Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 8, 2014

Backstrap Weaving -Someone to Watch Over Me

saguaro cactusClearly, I am not in Massachusetts anymore!

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, it is not uncommon to find a majestic Saguaro cactus,  a silent Sonoran sentry, standing in a suburban yard. You look around and there they are, watching over you.

The sky looks a little threatening in that picture and the following day we did indeed experience a tremendous downpour at what is the very tail-end of the monsoon season. A seasonal change of wind direction brings moisture and storms to this normally dry part of the USA.

temperature in phoenixWe happily wove away on our backstrap looms indoors while fierce winds and rains lashed at the windows and cut power in many places across the city. However, October 1st marks the end of the monsoon season and not a drop of moisture has been seen since that first day of weaving.

People who left Arizona to escape the summer heat return to enjoy the mild winter. Flocks of Canadian geese dot some roadsides. They haven’t just arrived to escape the coming Canadian winter. They have been here all year round having decided, apparently, that this is a pretty good place to live.

Certainly this is not like any Fall teaching trip I have experienced so far…shorts and tshirts by day with refreshing swims in the late afternoons, watching the setting sun turn the sky from orange to pink to a deep dark velvety blue.

??????????????????????The Southwest is where I really got started in weaving. A planned hiking and climbing trip in 1995 ended with me on crutches learning Navajo-style weaving instead. It is lovely to be back here.

And, if you start to tire of seeing buildings in dozens of shades of beige and terracotta (I haven’t yet!) and you are longing to see other colors, they are never far away in the cactus flowers and textiles as well as in the modern and traditional pieces of Native American art at the Heard Museum.

??????????????????????????????? The walls of my host Virginia’s home are lined with beautiful Navajo rugs. It was a happy greeting walking down that hall to my guest bedroom. Shelves and niches hold colorful Hopi Katsina dolls.

katsina dollThat’s Virginia’s home. Then, she took me to the Heard Museum…

Juggling Chakras, 2006, oil on panel by Margarete Bagshaw of the Santa Clara Pueblo

Juggling Chakras, 2006, oil on panel by Margarete Bagshaw of the Santa Clara Pueblo at the Heard Museum.

A gimpse of painting, pottery and textiles at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

A glimpse of painting, pottery and textiles at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Don’t be surprised if you think you recognize some faces in the painting by David P. Bradley a Chippewa artist. His acrylic on canvas piece was made to celebrate the Heard’s 50th annual Indian Fair and Market. In Bradley’s words, it pays homage to “some of the masters of Indian art who have contributed to the Indian and world art community. Their work still lives on and inspires all those who work in the arts.”

We created a cascade of color at Virginia’s place using the collection of bands that Sara brought to show from her travels in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Ecuador…

???????????????????????????????I really appreciated her also bringing a small loom that she had bought in Colombia. I know so little about the textiles and looms of that country.

???????????????????????????????And there was also this woven piece from Colombia, which is one of the most beautiful and finest pieces of wool four-selvedge work that I have been able to handle and examine…

???????????????????????????????Virginia added her own splash of color by using a bright and beautiful woven belt with Andean Pebble Weave designs bought on Taquile Island in Peru as her backstrap during the class…


And, while we surrounded ourselves with all this beauty indoors, in the outside world we had this all around us!………

At high noon……

??????????????????????And at sundown…

???????????????????????????????There are always those silent sentries watching over you.

Back at Virginia’s house, where I wove with the first backstrap weaving group, I had Isabela’s eyes following me around the room… watching, watching… as I set up for the class….

shipibo potVirginia bought this enormous Shipibo pot at an auction in the US. Its previous owner had named the piece Isabela. You can see all the marvelous lines that are typically used in Shipibo work. You may remember that they inspired one of my wall hangings.The lines on this piece are squared off rather than being entirely curvy.

???????????????????????????????It soon became clear that no matter where I stood, to the left, to the right, above or below, Isabela was going to be watching over me!

