Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 29, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Fancy Footwork

I got distracted again this week. I  love getting distracted. It’s always good and it’s almost always related to weaving. Between the delightful distraction and the intensive workshop preparation I did manage to find some time to spend at my loom…

ikat and brocade on backstrap loomI ended the brocaded part with seven little stepped peaks and will now weave the rest as seven separate brocaded tabs. I am doing this because I want this panel to match the central panel of my Shipibo-inspired piece which also ends with seven woven strips. The other end will have a weft-twined pattern, probably something that is based on those stepped peaks.

Now, about that distraction…

All of you who have Facebook accounts will know the feeling when you receive a friend request from someone whose name you do not recognize….do I actually know this person, are they a friend of friend, what is the possible connection, is this just someone who likes to collect friends? I take a look at their page to see if there’s any weaving or fibery content and look for mutual contacts. Very rarely, the person who sent the request will also send a message. In case you didn’t know, there is a message inbox entitled “other” in the message section of your account to which people who are not your Facebook friends can send messages. Facebook does not send notifications for these and you have to go and look for them yourself. When I was first told about this inbox, I found a pile-up of messages dating back to 2010!…ex-boyfriend, old neighbors, requests for backstrap weaving classes!

Anyway…Yen-Chi Sun sent me a message. Yen-Chi Sun tells me that he is Taiwanese and that he is working with others to revive, document, and re-learn traditional backstrap weaving techniques. He had found my blog and thought that I might be interested in what he is doing :-). He shared pictures which he has allowed me to show here.

10588723_1675462386011227_1421427335_nThe language barrier makes our communication brief and a little disjointed but, from what I gather, Yen-Chi Sun’s group has been studying textiles in museum collections as well as discussing and observing techiques with elderly people who are still weaving in the places where these practices originated.

What a fabulous sight to see in the picture above…all those young people learning to use the newly-built versions of the traditional loom with its unusual tipping footbrace box (what else am I to call that thing!) You can see how the man in the picture is relaxing tension on the warp so that he can open the heddle shed. He does so by moving his feet and allowing the box to tip forward.

This next picture shows warping in progress in what Yen-Chi Sun calls the “five columns warping method”. Heddles are applied, as they are in many places in Asia and Southeast Asia, while the warp is being wound.

10615873_1675462382677894_1084265123_nI love those sturdy forked sticks used as the cross posts and end stake. I am not sure why the end stake is also forked but I think it might have something to do with the placement of threads for the coil rod…just my guess. My Montagnard weaving teachers have a stake in their warping set-up that creates the space for the coil rod. You can see the coil rod as it sits in the warp behind the box on the red warp in the above picture.

supplemntary weft inlay cotton scarffI have created a few circular warps myself, like the one at left,  and was surprised while weaving on them to find that I had a definite urge to have my feet braced against something, much more so than when I weave a piece that has been warped in a single plane. I love how the foot brace in the traditional Atayal loom of Taiwan can be used not only to help the weaver apply tension the warp but also to allow the weaver to relax tension.

Yen-Chi Sun also sent me the following picture from a demonstration in which the parts of the loom have been labeled (unfortunately for us, in Chinese) and so I will have to keep using silly names of my own invention like “tipping footbrace box”.

The following video is wonderful. All the speaking is in Chinese but. honestly, it doesn’t matter. The observers are asking  questions about all the things that I would want to know and you can tell exactly what is going on. It is a delight! Watch that fancy footwork.

The webpage of Taiwan Pictures Digital Archives has many old images of weavers and spinners in Formosa at work like the one below:

taiwan formosa history aboriginal weavers taipics022

John G Kreifeldt, whom I met recently online because of his interest in Asian art, allowed me to show a picture he took of an Atayal woman weaving during one of his visits to Taiwan.

a_modern_atayal_woman_weaviHere you can very clearly see the shed rod (with which I am in love!) Those of you who use a pair of sticks or a forked stick  in a second cross in your backstrap warp which you  grasp and twist to help open the heddle shed, will understand immediately what is going on with that stick. I put together something similar in my ikat piece right now so that I could try it out. But, more about that next week…

As for the kinds of textiles that are produced by these weavers and their traditional uses, I am trying to gather information about that for a future blog post.

1526640_771375512876288_903590434_nAbout that fancy footwork…when I think about it, I have been using similar foot movements to operate warps that I attach to my big toe, that is, a movement which relaxes the tension on the warp. I found that while I was weaving with such a set-up, rather than moving forward to relax the tension on the warp, I would simply flex my foot. It was done unconsciously and was such a natural and logical movement.

Now, I am not saying that tipping and controlling that big and heavy looking box  with one’s feet is natural and easy. I imagine that the feet must go through a long period of training to get to the point where they can manage the moves well.

Which is precisely what Tracy Hudson told me when I asked her to describe her experience weaving in Laos with looms that require some fancy footwork.

tracy hudson

In Tracy’s words:

I encountered this weaving method at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR in 2013, where I spent six weeks on an internship, working with the traditional textile collection.
Katu weaver LaosOne photo shows me using Keo’s loom. My feet are flexed to release tension as I open the heddle shed, holding a bar wrapped behind the other shed sticks to assist the process.
The other photo is Keo, a Katu weaver from Salavan Province, my teacher & friend. You can see how all her toes are involved in the adjustment of tension. This complex use of the whole foot & toes was the most inaccessible part, since my feet are completely untrained!
When releasing tension, Keo can hold the bars high in her toes while flexing back with her feet. When I do this, there is a danger of losing my grip on the loom bar and it pops over my toes toward my body. So I tend to bend my knees a bit to loosen tension. But the bar still has to be propped high on the toes, so that it doesn’t drop to the ground beyond the feet.
Tracy has made a video available on Youtube of a Katu weaver at work which includes their beadwork and you can read more about her experience in Laos on her blog.
The pieces that make up the backstrap looms used by the Li weavers of Hainan Island are beautifully constructed and include bars with decorated paddle-like ends against which to place the feet…
A Li weaver demonstarting at the Santa Fe International Folk At Market. Picture by Pam Najdowski.

A Li weaver demonstrating at the Santa Fe International Folk At Market. Picture by Pam Najdowski.

I love seeing experienced toes and feet in action with the dexterity of hands and fingers. I found that my pathetic gringa big toe got sore and chafed with the rubbing of the tightly twisted handspun wool when I was weaving with my teacher Maxima in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After a couple of hours I transferred my warp to her big toe and we both wove attached to hers!
Toes can be used to tension the warp while making heddles or weaving or even to tension the heddle string. Below you can see my teacher Hilda using toes to hold her kinking overspun yarn taut as she makes heddles…
hilda making heddles
A big toe makes a fine warping stake but toes can  be employed in other ways during the warping process…
Dennis Penley collection C Philip Willet
This picture of a gentleman in Ecuador winding a circular warp was taken by Dennis Penley in the early 1960s and is used with the permission of C Philip Willett.
The first time I got to use a foot brace with a circular warp was when I was visiting with Ju Nie, a Montagnard backstrap weaver, in North Carolina. When you don’t have the traditional items on hand, like a nice hefty piece of bamboo, you have to improvise. Here Ju Nie is using a cardboard roll. The ability to brace the feet is so essential that Ju Nie and her fellow weavers would be unwilling to demonstrate their backstrap weaving if a foot brace could not be set-up at the venue.
cardboard foot brace
Here is another Montagnard backstrap weaver with an improvised set-up outside her home…
From Betsy Renfrew's webpage

From Betsy Renfrew’s webpage

A Burmese weaver that I visited  in Massachusetts had not yet found a way to set up a foot bracing bar in her home. She had her circular warp placed around a rod that was fixed to the window frame and sat at a distance away from the wall that did not allow her to push against anything. As I watched her weave, I noticed her idle feet stretch and flex as she unconsciously worked them against a non-existent foot brace. Such is the training and the muscle memory.
Backstrap weavers in Ecuador can weave indoors all year round if they please. They use circular warps which take up little space within the home compared to the amount of space needed for a warp created on a single plane at full stretch. Weavers that I spent time with in San Roque have a permanent weaving area in the home, in fact they had two, with blocks of wood stacked against the wall to accommodate the varying leg lengths of the different weavers in the family. This meant that each person could sit and comfortably brace their feet.
fluffing the woven fabric with thistles Ecuador
And just for fun…
Sometimes backstrap weaving doesn’t involve the feet at all. It is just about kicking back, putting the feet up and relaxing. Here’s one of my students in Texas…
austin class
Enough about feet. Next week I want to talk more about the Atayal shed rod and nifty ways for opening heddle sheds.
I’ll finish with some great projects from Ravelry and Facebook friends and students…
Emerald has put together a gorgeous warp with three sections for Andean Pebble Weave. This will be a Christmas gift pouch for her sister.
Julia is practicing motifs from the Peruvian highlands that I have charted in my second book…this is simply beautiful weaving…
And Marsha is back at the loom, this time with an adjustable vertical frame loom that she built herself. She is using the intermesh technique that I teach in my second book and cleverly combining it with plain weave. The frame is fixed to a piano stool so that it can be raised or lowered as needed.
image_medium (1)
Back to the loom, back to the warping board, and here’s hoping for another week of weaving distractions.




Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 22, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Those Other Techniques

This month the winners of the annual weaving competiton run by the CTTC (Centro de Textiles Tradicionales, Cusco) were announced and the weavers were awarded. Many pictures of the evaluation of the textiles and the prize-giving ceremony were posted to the CTTC’s Facebook page. Although it isn’t clear to me which group was the overall winner, there is a wonderful array of pictures of the gorgeous textiles and their proud creators on the page. In the CTTC’s next newsletter we are bound to be told which textiles were judged to be best.

10610503_689671741081744_8141454025465810761_nThis year’s competition was based on four challenges….

1. The creation of a knotted four-cornered hat based on those made in pre-Incan times (you can download a free e-book on these hats here).


Here is an extract from page 10 of the book with a basic description of the techniques employed…

Almost all four-cornered hats are made with larkshead knots, variously manipulated for texture and color change.
A major distinction can be made between plush hats, patterned with supplementary pile yarns caught into the knotted foundation, and knotted hats without pile.

This intriguing video from Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino shows how the hats are constructed.

