Underbelt Loom

About this object

History of use

Stiff underbelts are made on this type of loom. They are worn beneath wide red belts by both males and females. Besides displaying the red belt attractively, the underbelt acts like a back support, strengthening the back and midriff during heavy labour. The underbelt is called 'mama chumpi', or 'motherbelt', and the thin, patterned belt worn on top is called 'waw chumpi' or 'baby belt'.


This loom was family property belonging to the house of Augustin Quispe Mamani and Candelaria Cruz Machaca. The husband of one of the children, Gonzalo Yucra Huatta, set up the loom as a demonstration for the collection. He spun and plied the warp from his wife, Pelagia's, hair, together with a strand of alpaca. The warping and tensioning was a strenuous process of tugging on each yarn after the warp was lashed to the end bars. The weft, mostly sheep's wool, had been prepared previously by Pelagia. Gonzalo said that he really preferred commercial synthetic yarns for warps, but that women's hair was the traditional material.

Cultural context

underbelt manufacture

Specific techniques

Warp yarns are spun z and plied 4-s. Gonzalo was going to make 3 ply warps, but the alpaca was too thin, so it was doubled before combining with 2 strands of women's hair. The weft is primarily z spun and 3 ply s sheep's wool. One light section has strands of synthetic yarn in the ply. The weave structure is weft wrapping: the weft completely encircles a warp before moving on to encircle the next warp. The underbelt is woven to its finished size with 4 selvedges. It is then sewn to a red patterned belt across on end and a cord or tie is attached to the other end.

Physical description

Rectangular wooden frame loom with a partially woven dark and light brown wool textile stretched lengthwise. The frame is constructed of four pieces of round, peeled wood. Carved pegs on the ends of side pieces fit into slots on the end pieces, securing the corners. Two corners, where the wood has split, are reinforced with cord lashings. The thick, stiff wool fabric stripes extend from both ends of the frame toward the middle and a skein of weft is attached to the last point woven. Approximately one half of the dark brown warp is unwoven. The warp is secured to the interior of the frame by separate lashing cords at each end.