???????????????????????????????A smaller and less decorated Shipibo pot sits to the right.

Now, in the second week of my visit to Arizona, I am staying with my new host, Collyer. Her husband, Steve, is a volunteer docente at the botanical gardens and I enjoyed a morning tour with them before the noon sun drove us indoors. The magnificent gardens have examples from North, Central and South America.

cactus plants at the botanical gardenThere were stops to rehydrate with prickly pear iced tea and cool off in the shade as the sun got higher.

Collyer and Laverne at the botanical gardensIt turns out that Collyer was at Braids 2012 in Manchester where I had taught. We didn’t run into each other there which shows just how busy and absorbed we all were! She is an avid braider and also went to the previous conference in Kyoto. No doubt she will be at Braids 2016 in Seattle/Tacoma and I hope that I will get to go too. Braiders, keep your eyes open for news about this fabulous conference. There is a Facebook page where you can find the latest news.

scorpion under black lightNow, here’s a wee bit of creepy trivia from the “land of scorpions”.

One of the more common kinds of scorpions that live in this part of Arizona are a reddish-brown color. I was told by Steve that if you shine black light on them, they will glow pale blue. Shining a special black-light flashlight under the bed at night might reveal glowing pale blue bodies and beady blue eyes watching you.

Then, you would have to spend the evening trying to remove them…at least I would…I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully knowing that scorpions were under the bed and so, I was never tempted to use the flashlight. What I don’t know won’t hurt me, right? I did however, carefully scan the walls and ceiling. I didn’t want any scorpions watching over me. And I also looked very carefully before placing my feet on the floor first thing in the morning.

bckstrap weaving group ArizonaAfter a few days of scorpion talk and not a single scorpion appearance, I became quite brave and taught one day of class with bare feet.

I even stupidly stood with bare feet in the back patio to take the group photo, above,…(As an aside, I am thrilled to tell you that one of my group members was born 87 years ago. I came to the conclusion a while ago, and Iris certainly bears this out, that continuing to learn things with passion is what keeps you young.)

That very evening, a very lively reddish-brown scorpion scuttled across the living room carpet. You saw it, in the earlier picture, glowing prettily under the black light before being escorted out!

In my Cyber Universe, I have been hearing from students and contacts around the world as they start out and progress with their backstrap weaving…

From the USA, David Kent sent me pictures of his set-up for weaving a backstrap. You can see his warping, heddle making and weaving in progress…

david kent

Emerald, in Australia, is making bookmarks and is trying out a new technique…weaving reversed Andean Pebble Weave motifs while swapping colors. The little animal motif is charted in my second book.

emerald bookmarkXimena, in Chile, is also working on bookmarks. She calls the bird figure from my first book a condor (it is adpated from a piece I got on Taquile Island, Peru where the weavers called  it picaflor, or hummingbird).  It’s in the eye of the beholder, right?

Cóndor ximena pebble weaveXimena’s work shows how pretty ”plain” pebble weave is, too. Not all bands need to be covered with pick-up motifs.

In Canada, llunallama is weaving Andean Pebble Weave on a four-shaft loom. The motif is one she adapted from a pre-Colombian pattern and is adorable! Turn your head sideways and you will see the little viscacha figure in blue. She warped six yards and will be able to make many bookmarks with that.

llunallama bookmarks

It is fun to think of backstrap weavers with fingers flying and sticks clacking in various parts of the world and how we can come together via the internet. I am happy to have been able to work with Emerald in person and, who knows, I may get to meet David, Ximena and llunallama one of these days too. I like how people feel that perhaps they have someone to watch over them as they get started in backstrap weaving by communicating with other weavers in online forums. I often find myself online after a day of teaching aswering questions by email and giving backstrap weaving advice, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish.