Here is a translation of the text that accompanies the video…

The four-cornered hat is constructed from the crown, with a ring formed from the first series of knotted loops. The knots are continued in a spiral pattern, with additional knots added on the diagonals to achieve the square shape of the hat. To make the sides of the hat, more knots are added at different intervals, depending on the shape and type of hat design: The knots are added in a spiral pattern if the hat is a single color, or in sections if more than one color is being used. The lower edge of the hat is finished off with a final row of knots. The “points” on the top of the hat are made separately. The relief designs on monochrome and bichrome hats are achieved by combining “front” and “back” faces of the knot, according to the motif desired. In contrast, the designs on polychrome hats are made using up to nine different colors of yarn, with the knots always tied in the same direction and grouped by motifs or color fields.

2. The creation of pieces inspired by Incan cloaks worn by the ñustas (Incan princesses)


Image of a late 18th century painting from the Museo Inka in Cusco provided by CTTC.

Image of a late 18th century painting from the Museo Inka in Cusco provided by CTTC.


3. Double-weave belts.

4. Tapestry.

A weaver from Pitumarca  taht I watched at Tinkuy 2010 creating a taspestry using a backstrap loom.

A weaver from Pitumarca that I watched at work during Tinkuy 2010 creating a tapestry using a backstrap loom.

The following pictures are from the CTTC’s Facebook page and are used with their kind permission.

Here is one of the tapestries spread out on the floor during the evaluation process. I don’t envy them that job! Every piece must have looked amazing.

tapestry CTTC 2014

10417469_689672474415004_7225471250316288685_nIn this piece, you can clearly see the squares of woven fabric that were pieced together to form the large textile. I am assuming that, as in the competitions in previous years, the weavers were challenged to create 30 x 30cm squares and combine them to create one large piece. That reminds me of the interesting and emotional presentation at Tinkuy 2010 that I attended where weavers from the various communities talked about their experience with these competitions…the difficulties as well as the advantages involved in working as team, the pain of rejection of pieces that didn’t quite fit or meet the standards, the enormous amount of time involved with planning and agreeing on designs that would suit the year’s themes, and the rewards and benefits of participating in these events.

One such rejected square (see below) from the 2010 competition made it into the hands and home of my friend Virginia. I am sure that the pieces that don’t make it into the final work do not get tossed by the weaver or forgotten in a box under the bed. They stand alone as beautiful pieces of work even of they don’t fit within the whole.


10376922_689671514415100_1698807909188374612_nWhat an experience it must have been to be seated within that courtyard surrounded by those amazing pieces of work and their proud creators.

1920489_686163014765950_455227465195720892_nHere are some of the four-cornered hats displayed for evaluation.

10568795_689672764414975_4096139166593297128_nAn award winner in what could be the Inca cloak section judging by the image on his certificate.

10603682_686163974765854_4113572595310474414_nI am assuming that these are some of the fajas from the double-weave section.

I will leave you to look at all the other pictures in the album on the CTTC’s Facebook page.

This is the first year’s competition  (that I am aware of in my brief experience with them) where different techniques have been highlighted….tapestry, double weave and the knotting technique used in the four-cornered hats.

This made me think about my own future projects and the possibilty of basing  my next wall hangings on some of the non-weaving techniques that I have learned or observed as well as techniques that  involve not only warp-faced pick-up. I suppose my latest ikat project has been a good start towards that.

ikat projects backstrap loomAs you can see, there are two versions on the go. Long story short…I got some black cold water dye from a one-time unexpected source  and was able to unwrap and weave the larger motif.

Large ikat motif backstrap loomI am loving the way this looks with that bit of red in the background as I think about the red panels that will accompany it. I haven’t decide which of the two ikat pieces will eventually be used. It will most likely be the one that came out more brilliantly white.

As for other non warp-faced pick-up techniques that I might use in future wall hangings, I ran across this piece of fabric that I bought from an alpargata-maker in Ecuador. This shaped piece, which  is created around a mold, forms the cover for the front part of the foot.

fabric fro alpargatas Otavalo

boy's alpargatas otavaloWhen I originally posted on this blog about these alpargatas that are used by mostly older men in Otavalo, Ecuador, it was suggested by a reader that the technique used to create the fabric might be called ply-split darning. I spent a day with an alpargata artisan and watched how he created the fabric. I wouldn’t mind trying to include the technique somehow in a wall hanging. I love the textured white-on-white pattern and I could perhaps use  in the red side panels that accompany some other kind of technique from Ecuador.

Another technique that is begging to be explored further is soumak and my greatest inspiration for that has come from Julia Miryam Chavah. I haven’t seen soumak in use here in South America and have no idea if, in fact, it is practiced here. Miryam frequently posts her projects online. I have watched in admiration and wonder as her skills have grown over the years and she attributes it to a humble little booklet (and a lot of hard work and determination, I am sure) that I managed to buy on a recent US trip…

??????????????????????Here is a piece called Double Happiness that she recently posted…

First, a nice close-up of the structure…

julia miryam chavah (1)


The work in progress…

julia miryam chavah (2)

And, the finished piece…..

julia miryam chavah (3)Wow!

I confess that I have never been quite clear about what exactly soumak is. Fortunately I have some books to guide me (and Julia’s work to inspire me)…

Jean Wilson in her Soumak Workbook describes soumak  as  a method of wrapping weft around warp. It is worked on a closed shed. The wefts do not pass through a shed.

However, I have also seen techniques described as soumak in books where the weft is supplemental, that is, a separate ground weft is used to create fabric and another patterning weft creates the soumak. In her book Woven Treasures, Sara Lamb teaches to create soumak using a supplemental weft. Another foundation weft is used to create a ground fabric.

Marla Mallett’s book, Woven Structures, has a section on soumak in which she indicates that reinforcing ground wefts are sometimes used but she says that “the thin ground weft hidden in most allover soumak fabrics exists merely to reinforce the wrapped construction.”

Peter Collingwood in The Techniques of Rug Weaving describes soumak with two wefts…

“One is the gound weft which weaves with the warp to make a normal weft-face structure, the other is the soumak weft which crosses the warp at intervals, wrapping round its ends, more in the manner of an embroidery stitch than of weaving.”

He also writes that the technique can be carried out on a warp-face plain weave background.

stitched-sta-cat-2It seems to be, in that case, that the upper form of patterning on the sampler above, that I studied in Guatemala, could in fact be called soumak. The supplemental wefts follow the path described and diagrammed in my books. (I would be happy if a reader were to enlighten me further!)  There is a warp-faced ground cloth beneath the colored patterning wefts. I think that this would be the technique I would explore further on a backstrap loom because it is something with whichI have had experience in my travels in Guatemala.

And then,  there are the sling braids and edgings that I studied in Peru way back in 1997. I would love to somehow incorporate those in the sets of wall hangings I hope to create.

sling-braid-edgingsTo pick-up or not to pick-up…all kinds of beautiful things can be created on a backstrap loom. Gwen just finished this plain-weave guitar strap for her husband using variegated Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale. It’s only her second project and it is gorgeous. The hardware for the strap is from ASpinnerweaver’s Etsy store.

gwen guitar strap (2)

gwen guitar strap (1) Julia is doing pick-up and is practicing  designs that are charted in my second book that require all pick-up (that is, they are not semi loom-controlled as the Andean Pebble Weave ones are). This one is a sample and I know that she is already on to bigger things using colors with higher contrast.

DSC04807_mediumJane took my Basics class and then joined the Weave Wide/Weave Fine challenge class this last spring. Here is her finished project. She made a backstrap using  all pick-up to create the central motif. Jane is totally at home with this and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

10574436_817321331632239_2699883635988505940_nAhem…as I was typing that last line, Jane was already posting the next project…a camera strap…

1557630_817321921632180_4274413554055257658_nHow cool is that? The interlocking design is one that I adapted from tablet-weaving by Louise Ström and charted for Andean Pebble Weave in my second book. For this project, Jane would have used two sets of string heddles which makes the technique partly loom-controlled. She’s also good at charting patterns from pictures and textiles. A photo of a textile with the cute bear motif appears in Nilda Callañaupa’s book on Traditional Textiles of Chinchero.

I am ablaze with ideas for more wall hangings and have another ikat idea brewing, if I dare…just when it is time to put down the loom and wind warps for workshops. Actually, it is the warp-winding that starts the ideas flowing. It gives me lots of time to think and ponder and, as my warping board is on a table in front of a wall of books, there are plenty of reasons to pause and start leafing through pages.

For now, I will get in a bit of weaving time at the loom, wind some warps, sketch and dream.

Mexico has been working its way into my life recently. I will show you some of things that have been coming my way next time.



Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 16, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Inspiring Ikat

sunlight on red panels backstrap weaving“Question of the Week” on the Warped Weavers Forum asked us if our finished projects always measured up to what we had envisioned. It is interesting for me to think about this and see how my ideas about the larger projects on which I have been working lately have evolved during the long process of weaving.

I have been spending months planning and weaving these wall hangings, often interrupted by a break of several more months while I travel.

I look back at my notebook with its sketches and glued-in pictures and can see how far the finished pieces sometimes stray from the original idea.

Sometimes it is a technical hitch that does not allow me to create what I had envisioned. For example, I had wanted the Shipibo-inspired piece to comprise only curves but could not manage to form nice smooth curves with the thicker solid lines in double weave. That had almost caused me to abandon the idea. But, I went with a strong angular outline filled with finer curves instead and I really like that contrast.

backstrap weaving Bhutan bagSometimes, in the middle of a project something will catch my eye online, or someone will show me something and I will want to add those ideas to the mix.

That is what happened with my Tales of the Sub-Continent fabric which started with a Bhutanese-inspired motif and spread to Afghanistan, Nepal and beyond.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it goes into the closet. And this is one of the many cool things about backstrap weaving…my half woven projects can be easily removed, still on their metal rods, from the loom bars and stored. I can discover a project months later, pull it out and wonder why on earth I hadn’t liked it! Then it can be easily lashed back onto the loom bars and continued..

It’s like in the old days before digital cameras. I never wanted to process my rolls of film until at least three weeks after my trip. If I got impatient and processed them straight away, I would always be disappointed with the shots. They didn’t live up to my fresh memories of the things I had seen on the trip. The colors would not be as brilliant and they wouldn’t have captured the mood.

