a loin loom was a foot loom type. There was no fixing of the warp beam to a wall or poles. The warp beam was balanced by the feet and tensioned by the backstrap around the loin. By the time the warp beam got fixed to trees and/or poles; but to support the tension a foot beam was added to the set of beams, that build the loom. So that foot beam shows out, that the original warp beam carried another function within, that was transferred to the foot beam now.


in later times by increasing wood working skills and tools therefore followed the development to mobile station looms.




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The Warpings of backstrap looms

Warping methods of loin looms 

Several ethnic methods of warping for Austronesian & Austro-asian backstrap looms.


Next to weaving devices this collection focuses also onto the belonging warping devices, its tools and methods. Just the most important ones have been recorded here. That states the development from first simple stake warpings to real warping furnitures (Koshrae). All began with short stakes or pegs, that have been driven into the ground. For this archaic method you won't need any further warping tool or device, but a hammer or at least a stone, to drive the stake into ground. For small warps leaf vains of palm may have been enough; for ritual use many people use "stems" (shrub) of bananas. Both methods drive pointed stakes schematically. A more stable und durable version of this solution is done by bamboo canes, followed by wooden stems and later by bars. All these methods use either the ground or any kind of warping bar. In most cases this bar, no matter what kind of, is the only additional tool, needed for these warping methods; other needed items are solved by the bars of the loin loom itself.


Next to all these vertical warping methods (all tools are in vertical position) there are also some horizontal warping methods, that you find mainly in the Seven Sister States of Northeast-India. For these horizontal methods there is no need of a warping bar. A simple (measuring) rope or just a helping hand will do, too!




  • Measuring rope - horizontal (Karbi)


  • Ground stake - vertical
  • Palm vein vertical (Carolines)
  • Banana shrub vertical
  • Bamboo cane vertical
  • Warping stem vertical
  • Warping bar vertical (Karen)
  • Wall warping vertical (Chakma)
  • Warping furniture vertical (Koshrae)

Examples of ethnic warping methods

  • Warping method of Katu people
  • Warping on the Carolines
  • Warping of Karbi
  • Warping of Chakma
  • Warping on Koshrae
  • Warping of Phang Thak
  • Warping of Gorontalo
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Reaching Vietnam - backstrap weaving

Loom Design/Reaching Space/Vietnam  >> | Cham People

With this Champa Station Loom of the Cham people we are going to reach Central Vietnam backstrap weaving. At the moment we are still busy setting up the space warper for that trip, tuning the beamed warp and the loom.

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Reaching Bangladesh - backstrap weaving

With this warping device for a loin loom, similar to those of the Chakma people in Bangladesh and the surrounding Seven Sister States of Northeast-India we are reaching Bangladesh - preparing backstrap weaving.

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Reaching Austronesia - backstrap weaving

An experimantal Mish Mush Loom

There are not that much models of backstrap weaving looms with long stilts, actually just about five of them are known:


  • The Phang Thak of Bhutan
  • (and its several variations in Arunachal Pradesh and surrounding area)
  • the stilt loom of the Kanekes/Baduy people on Java
  • the Gorontalo Loom of Sulawesi
  • and the Hmong Loom in Southern China/Vietnam.


So we see, looms with that long stilts are not just a regional thing; even they are seldom, they are spread all over the Austronesian AND Austro-asiatic regions! 


We draw a theoretical connection between these here shown backstrap weaving stilt loom-types. The components of the looms stay the same, just the leading of the warp is changing.


1) The Phang Thak of Bhutan

Starting with the triangular leading of Phang Thak from Bhutan, we modify it by some further beams between the stilts.


2) The Zig-Zag of Phang Thak in Arunachal Pradesh

The warp is led on a zig-zag course between these extra beams, so the familiar triangular leading of the Bhutan Loom gets lost. Even the wooden components of the loom stay the same! You may find this kind of warp leading in Arunachal Pradesh. These extra beams don't just effect the aesthetic of the Phang Thak but the tension of the warp.  


This bears a lot of options of further modifications, mainly focused on manipulating the tension of your loom for different textiles!


3) The Gorontalo Loom of Sulawesi

The warp of a Gorontalo Loom on Sulawesi is L-shaped. For this we take off the zig-zag and lead the circular warp once up and down between the stilts. Already this one extra beam (4 beams) has an effect on the warp tension, comparing to the three beams of the original Phang Thak (3 beams). So you may imagine the strong effect of the Zig-Zag version! Of course, for a go with the Gorontalo Loom you need a long warp of about 4 m or more! 


4)  The Kanekes Stilt Loom on Java

As you may observe, all these three ethnical looms are done with one and the same pair of bamboo stilts. In another session we simulated with these stilts even a stilt loom of the Kanekes people in West-Java.




The exposed warp

All these looms, except the Kanekes Loom, prefer to expose the warp in its whole length unrolled for certain purpose. The extra beams needed for this support the tension management of such exposed warps. That's where the long stilts gets reasonable for. The Kanekes use a rolled-up flat warp instead of one of these exposing circular warps. Here we can't observe any special shaping of the warp leading. The height of this stilts may have lost their reason for further tensioning. The flexible fixation on their upper end spends another reason of their use.


Warping a cultural space

On top the characteristic shape of the stilts including warp board forms the basic element of a stilt house. All of these stilt models are aware of the representation of their cultural loom, not just the garment. What means, "the stage gets part of the loom!"