And it’s heart-warming to know how many people here in the US are watching over me too….people who are willing to open their homes to me and offer a place to stay even if they won’t actually be weaving with me on this trip…people who write and check up on me when I miss a blog post :-)

I went to one local guild meeting last Saturday and get to go to another tomorrow night where Navajo weaver Gilbert Begay will be speaking. I am excited about that. I don’t often get to go to meetings where I am not the featured speaker.

I am hoping to see the full moon rise this evening (although, clouds have moved in and it isn’t looking too promising) and I might even drag myself out to see the total lunar eclipse in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

See you all next time and remember, if you would like to buy a printed copy of my second book while I am here in the US and have copies available, leave me a comment here and I will email you with details.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 25, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Travelers

TRAVELERS…..Postcards from the road….a few thoughts, discoveries, news items, and observations as I weave my way here and there across the USA…


Before I could even leave Bolivia. my eye was caught by a splash of color as I hurried through the Duty Free Shopping Zone in Santa Cruz airport. There I spotted a pile of colorful fabric wedged between the perfume and cosmetics with a very familiar pattern…

???????????????????????????????It’s an acrylic piece of cloth in lively colors with stripes and bands of two classic weaving patterns of the community of Chinchero in Peru. Anyone who has had anything to do with the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) will immediately recognize these patterns as they appear on hundreds of articles such as purses, bags, and table runners that are offered for sale there. The CTTC textiles have been woven with handspun naturally dyed wool and alpaca yarn. I have no idea where this small acrylic piece was made. There is nothing to say that it originated in Chinchero, let alone Peru. It is edged and backed with synthetic material and has been designed to be used as a book cover. It has been very nicely put together. A friend of mine commented that, for all we know, it could have been made in China!

This image of the loraypo motif painted on a wall in Chcero is from the webpage

This image of the loraypo motif painted on a wall in Chinchero is from the webpage

???????????????????????????????The most surprising thing about it for me is the small “Bolivia” label in the colors of the national flag that has been sewn diagonally across one corner. I suppose these pieces will show up in all the souvenir and duty free stores in airports across the region…Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador… with a label representing the flag and name of each country. It is an example of patterns that have become “travelers”, having left their home in the high Peruvian Andes and wandered, as in this case, to appear with a different identity in such places as a Duty Free store in tropical lowland Bolivia.

From these eastern lowland extremes, to the highlands of Ecuador in the west, the loraypo and jikaku sisan motifs (the spelling of these Quechua words seems to vary) appear in the work of other indigenous weavers.

On my very first visit to Otavalo region in Ecuador, I saw the jikaku sisan pattern in pieces that had been woven in Ecuador by Miguel Andrango, fell in love with it, but had no idea about Peruvian origin of the pattern at that time.

Migue Andrango's garnddaughter sits alongside one of the pieces in progress in his workshop in Peguche, Ecuador.

Miguel Andrango’s granddaughter sits alongside one of the pieces in progress in his workshop in Peguche, Ecuador.

Lynn A Meisch writes in her book Andean Entrepreneurs: Otavalo Merchants and Musicians in the Global Arena (excerpts may be read online)….

A band woven by Ecudorian weaver Jose Cotocachi from the webpage

A band woven with the loraypo pattern by Ecudorian weaver Jose Cotocachi from the webpage

When Peace Corps volunteer Dennis Penley took his weaving teacher Miguel Andrango of Agato to Peru in 1973, they were harrassed by Ecuadorian and Peruvian police and border guards, who were outraged that a gringo and an “indio” were traveling together. Dennis and Miguel were hauled off buses for passport checks and questioning and subjected to considerable verbal abuse. The Peru trip was still positive for Miguel. Indigenas in Chinchero, Peru, taught him their weaving techiques, which Miguel taught to other weavers in Agato and incorporated into his textiles.

In the following picture of Miguel Andrango at work, from the web page of Isabella Whitworth (, it seems that Mr Andrango uses a different technique for picking up the patterns to that used by Chinchero weavers I have seen at work. It looks like he first opens the shed of light warps and selects warps for forming the pattern. He saves them on a stick while he then opens the  shed with the dark threads and does the same.