However, just a few months later, they would look fantastic as my memory of how things had looked and felt faded.

striped-pouch-x-4I detested the above fabric when I first wove it. It was a demo warp that I had hastily put together before a trip. I wanted something fun, bright and cheery in place of the black that I am so often using. It didn’t come out as I had envisioned and I didn’t even take it out of my bag to show anyone as I thought it was so ugly. Now I love the fabric, the original idea has been long forgotten, and the little sewing kit pouch is really useful.

Guatemalan supplementary weft sampler overviewThis fabric has also been living in the back of the closet for the longest time. I wove it to practice what I had learned in Guatemala shortly after returning way back in 2008. Now I love it and need to make something from it.

There have been a few things that simply didn’t work as far as I was concerned and those things got tossed. But, I have to wonder how I would feel about them if I were to uncover them in the closet today. If there isn’t even a picture of it, it means that I must have really hated it!

All this is leading up to my telling you that I have been walking by last week’s forlorn, rejected ikat piece, which has been sitting on a bench in my bedroom all week, and finding myself eventually wondering why I hadn’t liked it. Of course, there’s a whole blog post dedicated to why!  But, I finally decided that I could unweave some parts and improve it somewhat. So, here I am weaving away on that piece again…and not just to get it of the loom and learn more lessons…no, it’s because I actually like it now despite its flaws.

I spent most of the week washing yarn to take of the wax finish, setting it up on a frame and wrapping it for a new slightly larger ikat motif.latest ikat projectI was very excited about this new larger motif and really wanted to weave it. However, I had to face the fact that I didn’t have any black cold water dye left. In the end, I couldn’t resist trying to achieve black by mixing  colors.

Well, it looked black in the bath and even looked black while it hung to dry. However, the rinse water certainly wasn’t black and the dry cloth has a purply reddish glow.  It is kind of like the color of those big, fat, juicy, ripe mulberrries on the tree. They look so black and shiny but your hands and lips stain purply-red (which is why my brother and I could never get away with eating from the forbidden tree in our backyard as kids). I almost unwrapped it but I will wait until I return from my next US trip with fresh supplies of dye and I will overdye this warp black. That warp has to go on the back burner for now. What will be interesting, will be seeing what colors have already seeped under the wraps.

Here’s some online inspiration for more and more ikat experiments…lots of reasons to keep at it!

Photo used with the permission of the Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina. The ikat poncho was woven by Guillermina Cabral.

Photo used with the permission of the Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina. The ikat poncho was woven by Guillermina Cabral.

Ponchos on and off the runway….

Don Juan Millain shows a ponch woven by Norma Millain. Photo from the Facebook page of MATRA - Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina.

Don Juan Millain shows a ponch woven by Norma Millain. Photo from the Facebook page of MATRA – Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina.

And on the loom….

Graciela Salvatierra's work in Catamarca, Argentina from the Facebook page of Ponchos Artesanales  Salvatierra ll

Graciela Salvatierra’s work in Catamarca, Argentina from the Facebook page of Ponchos Artesanales Salvatierra ll

And here’s my wee, wobbly project being slowly fixed…straightened on one side, and now with white embroidery floss for supplementary weft which looks so much better than the creamy colored silk I was using last week.


Chris Buckley, in Beijing, has shared many images with me over the years from his vast collection of textiles. I was happy to find his Art Southeast Asia page on Facebook recently, via a weaving friend, and see the picture of Li ikat weaving that he had posted. He has just had an article on these pieces published in the September issue of Textiles Asia (I have a copy coming my way). There were a lot of tiny wrapped sections in his piece! and the seeping of the indigo into the white has created a nice effect. Using handspun cotton…now that’s a whole other trip.

chris buckleyHere is his description that accompanies the picture:

The September 2014 issue of Textiles Asia ( includes my article on ikat made by the Meifu Li people of Hainan. The Li make dense, complex and beautiful ikat, using locally grown handspun cotton and natural indigo dye. The designs are tied on the warp threads with small strips of resist, before the yarn is dyed. The dyed threads are woven on a simple backstrap loom, so that the designs appear in white on a deep blue background on the finished fabric. Motifs include geometric forms, human figures and amphibians, such as those in the photo here, which shows a detail of a large sarong. These were mainly for ceremonial use (weddings and festivals). The Textiles Asia magazine is excellent and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in this area.

You can watch a short Youtube video here showing the ikat process with string and masking tape used by some weavers in Argentina.

I think they are very brave to use that heavy marker pen! I tried using a fine-tip marker and the ink bled into the yarn. Now I use faint pencil marks.

A booklet that I have on Guatemalan ikat, known there as jaspe,  says that the person tying the knots marks with a pen the parts that need to be reserved. Most likely they are less prone to making mistakes than I am!

A Guatemalan jaspe warp ready for weaving

A Guatemalan jaspe warp ready for weaving.

Leaving ikat aside for now, let’s look at some other kinds of backstrap woven beauty. Gwen shared with us pictures of the beautiful pick-up weaving that she saw on a recent visit to the Cusco area of Peru.

10305594_10203495499921874_8779412477090214824_nThis is one of the textiles that has inspired her to take up backstrap weaving and she has already woven her own backstrap. Her enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment of the whole process has me remembering the simple pleasure of just sitting at the loom and working the sheds, listening to sticks clack while watching the warp and weft interact and the fabric appear…

gwendolyn facebook (2)I appreciate her having taken this next picture of the process of braiding the ends of the backstrap and inserting the cord. I didn’t use a picture of this in my article and I know that Gwen’s picture will make the process very clear to those who may be unsure.

gwendolyn facebook (3)Some more simple pleasures…

10570318_770325679684468_7800201937456857640_n…weaving outdoors on a warm sunny day. Oscar Vasquez tells me that he doesn’t live in a part of Mexico where backstrap weaving is practiced and so, he has been following the same WeaveZine article that Gwen used (the Spanish translation) to weave a narrow band while out and about.

This coming week, I hope to warp the two red panels that will accompany the central  ikat panel of my planned wall hanging. I will create another red-on-red pattern using simple warp floats. The motif will have elements of that used in the ikat panel. And with that, it will be time to put everything on the back burner while I start prep for up coming workshops.

See you next week.










Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 7, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – If I were to do it over….

“If I were to do it over”….

I know that I am trouble if I find myself sitting in front of a warp and saying that phrase before I can even throw the first shot of weft or, in the case of my current ikat project, before I can apply the first tie to the area that will resist the dye. As I set the warp on the loom bars, I was thinking that I would warp it slightly differently “if I were to do it over”.

As I wrapped the warp threads, I was wondering why I had automatically started placing the knots at the edge of the wrap rather than in the center as I had  in past ikat projects where I used cassette tape. Would it make any difference? Yes it did. “If I were to do it over”, I would put the knots in the middle of the wrap. There is far less chance of nicking or cutting a warp thread with scissor tips when unwrapping if the knot is in the center rather than at the edge.

wraps for new ikat project?The wrapping part didn’t take as long as I had thought. It was fun watching the design appear and satisfying seeing it take on the same proportions as my sketches. I had calculated and measured corrrectly…yay. No thoughts about do-overs there.

ikat motif backstrap weaving“If I were to do it over”, I would wash the thread in hot water before starting the project. I have dyed a lot of cotton in my time. I guess it has all been knitting yarn and crochet thread. Those have all dyed beautifully with the Dylon cold water dyes that I buy in small packets. However, my supplier of  the UKI 20/2 weaving yarn that I am using in this project told me that this yarn is finished with a coating of wax. I only found this out by contacting them after my failed attempt to dye the warp black.

That explains the medium shade of blue I got with navy blue dye last week more than the fact that I had used a very watery solution. With this new warp, all I could turn out was an ugly steely grey instead of the black at which I had been aiming. What a waste of dye. I then overdyed it with far more dye than was necessary to ensure that I got black the second time around….another waste.  So, that’s the end of my black dye supply…no do-overs possible for that part of the process.

spots of dye under ikat tapeAs the ikat tape was close to transparent, I was able to see dark spots under the tape before I could even start removing it. That was very disheartening.

Clearly, the dye had seeped under the tape in several places.

However, it wasn’t that bad after all. A very noticeable concentrated spot of color on a group of threads all squished together and tied, turns into a vague smudge when the individual threads are untied and fanned out. It is not like the marks disappeared, but they were something with which I could live. I couldn’t see why those particular parts had allowed dye to seep in, and so it is not a problem that I would expect to be able to eliminate “if I were to do it over”.

ikat motif on backstrap loomIt was time to make heddles, put the shed rod in place and then unwrap. The unwrapping part was nerve-racking….take it easy and don’t snip a warp thread for goodness sake!  And then it was time to weave! And this is where the “if I were to do it over” turned to “when I do it over” and there are several reasons for that.

woven ikat motif backstrap weavingI placed many…too many… thin strips of cardboard within successive sheds to start with. I can see now that not all those strips were perfectly straight and the accumulation of this flaw had the effect of having me start the weaving with a slightly askew weaving line.

I didn’t notice. Iwas concentrating so hard on the ikat motif and the alignment of the warps that I didn’t even notice until the whole motif had been woven. I had to weave in some short rows to get things straightened out for the supplementary weft patterning…NOT GOOD. It looked awful. Then I noticed that the ikat motif itself had also been thrown slightly off center. Oh well.

Maybe only I can see it but it just isn’t good enough. It was time to start the list headed “When I do this over” and get used to the fact that this will go on the sample pile.

However, I have to say that I am really pleased with the way the ikat pattern turned out. I didn’t get any of the dreaded “railway tracks” (my name for repeated single rows of lines and spots of undyed thread that get completely detached from the main motif.) There is fuzziness…perhaps more like a raggedness…it looks like ikat! Yay!

When I fished out my silk thread for the supplementary-weft patterning, it was plain to see that there are many levels of off-white-ness. The UKI thread is closer to white and the silk weft closer to cream. They weren’t going to look good together but I wove some patterns anyway. This piece is now a sampler and I may as well use it to learn as much as I can.

ikat figure with supplementary weft patterning backstrap weavingIn the picture above, I have flipped the loom around and made new heddles so that I can add the supplementary-weft patterns to the other side of the ikat motif. More short rows had to be added to get things straightened out….stupid cardboard strips! grumble, grumble.