An early exchange of Austro-asiatic & Austronesian culture 

We are working on a theory, if there isn't a historical connection between most of this high stilt looms. Balinese people keep going on, that the inner circle of their people came down from the Himalaya, even there is not much proof! In the Majapahit-era there was a strong maritime trading connection between Northeast-India and Nusantara (Indonesia), most of Balinese connection to this region may result from that era. In this time the stilt looms may have been imported from Northeast-India to Indonesia. In this case the Balinese must have lost their high stilt looms meanwhile. But it seems Austro-asiatic people have reached the region overland before Austronesian people reached West Indonesia. That means, high stilt loom types may have been spread from Northeast-India all over the Southeast Asian mainland (Suvarnabhumi) downwards to the island world (Suvarnadvipa). 


Built-in Stilts of Karen People

Another proof for this theory may be the built-in stilts, Karen people in Myanmar/Thailand like to use. These stilts are not a part of their loom, but you can observe constructions of bamboo stilts like this inside of their weaving huts. This means, the transfer between verandah looms and stilt looms may get visible here. So verandah looms may not be a part of the stake looms, but the group of stilt looms!


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Learning backstrap weaving








A cute, little girl weaving on a backstrap loom. I have no idea where it is, guess in Arunachal Pradesh or somewhere around the Seven Sisters in Northeastern India. This was my first guess, so it's a part of the playlist 'Arunachal Looms' of Mac & Magic on youTube. There is no information about the region, but if I got the name right (Khaoshai), I guess I got you already (เข้าใจแล้ว), so we may be somewhere in Thailand!? Maybe we are watching a little Karen lady, teaching us our first steps to the backstrap woven heaven! But it can be anywhere, Els!



So, let's calm down and watch the teacher's lesson:

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Backstrap weaving a flat warp

Loom Design/Loomates/Tutorial

Basically ancient Austronesian & Austro-asiatic backstrap weaving loin looms are equipped with a circular warp. Later on following models took over flat warp-methods by the impact of other cultures. The use of a flat warp is a question of tradition; most of these loin looms, using a flat warp, can be equipped easily with a circular warp, too! Many of these Austronesian flat warp-models we find on Sumatra Island, or even on neighbouring Java Island. By the influence of incoming Indian textiles most areas of Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra Island have changed their manner of weaving totally to Indian-style frame loom techniques. Just some areas like Palembang took over the flat warp, that combines with Indian techniques, and combined it with their traditional loin loom!


Most American loin looms seem to be equipped traditionally with a flat warp; circular method is not known. 

Examples of flat warp looms

  • Karen Loom ?(Myanmar/Thailand; AA)
  • Aceh Loom (North-Sumatra, Indonesia; AN)
  • Palembang Loom (Central-Sumatra, Indonesia; AN)
  • Kanekes/Baduy Loom (West-Java, Indonesia; AN)
  • Raffles Heel Loom (Java, Indonesia; AN)
  • Early Javan (Java, Indonesia; AN)
  • Second Step (Java, Indonesia; AN)
  • Sundanese Loom (Java, Indonesia; AN)
  • Balian Loom ? (Bali, Indonesia; AN)
  • Lombok Loom (Lombok, Indonesia; AN)

(AA = Austro-asiatic; AN = Austronesian)


As you can see, most of these loin looms listed here using a flat warp are of Austronesian origin. Looms markes with a ? are optional versions next to the circular warp tradition in its area. So, the Karen loom using a flat warp are just versions of present time under modern influence. All left flat warps occur mainly on Sumatra and Java.

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Backstrap weaving a circular warp

Basically ancient Austronesian & Austro-asiatic backstrap weaving loin looms are equipped with a circular warp. Later on by the impact of other cultures some regional models took over flat warp-methods. Most American loin looms seem to be equipped traditionally with a flat warp. There is a third possible method of a so-called false circular warp, what means to produce a flat warp, that endings have been connected to a circular warp; but it's pretty seldom in use!


Circular warps are great for the production of Ikat textiles. The decision to use a circular warp or a flat warp-method on most models of loin looms is a question of tradition; in your own practise you may be able to run both techniques with slight modification on nearby all models of loin looms, no matter it's a foot loom or a station loom. Just a foot loom like the Paiwan loom isn't a good idea to equip with a flat warp. But try, if you need to!


Leadings of Circular Warps

Circular warps and even false circular warps can differ the way they are led. While many warps are led back in standard horizontal manner, some leadings are triangular-shaped (Phang Thak, Atayal box loom). Few of the warps are L-shaped (Gorontalo & Arunachal). Of course, there is no vertical leading of loin looms, but a range of diagonal and horizontal warp leadings.

Examples of loin looms with a circular warp


  1. Meifu Li Loom (Hainan, China; AA)
  2. Phang Thak (Bhutan; AA)
  3. Karbi/Mikir Loom (Assam, Northeast-India; AA)
  4. Pochury Loom (Nagaland, Northeast-India; AA)
  5. Chakma Stake Loom (Bangladesh; AA)
  6. Karen Loom (Myanmar; AA)
  7. Katu Loom (Laos/Vietnam; AA)
  8. Atayal Box Loom (Taiwan; AN)
  9. Paiwan Foot Loom (Taiwan; AN)
  10. Igorot Loom (Luzon, North-Philippines; AN)
  11. Yakan Loom (Mindanao, South-Philippines; AN)
  12. Caroline Islands Loom (Micronesia; AN?)
  13. Sangiree Loom (North-Sulawesi, Indonesia; AN)
  14. Celebes Loom (South-Sulawesi, Indonesia; AN)
  15. Dayak Loom (Borneo, Indonesia/Malaysia; AN)
  16. Batak Loom (North-Sumatra, Indonesia; AN)
  17. Banjuwang Loom ?(East-Java, Indonesia; AN)
  18. Balian Loom ?(Bali, Indonesia; AN)
  19. Sikka Loom (Flores, Indonesia; AN)
  20. Sumba Loom (Sumba, Indonesia; AN)
  21. Champa Station Loom (Central-Vietnam; AN)
  22. Madagascar Loom ?(Madagascar, Africa; AN)


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