While on the theme of “travelers”… motifs which have left their place of origin…, I will tell you about one of my Bolivian weaving teachers, Maxima, who has been to both the Tinkuy events organized by Chinchero weaver Nilda Callañaupa and the CTTC in Peru. At the first one in 2010, which I also attended, she took the natural dyes workshop.

At the second one last year, she learned to weave four Chinchero motifs in one of the workshops and was able to add these to her own repertoire of patterns. Maxima also demonstrated weaving at the Tinkuy on the leaning looms that are typical of her home of Independencia, Bolivia.

maxtinkuyWhile some of the motifs woven in Chinchero are also used in Bolivian textiles (the mayo kenko pattern, for example, is used by Maxima in her home in central Bolivia where she knows it by the name linquito), many are unique to Chinchero.

It will be interesting to see how Maxima chooses to use the new patterns and how they will spread within her community. Cooperatives are being formed and they are competitive. Weavers are always looking for new designs and techniques so that they can have the edge over their competitors by offering something new.

Speaking of Maxima and the weavers and spinners of Independencia, here’s a piece of news:

A group of twenty-five spinners comprising Maxima and her peers with the team name of Warmis Phuskadoras will be entering the 2014 Spinzilla event in October. I don’t know a whole lot about Spinzilla and what it entails but it has been running very successfully for a few years now and this is the first year in which international entrants have been permitted. Thanks to sponsorship from Thrums and Clothroads, the ladies were able to pay the entry fee and register their team to join 1400 other entrants. Read Dorinda Dutcher’s blog post on her PAZA webpage about preparations and post-contest excitement in the mountains of central Bolivia.

Warmis Phuskadoras planning meeting. Dorinda reads in Spanish while Maxima translates to Quechua.

Warmis Phuskadoras planning meeting. Dorinda reads in Spanish while Maxima translates to Quechua.

Another news item of a more personal nature involves my nephew, Ryan, and his bid for gold representing Australia in the World ITU Long Distance Triathlon Championships in Weihai, China. Some weeks ago I asked for your support by “liking” Ryan’s Facebook page. We were both quite overwhelmed by the response. It was wonderful!!

The race was run last Sunday and Ryan fulfilled his dream by winning not only his age group, but the entire amateur category outright and becoming the World Amateur Champion. Here he is bringing the Australian flag to the finish line on the final stretch…

10710872_734796429926140_4057429826783732329_nAnd here on the podium…gold medal winner! I love that hat. He bought it when he was only 15 on a trip he and I took together to Ayers Rock. Who knew back then that it would travel to China with him and appear on the podium?!

10698425_734796546592795_8995245831394791285_nRyan wrote a blog post about the race which really captured all the agony and excitement. In it he took a moment to thank all of you for your support…

Finally I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me, my sponsors, family, friends as well as the weaving community who are associated with my aunt and really supported both her and myself by taking an interest in something and someone so foreign.

He can always do with more support in the form of page “likes” to attract sponsors so, if you haven’t already done so, please “like” his page. Now, I really must get my act together and make the silk bookmark I promised him. The prototype is below…”The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of failure”… one of Ryan’s favorite inspirational quotes.

silk bookmark backstrap weavingWhile I don’t get to do much weaving of my own while on the road, the backstrap sticks have been clacking away in the homes of my online weaving friends. Lausanne wove a band in wool using one of the knotwork patterns that I have charted in my second book for the Andean Pebble Weave structure. Lausanne plays the fiddle and is using this band a a sheath for her bow…

10646717_10203926105224941_7621398630356267098_nOlive and Oaks finished her backstrap and her project reminds me how extremely satisfying producing good plain weave can be…

OliveandOaksAnother plain-weave piece by Gwen is underway and will be made into a bag for her loom. The second panel will match this one and will also have supplementary-weft patterns in yellow…

gwen bagJulia has been pushing her skills with the classic Andean hook even further with her latest piece..