So, WHEN I do this again, I shall adopt some different ways of doing things, starting with the warping. Add to the list….don’t forget to dye the weft!! Weft went into the steely grey bath but not the black one which wasn’t such a problem until I broke two warp threads while weaving and had nothing with which to replace them.

ikat tapeI have loads of thread, a lifetime supply of ikat tape, and I think that I could probably get some embroidery floss here to match more closely the color of the UKI thread. What is missing is enough black dye…darn. Do you think that mixing navy blue and dark brown would work?

In the midst of this I had visitors who had not seen my weaving before.

I hate having to feel all squirmish about showing my work to people because I know what kind of questions and reactions I always get from local Santa Cruz people when I do so.

They are fascinated and delighted at first until they eventually ask how much time I spend on this kind of thing. And, when they find out that I don’t intend selling my work, and won’t even be hanging my wall hangings in this home (I am saving them for some vague future home-of-my-dreams!), well, that is the end of the story. Heads are shaken in bewilderment and I am left feeling a little deflated and almost foolish. My explanation of the ikat process was sheer madness to them!

painted tshirt ethnic motifWhich had me thinking once again about process versus product.

Of course this and pretty much all my projects are all about the process.

I want to experience the ikat process and not merely create a large solid white motif on a solid black background. I could, after all,  paint a white motif on black woven  fabric if that is all I wanted,  like my friend Sharon did when she hand-cut stencils and painted a beautiful set of tshirts for me with ethnic motifs.

Or, I could use the warp-faced double-weave stucture which would allow me so much freedom to create motifs on solid-color backgrounds…made up of straight lines that can be put together to resemble curves, like those in my last Shipibo-inspired wall hanging and other projects.

Below, you can see an experiment with curves and Celtic motifs that I made a long time ago.


abba-yohanni-curtain-and-reproAnd another not-so-curvy one from the archives at left…

Double weave, of course, creates a thick fabric when what you might really be after is something finer and more flowing.

It also does not favor the use of a lot of unpatterned area. The parts of the double-weave fabric that do not have pick-up patterning will sit as separate layers of cloth simply joined at the edges. This can create a sort of ballooning effect over large areas.

The simpler little brother of the warp-faced double weave technique is warp substitution. With this structure, you won’t have to worry about layer separation in large unpatterned areas but most people do not like the awkwardly long floats that  form on the back of the cloth.

Another structure that allows motifs to sit on solid-color backgrounds is intermesh….

bhutan-collage-11It’s a warp-float structure that creates rather dense fabric….not something I would describe as light and flowing. The motifs can be very linear or curvy like the ones below.

intermesh with curved designPatterning with supplementary weft allows you to have a light piece of solid-color fabric patterned with soild motifs. The drawback is that in order to make the woven piece practical, the length of the weft floats needs to be limited and that will restrict the kinds of motifs you can create. Large solid-color areas will need to be broken down into segments of short weft floats.

tubular_band_on_ticlla_pieceAnd then, leaving warp-faced options aside all together, there is always tapestry technique…

greca design on a pillow coverThis is a pillow cover woven on a floor loom by a  member of the Hipolito family of Zapotec tapestry weavers in California. (Which reminds me…my weaving friend Dorothy is currently in Peru studying tapestry techniques with master weaver Maximo Laura… can’t wait to hear more about it).

I love comparing the fine double-weave belt from Argentina, below, with its bold black and white pattern, to the precise black and white ikat work done by the Mapuche weavers of Argentina and Chile…two completely different processes that create superficially similar results.


mapuche-ikat-11And so, I will finish this post this week by showing you a fabulous ikat poncho created by Argentinean master weaver, Guillermina Cabral, from Victorica, La Pampa province and thank the Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina, to whom the image belongs, for allowing me to show it to you here. I found it on the Facebook page of MATRA (Mercado Internacional de Artesanías Tradicionales de la Argentina). The page has other images of beautiful ikat work along with other exquisite handcrafts of Argentina.

10564839_1546978602191639_385201088_nSo, it’s all about process for me. But, concentrating too much on one particular part of the process can mean carelessness in others which are of equal importance…stupid pieces of cardboard! ;-)






Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 1, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – In Focus

In Focus… that’s a funny title for a week that was spent weaving moifs that are meant to be blurry. My camera kept rebelling against my attempts to have it focus on something that was not sharp and my eyes kept rejecting patterns formed by threads that refused to stay in place. I am talking about ikat.

backstrap sample with new cottonI was weaving the wee sample that I started last week with the new-to-me UKI 20/2 cotton. This would give me an idea of the number of ends I needed to wind for the 7 1/2 -inch width of my next wall hanging panel.

At the same time, I was attempting to make this a “two-fer” and try out a new patterning technique using supplementary weft. After finding that my count was off, I unwove the Guatemalan flower pattern I had been creating and then came to the conclusion that a little discipline was needed… a little FOCUS. Sure, I could get a “two-fer” out of this short warp but let’s focus that “two-fer” entirely on the project at hand….ikat with 20/2 cotton.

So, I decided to drop the Guatemalan flower project and use this warp as a width sample and also as an opportunity to wrap a sample ikat motif.

I love how the splintery old frame that I found abandoned up on the rooftop terrace several years ago continues to be so useful. One side of the frame is longer than the other which makes the whole thing rather wonky. Nevertheless, it works well as a support for the stakes and rods onto which I wind my discontinuous-warp projects….172870_203704546310057_3438857_o….as well as a frame on which I can stretch warps before I wrap them with ikat tape…


ikat sample for backstrap weavingAbove, you can see  the last ikat project I did using cassette tape for wrapping.

Now I am using tape that has been produced especially for this purpose.

I like the cassette tape because it is opaque. You can immediately see white spots peeking through if you have not wrapped a section well and left parts of the warp exposed. The pink-ish color ikat tape that I have is close to transparent which means that  it is far less apparent when I have missed a spot when wrapping.

On the other hand, I am enjoying using the ikat tape because I can split and easily the tear the tape into strips of any width I want. While the cassette tape is strong and holds knots well, the ikat tape is even stronger. I haven’t had any trouble with it snapping if I pull a knot very tightly.

Above, you can see the sample motifs. This is not exactly the pattern that I plan to use in the wall hanging. The whole thing has been an exercise in achieving consistently accurate measurement of really tiny lengths. It hasn’t been entirely successful so far. In the end, I will be interested to see whether the accuracy at which I have been aiming is absolutely necessary. For eaxample, I simply “eye-balled”  the pattern in the project wrapped with cassette tape above. You can see some very obvious differences in the length of the wraps  from one motif to the other but the overall look is quite okay. With this latest attempt at ikat, however, I have been measuring and re-measuring and fussing about a whole lot.

cambodian ikatI have to remind myself to “think like a bird”. I wrote a whole blog post about this once…trying to train myself to walk away and look at this kind of thing from a distance to get the overall effect rather than focusing too much on the finer details.

I have a piece of silk ikat from Cambodia as my guide and inspiration. It has a very simple and tiny pattern of blocks. The warps shifted during weaving and, in some cases, a part of a motif has completely separated itself from the rest. Yet, when you stand back and look at this pillow cover, that’s not what you see. You see a simply gorgeous piece of fabric covered with tiny, even motifs.

So, I had the warps for my hook motifs wrapped as accurately as I could manage. I told myself that even with accurate measurement and wrapping, the warp threads will most likely shift whichever way they please once released from their wraps for weaving.

It was time to stop fussing and move on to the dye pot.

There isn’t much that can go wrong in the dyeing part unless you haven’t wrapped tightly enough. It is obvious from looking at some ikat warps that I have encountered in my travels that some weavers do not consider a bit of seepage a problem.

The ikat warp below, with its blue pattern on white, is from Tacabamba Peru. There is a heck of a lot of wrapping involved there. All those white parts need to be wrapped in order to expose just the small sections which will be dyed blue. I wish I could have seen this warp before the wraps were removed as I am wondering if there is an ideal length for the wraps. Is there a length after which a wrap becomes unstable thus allowing dye to seep in? Should long sections be wrapped as several small sections instead? You can see several dots and spots where the dye has penetrated the wraps.

tacabamba ikat threadsI was told that Mapuche weavers apply a kind of white mud mixture to the sections of the warp where the dye needs to be resisted. Then they wrap them. When I got to see and touch an example on the loom, white dust would fly when I gently strummed the warps in the sections that had been recently unwrapped. I guess this is an added measure against seepage.

mapuche-ikat-11As it turns out, my ikat motifs more closely resemble these Mapuche ones with their sharp straight edges rather than the delightfully fuzzy and feathered outlines that one normally sees in ikat work.

I dyed the piece blue in a watered-down dye bath of navy blue that produced a  shade that I loved. Will I ever be able to produce that shade of blue again?!

ikat after dyeingDarn, I then noticed that I had neglected to add the last wrap on the right to the upper motif. Oh well, it’s just a sample. Above, you can see the warp with its heddles  and on its way…..time to unwrap. I always take lots of pictures of this part because the next part… the weaving… is where things tend not to go so well.

first ikat motifs unwrappedWell, there was no use putting it off…it was time to weave the unwrapped section, while holding my breath…

weaving frst ikat motifSo far so good. Yes, there was a bit of seepage. And I forgot to throw some of the thread in the dye pot to use as weft. Again, never mind, it’s just a sample. I’ll add that to the list of things not to do when I am preparing the real project.

ikat motifs with supplementary weft patternOnce I had woven all the ikat motifs, I used this sample warp to test the number of strands of silk I would need to make a supplementary weft that would be suitable for creating patterns on the 20/2 warp-faced ground cloth. I am hoping to add patterns made with supplementary weft both above and below the ikat section on my wall hanging panel. I love how the buttery-yellow silk weft looks against this particular shade of blue. I must weave something with this color combination soon.

I left this sample project at this stage to wind the warp for the wall hanging panel. I figured out the number of warp ends I would need, sketched and refined my ikat and supplementary-weft designs, and have already started wrapping. But, every now and then, I will stop wrapping to go back and weave some more of the sample warp. I need to take breaks like these in order to stay focused. It is too easy to start getting sloppy about the wrapping if you keep at it for too long. When I start wrapping too loosely, stop measuring well, or stop being able to judge a straight line, I know that it is time for a break.

If I keep weaving the sample warp, I may even be able to turn the finished fabric into something. In that case, it will be a “four-fer”…a width sample, an ikat tape wrapping test, a silk supplementary-weft test, and a useful, or at least pretty, finished product.

wraps for new ikat project?Here is the new warp with a small part of the ikat motif wrapped. I have already had one wake-up call….clumsy handling had me breaking a warp thread right in the middle of a wrap. Luckily it happened now and not while weaving! I was able to replace the thread. It had already been enclosed in five wraps so, those had to be re-done. Can you imagine trying to replace a warp thread once the piece has already been dyed?

My kingdom for a fine-tipped charcoal pencil! I have read in a few places online about ikat pattern “masters” who mark the motif on the warp with charcoal so that a team of wrappers seated around the warp frame can correctly place the ties. Of course, the charcoal must just wash out later.

Now I walk around with static-charged pieces of ikat tape stuck to my clothing. I find it in my bed and in my food!

I have a couple of finished projects from students from my spring tour to show. Elizabeth finished her backstrap with Andean Pebble Weave motifs. It looks thick, cushy and comfortable. She used one of the variegated varieties of Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale  along with off-white in the pick-up section. I don’t think I have seen Andean Pebble Weave done yet with variegated yarn and I think it looks great!

elizabeth tahoeCheryl finished her camera strap with its Andean Pebble Weave motifs. She used the hardware from an old camera to put this together and it’s beautiful!

10561559_10204211964800394_1974920106637256794_nBack to the wrapping frame for me…tearing strips of tape, measuring and wrapping, and standing back to take it all in. While doing so I will think about what I shall make from my wee sample and what I shall weave into the red panels that will accompany the black-and-white ikat one. I have plenty to keep me focused on this one project!

See you next week.




















Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 25, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Simply Red (and Black and White)!

These are the best light conditions I could find for photographing the red-on-red pattern on the two side panels of my wall hanging.

The late, low, winter sun was wafting in through my bedroom window and I looked up from my weft twining to discover how well the light and shadow brought out the relief pattern. I have posed these pieces all over the place…on the floor, on the table, in this room and that…used natural light and flash, held the camera in my hand, and used a tripod, and was not happy with any of the results. All I got was a flat red mass.

And then, there I was, happily seated with my backstrap in place and the warp stretched out before me. The light came to me through the window and gave me the shot at last.

sunlight on red panels backstrap weavingIt was great after all this time to be able to see how the red panels looked beside the center one. The tricky part was lining the three panels up precisely and have them suspended under the same amount of tension so that I could twine across the top of all three at the same time.

I still can’t decide which face of the double weave looks better…

back of double weave panelI used the solid stepped lines and the arrow motif as part of the weft-twined pattern in much the same way as I had in the red panels…

finished weft twining on backstrap loomI need to do a bit more solid black twining to finish. That will be the part that gets clamped within the wooden hanger. Once off the loom, I will decide how to finish the ends of the twined wefts and how I will cut the fringe around those long woven tabs at the other end (see below).I need to contemplate that for a while. Once cut, that will be that, and I want to get it right!

finishing the shipibo backstrap pieceSo, it is time to move on to the next project….a clean slate and a bunch of sticks…exciting!

I bought a large cone of UKI 20/2 cotton for the next project with which I have never woven before. That means it is time to sample the yarn while I play with ideas for the ikat  in the next wall hanging. I’ve been at the sketch book creating hooky designs. Whether I am creating a design that is way beyond my limited wrapping skills, remains to be seen.

First, I need to get an idea of what kind of width I can get with X number of ends in the 20/2 cotton and so I wound a short-ish warp as a sample.

To make it more interesting, I decided that I could play a bit with the silk that I recently bought at CNCH and try a new-to-me supplementary-weft technique that is used for decorating hair sashes from Jacaltenango in Guatemala. Dr Carol Ventura has written a book about the Jacaltenango hair sashes. I have owned this book for years and once dabbled with the technique many, many years ago. As is always the case when using supplemental weft, the success of the project is very much dependent on finding the right kind of material for the supplemental weft for the weight of the ground cloth. While I understood the technique, my sample was downright ugly because my supplemental weft was too “light” for the ground cloth and there were large gaps between the rows of pattern. Then, I got distracted and wandered off in another direction.

I don’t even know where that sample is now. It was obviously not worth keeping. However, seeing a Jacaltenango hair sash that one of my students brought to class in Seattle last spring re-ignited my desire to try this technique….

jacaltenango hair sashI have made mistakes in my new sample and my count is off. I will un-weave this and start again now that I have a better feel for handling and counting these fine warp threads.  Hopefully the next attempt will be better. In the meantime,  this 20/2 white sample will give me a good idea of how many ends I will need to wind for my next wall hanging panel. I like two-fers.

backstrap sample with new cottonAnd, do I feel confident about this next ikat project? No, not at all! My experience with ikat has been quite limited but I figure that I may as well just jump in there. I do know from my own experience that the wrapping and dyeing part, although painfully slow, is relatively easy. For me, the hardest part has been keeping the warps well enough aligned while weaving so that my motif remains recognizable. Yet, I don’t want them to be so rigidly aligned that I lose the feathery outlines that make ikat so charming. This is one of my tiny attempts…

three ikat motifsHere are some narrow strips of ikat that I placed in a piece that includes supplementary-weft patterns…

strips of ikat backstrap weavingAnd finally, this experiment involved dyeing and then removing some of the wraps to dye again for a second color.

ikat book coverWay back in 1998, my weaving teacher in Candelaria, Bolivia showed me the first piece of ikat I had ever been able to handle. It was a  bedspread on which she had been working on and off for several years. This was something she was weaving for herself rather than the usual pieces that she weaves for the store in the museum in Sucre.  She was weaving with rather coarse handspun wool and her name and her husband’s had been worked in amongst the flower motifs..

stitched-ikatI’ve examined the wrapped warps, the finished cloth, and watched the weavers at work in many different places in my travels in South and Central America, trying to capture the secret of limiting the amount of  movement of the warp threads and the resulting image distortion. Below are examples from Chile, Ecuador and Peru.


ikat weaver Bulcay Ecuador

The simple backstrap loom of Tacabamba, Peru on which the indigo ikat-patterned "panones" are woven. They are up to one-meter wide, covered with tiny motifs and have patterns knotted into their fringes.

The simple backstrap loom of Tacabamba, Peru on which the indigo ikat-patterned “panones” are woven. They are up to one-meter wide, covered with tiny motifs and have patterns knotted into their fringes.

So, that is what I have been up to this last week….

Meanwhile, there has been a fair bit of red, black and white appearing online in the various places where band weavers hang out.

Cheryl Taylor took an Andean Pebble Weave class with me this last spring at Lake Tahoe and now she is already designing her own motifs and weaving more than just samples.

cheryl (3)She designed the gecko figure and I love the arrow motifs at the bottom which remind me of little boomerangs. This will be a strap for her camera. I showed you some weeks ago the sample bands that she wove in preparation for this project. Here is the completed weaving…

cheryl finished camera strap pebble weave backsrapThe center motif is charted in my second book and is a pattern that I adapted from tablet-woven band by Louise Ström.

Ann Mester created this enticing warp for backstrap weaving which could be used for complementary-warp pick-up techniques like Andean Pebble Weave, or simple warp floats, or just to create attractive horizontal bars of black and white…

ann mester fb (2)Rufio, the kitten (who would look very stylish with a red collar) was rescued from Pet Rescue of Mercer.

Susan AndersonAnd, if you are wondering about what I call “simple warp floats, the technique that I used on the red-on-red panels, Susan Anderson’s example. above, very clearly shows the single-faced nature of this pick-up technique. Susan has floated the warp threads singly. For me, this gives a more delicate yet solid look to the motifs than that which is achieved by floating pairs. The pattern is from Anne Dixon’s The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory. Susan wove this on an inkle loom and has done a beautiful job.

So, it will most likely be all about winding the warp and then finding a comfortable position and set-up for wrapping many many threads for ikat this coming week…

cropped-ikatThis was my first ever attempt, around eight years ago, I would guess. It’s wool warp…Navajo warp…wrapped with cassette tape. The wrapping and dyeing were successful…the weaving was not! This is another sample that has disappeared!…nothing to show for those hours of work except this picture and “experience”.  And I am sure that there will be much more experience to be gained and  many more lessons to be learned in this coming week.

See you next week…














Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 18, 2014

Backstrap Weaving -The Bag of Tricks

I had to dig deep into the bag of tricks this week to come up with a new idea for finshing off my latest three-panel wall hanging. Two days of experimenting with the structure that I had hoped to use for the two outer red panels finally led me to the conclusion that it just was not going to be as I had envisioned. It was time to plan again and take a look at all that I have at my disposal in my “bag of tricks”.  And there is a lot of stuff in that bag of tricks after having spent almost 18 years now studying weaving techniques and simple looms used in South America.

main panel of Shipibo inspired wall hanging backstrap loomThe main panel for the wall hanging is now finished. I can’t cut it off the loom yet to better show you the stepped effect of the woven fringe as I will need to place the two red panels, when I am done weaving them,  on this same loom and then twine across the top of all three to join them together.

It is always fun turning a finished piece over to look at the other side. I have been looking at white squiggles on black for so long now as I inched my way through this weaving. Yes, literally inched. I took note of my progress on the woven fringe part and it was pretty much an inch a day.

light sde of shipibo inspired hanging off loomThis side actually looks more like the painted Shipibo cloth that inspired this project. It is much more common to see light cloth with dark lines. But I don’t have to make any decisions here about which side to show. It needs to be the dark side in order to match the other pieces in this wall hanging series.

I want this second wall hanging to represent the weavers of the tropical lowland regions of Peru. For that reason I had chosen to use the structure that is used by people of the upper Amazon Basin to make wristlets.

shipibo-wristletsI have never been to that part of Peru and so was relying on a sample that I had been given from the work of Nora Rogers and Ann Blinks as well as notes by Cheryl Samuel in order to reproduce the structure. I bought red hemp twine for this project while in the USA. The weave is based on having twined warp threads lying next to what Samuel calls a “half basket weave”.

wristletI did succeed in reproducing the structure but the hemp twine did not give the design the relief that I had been hoping for. It was just a flat red mass at which I had to peer in just the right light in order to make out the pattern.I tried all kinds of weft and beat but I simply could not get the desired effect.  Nevertheless, I found myself sitting alone stupidly squealing with happiness as the piece started to take shape. It was a joy just to able to reproduce it but a disppointment  not to be able to use it in my hanging.