Alittle piece of Tibet in western Massachusetts. Liz's landlaord Sonam is a master stone mason.

A little piece of Tibet in western Massachusetts. Liz’s landlord Sonam is a master stone mason.

Since I last wrote a blog post, I have traveled from the tropics of lowland Bolivia to Massachusetts where the first nip of cooler fall weather was in the air. Hints of red were already showing against the greenery and I spent the fall equinox weaving with a group at Liz Sorenson’s lovely yarn store, Sheep and Shawl in South Deerfield.

Over my four days there I made new weaver friends and also connected with several ladies who had taken my classes before. We created Andean hooks and tubular bands.

Liz has moved into a new space in the little Tibetan Village since my last visit and has an even  larger and more inviting separate workshop space now.

While we wove, the sister of her Tibetan landlord, dressed in traditional clothing, would be walking about outside. She doesn’t speak English and I was so hoping that somehow she would catch a glimpse of what we were doing and come and sit with us. Apparently, she walked in on one of Liz’s spinning workshops one day and sat down happily to spin.


And now I have traveled over to Arizona and I can’t imagine a more different environment! I am looking forward to a visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix tomorrow to see their famous collection of Native American textiles.

globe aAnd so, I will leave you with something in keeping with this week’s “travelers” theme. This is an image I made via a fun website which allows you to paste your pictures on a globe.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 12, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Bookmarked

I am in that odd sort of limbo time just before I leave on my trip to the US. There’s not enough time to really get my teeth into a new project, yet too much time to sit about idle. I finished the two red panels that will accompany my black and white ikat piece and couldn’t resist mounting all three panels on beams to see how they look together.

???????????????????????????????You should just be able to make out the red-on-red warp floats in the panel on the right. The pattern resembles the stepped pyramids and stepped diamond in the center of the ikat motif.

A bevy of backstrapped bookmarks

A bevy of backstrapped bookmarks

So, between packing, cleaning and tidying up, I roam the internet taking advantage of the fact that I paid for a whole month of internet and can use my entire monthly allotment of megabytes in half the amount of time that I would normally have. I look at sites and videos and bookmark the pages which give me inspiration and ideas for future projects.

And, because I really cannot stay away from the loom, I have been weaving some small gift projects. You will guess what from the title of this post…bookmarks.

Bookmarks are fun fast projects. If you have a way of creating really short warps, they provide a nice way to use up small odds and ends of yarn. I had some DMC thread left over from my Shipibo-inspired wall hanging and so, I wound a short warp and decorated the bands with silk supplementary weft.


Warping for short bands with a board and nails in Huancayo.

Warping for short bands with a board and nails in Huancayo, Peru.

I had some clear plastic sleeves that had been included in a weaving conference goody bag and slipped my woven bookmarks inside. White bookmarks, afterall, wouldn’t stay clean and white for long and could use some protection…

???????????????????????????????At first I thought that the plastic might look tacky but I am actually quite happy with the finished result. The plastic sleeves have a hole punched in the top through which I could thread a pretty blue braid. Now I want to get more of those sleeves into which I can place the Guatemalan pattern bands that I made ages ago. You can also see in the above picture the silk bookmark in double weave that I made for my nephew. This has become a sample as I want to redo it with the phrase all in one line rather than split into three.

In years past, when I made long trips through Bolivia and Peru, I would take along bookmarks that I had woven to give to fellow travelers and to people who had been kind and helpful. They were a big hit and people wanted them even if they didn’t intend to use them to mark the pages in a book.

yanque ladies with bookmarksThese ladies and the little fellow are members of the family of my sling braiding teacher in Peru. That little guy holding his bookmark must be a young man in his late teens by now I would imagine. I wonder what became of his little woven bookmark.

I would like to get back into the habit of having a collection of bookmarks on hand when I travel to give away. I think I should set myself the goal of weaving two a week . These will make nice on-the-road weaving projects.

I have all kinds of sample bands lying about here at home that would make decent bookmarks…ikat experiements, supplementary-warp bands, double-weave pieces as well as complementary-warp samples made with sewing thread. I still have the good ol’ llama band. That little llama motif appears on some double-weave belts that are sold in the central highlamds here in Bolivia. I adapted and embellished it for my bookmark.

???????????????????????????????Wider experiemental bands or those that are too thick to make practical bookmarks can be folded and made into coin purses…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the many reasons I like using double weave is because it allowsme to easily weave letters, words and phrases. One of Weavolution’s founders asked me to weave the following bookmarks as gifts to celebrate the site’s first year online…

??????????????????????Andean Pebble Weave can be cleverly used to create letters as well although not with as much flexibility as double weave. Father Kyriakos just sent me a picture of his latest rendition of what I have named the Kyriakos Kangaroo. He has modified the motif and woven it into a bookmark along with the name of its new owner…Ilya.

kyriakos roo  cropHe’s also using a pebble weave backstrap, the design for which was created by Julia.

Starting with a fringe.

Starting with a fringe.

Father Kyriakos has chosen to have fringe at both ends of his bookmark.

My latest bookmarks in their plastic sleeves also had fringed ends but I didn’t like the way the fringes lookedwithin the plastic sleeves.

I cut the fringes right off and painted the edges of the fabric with diluted white glue. I was then able to turn the edges over. The glue-soaked cloth was stiff and it was like folding paper. It gave a nice crisp, neat crease.

Other times, I have chosen to start the bookmark with a selvedge.

I place a fine metal rod…as fine as a “0000” size knitting needle for fine thread…within the warp and lash that to my loom bar. This enables me to start weaving right at the very start of the warp.

Later when I remove the needle, I can fill the gap that it leaves by threading the tail of the first weft shot onto a needle and feeding it into the gap. Weavers in South America, of course, do not use any kind of metal rod…that is just one of my own quirky things.

Using a fine knitting needle at the start of the band and finishing by passing the weft tail on a tapestry needle to fill the gap.

Using a fine knitting needle at the start of the band and finishing by passing the weft tail on a tapestry needle to fill the gap.

As for finishing the other end of the bands, I usually choose to braid the ends. A four-strand round braid is my favorite. This secures the last weft shot. If I want fringe, I hand sew across the woven end making sure that I catch the last weft. Hand stitches can be pulled and embedded so that they are virtually invisible.

Another way to finish with fringe and secure the woven edge is best shown in pictures…

finishing the band step 1I have just passed the weft for the second last time. It has been passed through the shed from left to right. I have placed a tapestry needle within the shed.

???????????????????????????????I have opened the next shed, beaten, and passed the weft from right to left. This is the final weft shot.

finishing step 3Now I need to secure the weft. I have threaded the needle with the weft and will pull it through the shed. I take it about three-quarters of the way across and then pull it out of the back of the band. The tail can then be cut.

finishing step 4I have beaten well again in the last open shed so that you can’t tell that there are two shots of weft together in the second last shed. You will see the odd weft turn on the left hand side where the weft has traveled “backwards” into the shed on the tapestry needle. If my weft color matched the border, as it normally does, you would not notice this at all. For this demo, I have chosen a contrast color for the weft. To finish, I like to open one more shed and beat just to enclose that final weft shot within its shed.

I’ll copy this little tutorial to a new FAQ page.

So, I have just under a week to weave some more bookmarks. I have lots of fine thread and will weave them with all kinds of structures. Having them in the plastic sleeves will be a nice way to showcase the different structures  I have studied in South America and Guatemala. I am looking forward to trying some of the fine Guatemalan naturally -dyed cotton that I got at ANWG last year.

More adventures book cover dszThis will most likely be the last post before I hit the road. I will try to write short postcard-y  posts as I go and not let things accumulate too much.

I’ll have printed copies of my second book available while I am in the US. Leave a comment here, if you would like one, and I will email you the details.