Back to the drawing board. I wanted something that would be all red but with texture and, of course, something that would represent textile techniques of the lowlands.

But, of course….simple warp floats!

shipibo pattern in simple warp floatsSome time ago I had woven the placemat, above, using a two-color simple warp float technique. I copied the pattern from a cotton bag from tropical lowland Peru that Teyacapan shows on her Flickr page. The design is one that I have also seen painted and even embroidered on Shipibo cloth.

The set of placemats I wove became a study of the use of this structure in several regions across the globe…

backstrap weaving placemats simple warp floatsAt the Encuentro de Tejedores that I attended in Cusco in 2012, I was able to observe Matsigenka backstrap weavers from Bajo Urubamba creating striking black and white pieces with their handspun cotton. The pieces were decorated with patterns that were created from simple warp floats.


Photo by Jennifer Moore

Photo by Jennifer Moore

The picture above was taken at Tinkuy 2013 in Cusco and shows a weaver from Pacaya, in tropical lowland Peru, weaving a warp float pattern with handspun cotton on a backstrap loom.

It isn’t necessary to have two colors to create patterns in this structure. If I used an all-red warp, I could create patterns of raised red-on-red….textured patterns rather than colored ones.  I also had a Mexican sash that my friend Annie MacHale had given me way back in 2010. I then remembered that weaving a single- colored piece with warp float patterns had been on my to-do list for some time. It was all coming together nicely!

???????????????????????????????The weaver of this Mexican sash has alternated a heavy warp thread (doubled threads) with fine to create a high-relief pattern in white on white.

???????????????????????????????Above, you can see my red experiments…the hemp twine wristlet structure and the red-on-red simple warp floats.

red-on-red simplewarp floatsI experimented with floating pairs and floating single threads and decided that single was the way to go. I wanted the pattern to be fairly delicate and subtle so as not to interfere with all that is going on in the main black-and-white panel. I decided to weave the solid lines of the main panel with the arrow motif in the center.

I set up both panels on the one loom in the same way that I had done for the first wall hanging. This would ensure that both came out the same way.


red on red panels on backstrap loom

arrow motif red on red panelsYou’ll have to trust me when I tell you that these panels are deep red and not the weird pinkish-red that you see here.

Now it is time to start sketching ideas for the weft-twined pattern that will go across the top of the finished three panels. I remember I had a heck of a time with the twining on the first wall hanging trying to group the warps correctly so that the twined width matched the woven width. Hopefully it won’t take as many attempts this time to get it right!

And in my spare moments I doodle and think about wall hanging number three…the ikat one. Luckily I have a giant cone of thread and a a huge roll of ikat tape (thank you Betty!). I expect there to be a few do-overs for that one! I am also hoping to use supplementary-weft to create patterns on that piece. These ideas are just sloshing around in my mind for now but I hope to base the overall design on hook motifs in positive and negative space like the ones I played with recently in silk supplementary weft on cotton…hook motif mirrored and flippedThen there will be the third series of wall hangings in which I hope to put what I learned with my ticlla (discontinuous warp) experiments to use….using wool and the red-black-and-white combo, of course!

dovetail join ticlla waddington

ticlla with supplementary weft inlayI have spent a lot of time putting that big bag of tricks together. It is nice to be able to use these experiments to create bigger things. I look way, way ahead and I get excited about all these projects as I inch my way along!

See you next week.







Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 11, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Making Way for Things to Come

airport world cup 2014If you read my Boomerang Effect blog post a few weeks ago you will know that my first attempt to get back home to Bolivia after my Sydney visit was not successful. On the second attempt the boomerang sailed over the Pacific Ocean and all the way across the USA, showing no signs of returning to its place of origin, until… it hit a palm tree in Miami and got hung up there swinging around in circles.

I can think of worse place to get stuck for a few days but when you have been away for three months all you want to do is get home! The airport was lively and colorful with large tv screens showing Wimbeldon and the FIFA World Cup. Enthusiastic crowds of all nationalities gathered around. It passed the time. Of course, it would have been a whole lot jollier if the USA hadn’t lost its football match.

I tried to be productive, sat down with my laptop, and poured out the entire Table of Contents for my third book. That felt like an enormous hurdle. Then came a list of all the pictures that need to be taken for each chapter. That done, I was all the more eager to get home and get stuck into it.

???????????????????????????????In the end, I bought a ticket on the Bolivian airline BoA (Boliviana de Aviacion) who had recently added Miami to its system and was offering very good fares, free checked bags, and some of the best Economy Class airplane food I have had in ages.

The coolest thing about BoA was the flight attendant uniform.

They each had a handwoven warp-faced cotton pick-up patterned band made by weavers from the Bolivian lowlands sewn to their pants…very cool!

I had left my brother’s place in Sydney at 9am on Monday and got to my door at 9pm Thursday (Sydney time). It was quite a trip! The jet lag was huge. I have finally reached the point where I can eat lunch without falling asleep in my plate.

The BoA uniforms with their woven bands had stirred me into a longing to be home and back at my loom.

Killing time in the souvenir and Duty Free stores in Sydney airport had already given me guilty reminders of the abandoned project on my backstrap loom at home awaiting my return….here’s one item…

aboriginal art souvenirThis Aboriginal Art souvenir reminded me of the squiggly lines in my Shipibo-inspired project which was the last thing on which I had been working before leaving home in March…

Shipibo inspired wall hanging backstrap weavingI hadn’t packed it away and had simply covered it over wth a sheet. There it lay on the floor with the various shuttles, swords and pick-up sticks that I had been using to weave this double weave with its multiple heddles. It took a me a little while to get back into the rhythm to follow the sequence in which I had been putting all those tools to use…

finishing the shipibo backstrap pieceNow I have finished the main design and am weaving a “‘fringe” of sorts. I divided the fringe into seven sections and am weaving each separately in double weave. I need seven inches of  ”fringe” to complete the panel and have just reached halfway. Each section will be a different length with the center one being the longest and the two outer ones the shortest, creating a stepped effect. Years ago, my brother had sent me a picture of a Native American piece in a London museum that had been finished this way and I have been wanting to do that myself ever since.

twining on backstrap wall hangingThe picture above shows two balls of dark red hemp twine alongside the woven panel.

I hope to create two outer panels with this twine using a structure that includes warp-twining that is used by lowland weavers in Peru to make wristlets. The outer panels will be a quiet solid dark red so as not to clash with the crazy busy-ness of the center panel. The three panels will then be joined together across the top with weft twining. There is a long way to go before I get to that point. Much sampling with the hemp twine needs to be done first.

This will be the second piece of three in the second series of red-black-and-white hangings. That’s the first piece above left.

???????????????????????????????Things to come…exciting! There are a couple of varieties of hemp twine in tis picture along with an example of the wristlet structure. You can also see the super fine bamboo reed that I bought at CNCH, now removed from its heavy frame and ready to be used on my backstrap loom. I can’t wait to try it out with some silk. The cone of white thread is the 20/2 perle cotton that I want to use for the third wallhanging…an ikat piece…and there’s some of the black dye that I’ll use for that. I am not sure if I will have time to get that started before I have to leave again but I am happy to have more time in which to ponder that one. I seem to get some of my best ideas while sitting on planes!

???????????????????????????????Then there’s the gorgeous 60/2 silk that I got at CNCH waiting to be used as supplementary weft. The large skeins of silk were given to me by my friend Susan in Sydney. It’s a heavier weight silk than the Redfish Dyeworks skeins and I am thinking of using it as the warp for a brocade project.

The project ideas go piling up. You can probably tell that I am pretty excited about being home again.

My weaving friends in Sydney remain in mind. Emerald has been sending me updates on her progress as she weaves off all the projects that we started in our two days together…

emeralds pebble weave collageThat lovely green warp is now a piece of Andean Pebble Weave patterned fabric ready to be made into a cell phone pouch. That’s my second book that she has opened on the floor. I was showing her how to read the spotted charts. That particular motif also appears in the first book.

sewing and weaving tuular band emeraldHere she is weaving and sewing a tubular edging to the pouch.

emeralds cell phone pouch and intermeshThere’s the finished pouch along with her intermesh sample band.

One of the good things about having to stay longer in Sydney than expected was that I got to visit with the Springwood group of weavers again up in the Blue Mountains at Helen Halpin’s place. What a lively and enthusiastic group of weavers! They meet once a month and there is always a lot of show-and-tell.

Yvonne, who had taken my Andean Pebble Weave class a couple of weeks earlier, brought in a band that she had since warped and woven. She had played about and created some of her own patterns. I love that! What was also interesting was that she had used bamboo thread. I have never considered using it as I had always thought that it would be too soft. Yvonne’s band felt lovely.

???????????????????????????????In the Ravelry group, Kim has been progressing with the two-color simple warp-float technique while copying as well as adapting motifs from Central Asian textiles. This piece is beautifully woven and I love the combination of colors. I am surprised at how well that green stands out from that background color….inspiration to be more adventurous with color choices.

kimberley swfKeith has formed a South American band weaving study group at the Weavers’ Guild of Minnesota. One of the members took a class with me at the Mannings last spring and it is nice that they can now study some pick-up weaving techniques together and support each other. Keith posted this picture of some of the first bands with some thoughts of what could be improved. He won me over right from the start with his color choice!

keithScott, a Facebook buddy, posted this striking double weave piece that he started some time ago and just finished…

scottSo, here I am back at home. I unpack and put away the yarn and other goodies that I have brought back on this trip. As is my policy when new things come in, old things have to go out…out went the rocking chair this time which opened up a whole lot of space! Even so, the “stick corner” in my bedroom gets increasingly crowded. I brought back a whole bunch of dowels that were being discarded and a couple of shuttles. I need sticks of all kinds of lengths for all kinds of warp widths…cross sticks, heddle rods and coil rods…shuttles and swords. I don’t weave a limited variety of traditional items as many backstrap weavers do and so, I need sticks that are suitable for a vast range of woven widths.

???????????????????????????????It’s a lot of stuff and I wouldn’t part with any of it! And that doesn’t include the 17 large dowels that I cart around for teaching!  Would you believe that there are still times when I can’t find just the right length of stick with the right girth?!

But, the equipment you use can be as complex or simple, as rustic or sophisticated as you want it to be. And it’s always nice to know how to improvise a set-up when there simply isn’t any “equipment” to be found..

???????????????????????????????Or when you just couldn’t be bothered fishing all the gear out of a packed bag…

??????????????????????????????? ….in which case a pencil will do for a front beam and a piece of string for a backstrap. The elastic bands will stop the string from sliding off the pencil.

For narrow bands, no equipment is required if you have a good set of “magic fingers and toes”!

??????????????????????Maxima tensions the warp between her index finger and big toe. Her fingers are used as cross sticks to form the picking cross and fast flying fingers and thumbs select the colored threads to form her patterns. Her hand is her sword and beater.

When sticks specifically for backstrap weaving are simply not to be found, as is often the case in the very highest parts of the Bolivian highlands, all kinds of other things can be called into play…like the spindles that Hilda is using in place of cross sticks while setting up a warp for double weave. Hilda’s large sticks and rods are saved for her horizontal ground loom.

hilda preparing backstrap warpIf I am home and have access to my collection of sticks in their handy bins at the end of my bed, I like to use them. I feel more comfortable with a wide breast beam and a backstrap…a nice wide cushy backstrap….no matter how narrow the warp.

This Mexican weaver from Santo Tomas Jalieza, Oaxaca seems to feel the same way!

Picture from Teyacapan's Flickr page

Picture from Teyacapan’s Flickr page.

So, I will never able to resist grabbing a good stick that comes within reach while I am traveling and bringing it home with me. While there are still things that can be removed from my little home to make space, there will always be room for more sticks!

Finally, I would like to thank everyone so very much  who went over to Facebook and ”liked” my nephew Ryan’s triathlete page at my request last week. Someone even posted a “Weavers for Waddington” comment. That was so cool :-) Ryan was very pleased to see all the new “likes”.  It really made a difference and he got a new sponsor last week…

1176105_696156010456849_9156188001071593550_nYep, that was THE best thing about being held back in Sydney…I got to hang out with Ryan some more.

If you didn’t get over to Facebook last week to “like’ his page, please help him out by going over now. More “likes” mean more sponsorship appeal, I am sure. I was happy to see so many familiar names there as well as some names I didn’t recognize…people who read my blog but with whom I have not yet connected…many thanks to all of you.

And a reminder to the Aussies out there, I had a few copies of Andean Pebble Weave printed while I was in Australia. If you would like to buy a copy, leave a comment here and I will email you.














Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 27, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – The Boomerang Effect

I am supposed to be in Miami airport right now awaiting my flight back to Bolivia. I have had a wonderful month in Australia and it is time to go to my home (the real home in Bolivia).

Off I went to Sydney airport yesterday to get my flight to the US. I put on a brave face after sad goodbyes to family. But here I sit today back in my brother’s Sydney home…it’s a long story!!

Orange banksia give a warm glow to the bush in mid-winter.

Orange banksia give a warm glow to the bush in mid-winter.

The Boomerang Effect! It is common in Australia when lending someone something, to hand the item over while emphasising that it is “a boomerang”. That is to say, it is expected that the item will return to its owner in the same way that a properly thrown boomerang will.

Well, I am feeling rather boomerang-ish today having bounced from home to airport and back again.

Looking on the bright side, this unexpected turn of events means that I can spend more time with my nephew as well as write a blog post today.

It also means that I can go back to the Blue Mountains tomorrow for the gathering of weavers at Helen’s place in Springwood. Yay! All her floor loom weaving friends will be there in the morning for Show and Tell and perhaps people from the Andean Pebble Weave class I gave a few weeks ago will linger for a short study session after lunch. I wasn’t expecting to see them again on his trip, yet here I am boomerang-ing back there!

I love the Blue Mountains! I got to spend even more time up there this last week exploring 4wd back roads and doing a bit of hiking through the beautiful Australian bush.

The banksias that we saw that day make me think of the little ridged baubles that I learned to make with a Guild friend the last time I was here in Sydney…


We walked to lookouts with lovely over Lake Burragorang.

blue mountains sydney

Perched on the end of that rock, I felt like I was sitting in the tree tops…

bush walking in the blue mountainsThe real winter suddenly set in and it was cold!

Last weekend it was still warm enough to take things outside for a bit of warping. I had a group over to my brother’s home for two days of Andean Pebble Weave. We enjoyed the chance to stretch our legs in the fresh air while winding some more warps for sampling and designing.

warping for backsrap weaving sydney


Kelcie gets a new band started with palin pebble weave.

Kelcie gets a new band started with plain pebble weave.

fr-kyriakos-pebble-weaveThe class comprised Kelcie and Jen, who had taken a class with me last November, Pam, whom I have known online for years and who had come over from southern New Zealand for the occasion (Sydney weather was relatively balmy for her!) and father Kyriakos who came up from the monastery in Bombala.

We covered a lot in two days as all the group members had dabbled in Andean Pebble Weave before.

Father Kyriakos, as you may know from having seen his work in previous blog posts, had more than just dabbled in Andean Pebble Weave and has been designing and weaving his own pebble weave patterns. What was he doing in this class?…you might ask. I am glad he came. We have been corresponding for some time and I really wanted to meet him as well as see his projects “in person”. He said that…While your videos have always been a big help and enabled me to do as much as I have so far, having personal demonstrations and answers to my own questions has already helped me to be more efficient and have more understanding of what this weaving is about.

Above,you can see his partly woven backstrap from a photo that he sent me some time ago. The design is one that Julia had created and father Kyriakos added his own elements to it at start and finish. He brought the finished piece along to Sydney to show along with narrower and samples and examples of his own “sotis” work of East Timor that he had studied on floor looms with Australian weaver Kay Faulkner.

???????????????????????????????Kelcie had brought examples of East Timorese weaving when we had woven together last year…

???????????????????????????????Father Kyriakos also brought a Latvian belt, woven using a supplemental-warp technique, that a friend had bought in Latvia and brought back for him. I have seen plenty of pictures of these but never one “in person”…

latvian beltJen brought in pieces that she had bought on a trip to Peru where she had studied tapestry techniques with Maximo Laura. This is a striking embroidered belt that had been made for the tourist market in Arequipa…

embroidered belt from arequipa peruI love the color ideas that these pieces give…I would never think to combine those colors!

Father Kyriakos has been working on and refining a kangaroo motif using the Andean Pebble Weave structure for some time. He also brought along his progress with that to share and I thought that it would make a nice project as a souvenir of my Australian vsit.
One of the tasks that I had set myself for this trip was to investigate the kind of cotton that is available in Sydney stores that would be suitable for warp-faced weaving on backstrap looms. I bought what is labeled as “4-ply” thread at Lincraft. I was told that the name 4-ply in Australia actually refers to the size of the thread rather than to the number of plied strands. In the USA any weight of yarn could comprise four plied strands. It’s a little confusing! I also bought 8-ply versions of this cotton thread at Spotlight and I will give report on this and other available thread in future blog posts.
So, here is the “Kyriakos Kangaroo” woven by me using the Lincraft 4-ply…


barefoot warping for backstrap weavingFather Kyriakos says that he still has some refinements in mind. I played around a bit with the mountains under the kangaroo. They made me think of the southern highlands…the “Australian Alps”…where I had lived and worked for many years.Kangaroos could be spotted now and then on the drive up to the ski fields.

The Lincraft thread is not mercerized but is fairly tightly twisted. It will pill if the heddles are wrenched about and needs to be handled with care. I really like the way it feels. Lincraft has a pretty good range of colors on its shelves.

I set this band up in a very “barefoot” manner.I had already packed all my backstrap weaving gear away and did not feel like fishing out my warping stakes and loom bars.

I warped around my index finger and big toe as my Bolivan weaving teacher, Maxima, does. This is probably the widest thing I have warped this way and, as the threads piled up around my finger, I figured that I was bound to have some tension issues. As it turns out, I didn’t!

When it came time to weave,  you can see, I only got out my sword and used pencils for cross sticks and loom bars. A piece of string is my backstrap. The front beam is a pen onto which I attached rubber bands so that the “backstrap” would not slip off. It was pretty comfortable!

Normally, I would use heddles spread along a stick for a piece of this width but I chose to just tie them in a bunch rather than to search for more pencils.

barefoot backstrap weavingSomeone else who is getting into barefoot weaving is my student, Emerald. You may remember that I stayed with Emerald in her home in Ultimo a couple of weeks ago and gave her some lessons. One of the things I taught her was the intermesh technique and, although she has a nice set up for backstrap weaving in her living room, she decided to try to include her entire body in the loom…

emerald backstrap weavingThere are chopsticks and a pencil in her set-up. She also finished off a short and narrow pebble weave band barefoot. This was an exercise in weaving without a chart.

emerald (2)In the meantime, in other parts of the world, Diane, one of the ladies who wove with me after my demonstration at Yale university, was inspired enought to apply for a grant to go and weave in Guatemala during her summer break. My friend Barbara, who is in contact with her, sent me this picture of something Diane wove with her Guatemalan teachers…

diane yale guatemalan weavingCheryl, who took a Basics and Andean Pebble Weave class with me last spring in the USA, is sampling for a camera strap project…
cheryl pebble weave backstrap

I had a lot of people asking about my books here in Australia and could only carry six copies of each with me from the US. After selling out of the first book in the first workshop here, I decided to take the plunge and have some copies printed in Australia. So, if anyone one in Oz has been wanting a printed copy but has been put off by the cost of shipping from the US, please conact me by leaving a comment here and I can arrange to have one sent to you.

Andean Pebble Weave Australia

And now… a wee favor to ask of all of you. You may have noticed that I have sometimes mentioned my nephew here in past blog posts and the fact that he is a triathlete. I am staying with him now in Sydney and get to watch his rigorous training schedule. He is up and out and swimming laps or biking and then getting home before I can even get out of bed.

During the Ravellenic Games that ran alongside the Winter Olympics this year, I wove one of his favorite inspirational sports quotes into a silk bookmark for him..