See you again soon…






Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 5, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Sheds, Sticks, and Simplicity


The simplest form of set-up on a backstrap loom is one that is based on the basic warp cross and which enables the weaver to create two sheds.warping in Salasaca Yarn is wound around stakes in a figure-eight path. Two beams/sticks/ rods are placed within the warp to replace the warping stakes. One beam is attached to a fixed object which could be a tree, a railing, a heavy piece of furntiture or a stake driven into the ground. The other end is attached to the weaver’s body by way of a strap that passes around the weaver’s hips. Heddles are applied to the warp ends on one side of the cross to enable the weaver to lift one half of the warp threads and create a shed. A stick, which I call the shed rod, is placed to allow the weaver access to the other half of the warps.

Simplicity! backstrap loom sheds

The blue object in the above picture represents a sword placed within the shed.  heddle shedAbove, you can see Montagnard weaver, Ju Nie, raising the heddled warps to create one of the two sheds on her simple circular warp. shed rod shedAnd here, you can see her sword placed within the shed created from the threads held on her bamboo shed rod. It’s a beautifully simple set-up for creating warp-faced plain weave. One of my Guatemalan teachers used the terms “crossed” and uncrossed”  to distinguish the two sheds possibly to simplify things even further for gringa teaching! You can clearly see the crossed form of the warp and the uncrossed one in the two pictures above.

Maxima, Cochabamba, Bolivia making heddles.

Maxima, Cochabamba, Bolivia making heddles.

One of the most interesting things for me is the different ways in which this marvel of simplicity is achieved…

How do weavers place and secure their stakes for warping?

Do they create circular or single-plane warps?

How do they secure the cross?

Do they add heddles while they warp or after?

How do they make the heddles and what material do they use for them?

What do they use to hold the warps in the other shed?

And, how do they operate the sheds?

And this is all before I can even see what kind of cloth they produce with these simple looms.

Yes, it’s simple but that doesn’t mean that the same methods are used everywhere. It can be oh, so very different and there is no single correct way of doing things. My way of doing things is an ever changing mixture of all the wonderful techniques that I have experienced and seen. Right now I am using what I call my “current favorite” way of setting up and operating the loom. This could change at any time when I am shown something new that I want to try.

And that is why I was so excited about the backstrap looms in use in Taiwan by the Atayal people that I showed last week. I haven’t yet been able to find out a great deal about the cloth they produce and am busily collecting information and images.. In the meantime, I can simply enjoy seeing the looms and the weavers at work operating them. a_modern_atayal_woman_weaviI love everything about this Atayal loom (picture by John G Kreifeldt), the way it has been set up and the way it is operated. And, while I am not rushing out to have one of those tipping boxes made for me, I am very much in love with that shed rod.

Shed rods can come in a variety of forms. Some weavers like theirs to be of very large girth. The problem is finding a piece of wood that can be that thick without being very heavy. A common solution these days is to use pvc pipe as it rovides the girth without the weight. Of course, bamboo does the job beautifully. I have some thick rods from Guatemala made from a wood that must be extremely porous. They are surprisingly light for their size. pvc shed rodThe thicker the shed rod, the easier it is to raise those warp threads and have them clear through the heddles to the front of the loom. A lot of weavers will simply draw the shed rod down to the heddles. If the yarn is smooth and friendly, that alone will cause the threads to pass through the heddles. If using sticky yarn, like handspun wool,  the weaver will need to strum the warps to encourage them to separate and clear. Sometimes a lot of strumming is needed. I have watched weavers strum away on wool threads on wide warps for quite some time before the threads will release their hairy grip on each other.