??????????????????????I guess that I haven’t had much of a chance to be a big part of his life. After seeing him a few times in his very early months and years, I headed off to live in South America. I returned for a visit when he was 3 during which I watched Jurassic Park with him and he offered to sit by me in case I got scared. I didn’t see him again until he was 12. He wrote to me when he was 8 to ask me if I lived in a hut in the jungle. Fortunately, I visited Australia more often when he was in his teens and the internet kept us in good touch. He taught me to juggle and we did a great trip,  just the two of us, to Ayers Rock in 2006.

1531560_610507969021654_2085106992_nNow he is a traithlete studying to be a teacher (like me!) and will be representing Australia in the ITU World Championships in Weihai, China in September. He took part in ITU World Championships in the USA and Spain winning the silver medal in his age group in both. It was quite a blow when he was injured for the championships in France last year. So…he is going for gold this time…his last amateur event before turning pro.

His trip to China, as with all the other trips to the World Championships, must be self- funded and he is looking for sponsors. What I would ask you to do for me, as a big favor, please…. is simply to go over to Facebook and “like” his page. More “likes” will show potential sponsors  that he has the loyalty of a good-sized audience and could make all the difference.

I haven’t told him I am doing this and would love to surprise him with a small boost to his fan page tomorrow. I hope that you can take a moment to help out.


And now to see if I can make it on a flight out soon….wish me luck!

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 17, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Vivid!

VIVID is the name of an annual festival of lights, music and entertainment that took place in Sydney at the end of May just in time for my visit. Colorful images are projected onto buildings and landmarks around Sydney harbour and the city center. My brother captured some of them with his camera when we went together to the festival one night….

The white sails of the famous Sydney Opera House were transformed to an amazing  piece of crystal glowing in the dark…

vivid w waddington 3

And then adorned with butterflies…

vivid w waddington

I don’t know how to describe this next one!

vivid w waddington 1Other buildings along the waterfront were also used as giant screens onto which fantastic slithering images were projected…

vivid w waddington 2I have been enjoying a variety of landscapes and weather here in Sydney from the city tothe country. I had a day out in the pretty rolling hills just west of Sydney…

???????????????????????????????And a hike in the bush. It was tshirt weather in the middle of winter…

???????????????????????????????I got rugged up on a cooler day for a trip to the city, the waterfront and Chinatown with my weaving friend, Emerald…

chinatown crop

???????????????????????????????Emerald and her family are from Burma and they invited me to come and stay with them in Sydney’s inner city for a couple of days of weaving. I had forgotten how exciting it is being there right in the heart of all that inner city action. Emerald has distant memories of having taken some weaving lessons in her younger days in Burma. Now she wants to learn more about the backstrap loom and the weaving culture of her homeland.

She showed me her beautiful collection of longyi, the long pieces of fabric that are worn by both men and women in Myanmar. They are wrapped about the lower half of the body. Some of these pieces were woven on floor looms but there are still backstrap weavers to be found in certain parts of the country.

The Wikipedia page on the longyi includes this saying…

Men who cannot read are like the blind; women who cannot weave are like the cripple

—an old Burmese saying at a time when every household had a handloom and the womenfolk wove all the longyis for the family.



VIVID colors against black….

emerald longyiWe warped and set up her backstrap loom for an Andean Pebble Weave project. Emerald has placed hooks into the wall of her home and has created a very nice backstrap weaving space.


???????????????????????????????I feel as happy as she looks here when I am seated in front of a fresh warp! Now it is time to get down to work and pick up the pebble sheds and create the string heddles….

???????????????????????????????A lovely green warp for a lady named Emerald. I showed her how to operate the two sets of heddles on this wide warp and now she is all set up to weave a cell phone pouch and whatever else she may be able to squeeze out of this warp. Emerald first contacted me via this blog. You may have read her enthusiastic comments here. Then we became friends on Facebook. I wasn’t able to meet with her when I visited Australia last year but it worked out this time and we had two fun days together.

??????????????????????Emerald showed me the book that she recently bought on Sazigyo ,by Ralph Isaacs. Sazigyo are very fine tablet-woven bands from Burma which were used to wrap palm leaf manuscripts. The book comes with its own silk tablet-woven book mark.

Images and lines of text are woven into the tapes themselves. This Facebook page contains many images of these woven tapes.

Emerald is very excited about learning about these and now wants to study tablet weaving so that she can also create bands of woven text in her native language.

It was a very educational experience being with Emerald! She also told me about Inle Lake in Burma where yarn is spun from lotus stems and woven into cloth.

Julie Hall has written a very interesting  and image-packed blog post about her visit to Inle Lake and I appreciate her having given me permission to use some of her images here…

Textile weavings made from lotus and silk, a specialty of Inle Lake, by Koh Than Laing

Lotus flower on Inle Lake…image by Julie Hall used with her permission.


Pulling apart a group of cut lotus stems to extract fiber for spinning…image by Juile Hall used with her permission.

The following video from this page shows a small part of the process…

My weaving friend, Wendy Garrity, has also written about a visit to Inle Lake and includes images and video on her blog.

Meanwhile, back at my brother’s place, vivid colors are all around with evening visits by flocks of lorikeets to the backyard accompanied by the screeches of the sulphur crested cockatoos and laughter of the kookaburras at dusk…

??????????????????????I met with weavers up in Springwood in the Blue Mountains in a lovely bushland setting for a weekend of backstrap weaving in the home of Helen Halpin, editor of the Weavers Forum newsletter. Last weekend I taught Andean Pebble Weave at Virginia Farm Woolworksa pretty homestead on the suburban outskirts in front of fields of grazing sheep.

Part of theVirginia Farm group getting serious about pebble weave!

Part of theVirginia Farm group getting very serious about pebble weave!

The second day was cold, blustery and very wintry. We could hear owners Jenny and Phil’s flock of sheep bleating outside but little did we know that two little black lambs were being born as we wove away warm and cosy indoors..

???????????????????????????????The ladies who wove with me at Virginia Farm are part of a group whose name forms the fun acronym “EWES”. It stands for Epping Weavers Embroiderers and Spinners. It really seems like an extremely dynamic group. Sydney folk who read my blog might want to join. Here’s Brenda wearing a handknit sweater and her inkle woven EWES lanyard…

???????????????????????????????Images of warmth and vivid colors have been arriving in my inbox from the other side of the world. Snuggled up under a blanket with a miniature poodle snoozing on my lap, I look at  my friend Janet’s sister’s grandkids learning backstrap weaving in bikinis in summery USA. One of Janet’s own backstrap woven guitar straps, made from her own handspun, lies on the ground between the girls providing plenty of inspiration.

janets sister grandkids

larisa (1)Larisa, who is Russian but now lives in the UK, sent me a picture of a fabulous stole that she wove on a backstrap loom…such vivid colors and wonderful pick-up work!…

The image she sent me is of a  low resolution and I hope she sends me a larger one soon so that we can all better appreciate the detailed pick-up in this beautiful piece of work.

Students who wove with me on my recent US visit have been busy weaving in their summer months.

They are happy to be able to enjoy the portability of the backstrap loom which enables them to easily weave outdoors or even in the front seat of the car!





10366148_10203782422742111_554034780892193392_nCheryl has a ”loom with a view” at her lake house. She is weaving pebble weave “hugs and kisses”.

I don’t know where Elizabeth from the Lake Tahoe group was going but she took her loom on the road anchoring the warp in the glove compartment of the car…

elizabethAnne, from my Santa Cruz group of weavers…

santa cruz backstrap weavers…has been working on her Andean Pebble Weave. She had taken on the “fine thread” challenge at our recent workshop and is making great progress…

10350538_10201018377261098_4865296949662558862_nCharlotte, from the Austin Texas group, launched herself into a new band challenging herself to some mental gymnastics handling the color changes in the three columns of motifs. This is the same motif that appears on yurt bands of Central Asia. In Central Asia it is woven using a single-faced structure. Charlotte is using a complementary-warp structure which was the topic of our workshop. This means that her band is double-faced.

charlotteJulia found a good use for a pebble weave band that she had created over a year ago. She made a bag for her sister’s flute. As is always the way with Julia’s work, it has been woven and put together beautifully.

julia flute bagJanet, who took my class in Sacramento in spring 2013, has become an active member of the Ravelry group and has been sharing her latest experiments with supplemetary-weft patterning. I do remember that the Sacramento group had really taken to this technique and had even gone home and done homework on the first night!

janet supplementary weftSheila is a new member of the group and bought a Gilmore Wave loom for her studies of Andean Pebble Weave. She is working on adding extra string heddles to this two-shaft loom so that she can weave the structure as a semi loom-controlled one as I was taught to in Peru. It is much easier to operate the two sets of string heddles using a backstrap loom which enables you to freely and easily adjust tension on the warp with spontaneous body movements. Sheila is working with a ”fixed tension” loom which means that she needs to apply other strategies to achieve consistently clean sheds with her string heddles. It looks like she is succeeding!

gilmore wave loom set up for andean pebble weaveAbove, you can see the two sets of string heddles which Sheila is using along with the loom’s own two shafts. She has unrolled her weaving for the picture. When she is weaving, the two sets of string heddles are positioned further away from the shafts than they are in this picture.

sheilaSheila is weaving one of the knotwork designs that I have charted in my second book. The Andean Pebble Weave  structure can be used for motifs not found in the Andes. Basically, any pattern that comprises diagonal lines can be adapted to this technique. A part of my second book is devoted to this idea and I show how motifs from various non-Andean cultures can be adapted to the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

I will leave you for now with some more VIVID colors…images of some very exotic neck pieces that I recently saw on Facebook. These have been created via a collaboration of three Peruvian textile artists, one of whom is tapestry weaver Maximo Laura. VIVID! You will probably recognize  his contribution if you are at all familiar with his work. My backstrap weaving student and friend, Dorothy, is going to study tapestry weaving with him in Peru soon! According to the Facebook post, these artworks will be sold via the Puchka Peru website.


1798714_774635892548571_4144007971210964607_nMy visit to Australia continues….I have a group coming over to my brother’s place this week to weave and then I will head back to Bolivia shortly thereafter as my brother and wife will be taking off to Ayers Rock on their motorbike. Maybe I will squeeze in one more blog post before I leave….











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