The thicker the shed rod, the more work you have to put into opening the heddle shed. I am not a big fan of  large shed rods. In fact,mine are often quite thin. I prefer to place my sword under the warps and use the size of the sword rather than the size of the shed rod to clear the threads through the heddles. The Atayal shed rod is cool becuase of the extra stick that is slotted into it which sits on top of the warp. Atayal shed rod Here’s another kind in this picture of the various Atayal loom parts taken by John G Kreifeldt. Atayal loom parts John G KreifeldtThe shed rod is the one closest to the box. The stick splits into two. One part would sit within the warp while the other rested on top. The weaver uses these kinds of shed rods to help raise the heddles. The rod is grasped and twisted away while the body moves to relax tension on the warp and the heddle rod is pulled up. If you watched the video I embedded in last week’s post, you would have seen this in action.

I use such a system but I have two separate sticks that are both placed within the warp…one is a shed rod and the other is placed behind it within a second cross. Here is a part of a video I made with a particularly sticky warp showing how this works…

In the following picture of a weaver in Peru, you can see the forked stick that she has in her warp that acts in the same way as the two dowels in mine in the video. See how she twists the forked sticks, leans forward to take tension off the warp (see how slack the threads are behind the forked stick) and pulls up on her heddle rod. forked stickNow, if you can’t be bothered setting up that second cross for placing a second stick, (although, it’s really very easy and I have an FAQ on it here on the blog) you can just attach a second stick to your shed rod and have it sitting on top of the warp just as the Atayal weaver has. I tried it on my current ikat warp and it works every bit as well. It is just a little bit less stable and that is just something that I had to get used to. There are ugly rubber bands and my set-up is nowhere near as pretty as the Atayal one, but, hey, it works. It also means that my shed rod is free to move and I can slide it up and down the warp if I want to better clear the space into which I insert the sword. new sed rod set upSome weavers, rather than having a second stick in or on top of the warp, have a separate stick which they pick up and apply only when they want to open the heddles. Ju Nie, for example,  uses a bamboo slat. She places it on top of the warp and then grasps it and the shed rod in one hand and twists. When not in use, it just sits on the floor her side. montagnard-weaver-opening-heddle-shedOther weavers simply use their sword as their second stick. Ju Nie’s sword is so incredibly large and long that it would be too awkward to use on a narrow warp like this one. The following pictures are shots that I captured from videos that I have taken and are blurry as a result. Pitumarca weaver opening heddle shedThis weaver from Pitumarca, Peru has placed her enormous sword on top of the warp behind the shed rod. She is grasping both and will roll them while she pulls up on the hedde rod. Taking a few steps forward helps her relax tension. She is using a very smooth warp of fine industrially spun cotton. Cusco weaver opening heddle shedThis weaver from the Cusco region is about to do the same. She had to get right up on her knees in order to relax tension while she did this. It is a sticky wool warp. You should have seen the strumming that went on to get the warps to separate in the other shed. Chahuaytire weaver opening heddle shedThis weaver from Chahuaytire in the Cusco region is using a fine aplaca warp. He has moved his sword back beyond the shed rod and is about the grasp the two. With his other hand he will pull up on the heddle rod. He is seated in a chair to weave and stands up to relax tension on the warp.

So, what is the idea behind twisting/rolling these two sticks? What exactly is happening? The following pictures, once again, are shots captured from a demo video I made and are, therefore, quite blurry…I think you can see what’s going on. twisting sticks my demo (2)This warp is way too narrow to be bothering with a shed rod. Normally I would use a simple shed loop on a warp like this but have used sticks just for the sake of the demonstration. In the warp above, the blue threads are controlled by the string heddles and the white ones are held on the shed rod. I have a second stick placed within a second cross and that and the shed rod have been connected with rubber bands. I have grasped both sticks and am rolling them away. You can see that this action tightens the layer of white warps while the blue ones, (the ones I am attempting to raise via the heddles) behind the shed rod have become slack. My legs are straight in this picture as I have not yet moved forward to relax tension on the warp. twisting sticks my demo (1) raising the heddlesNow a knee is bent as I come forward. Look how slack the blue threads are now while the white ones remain taut. This is what will enable me to pull straright up on the heddles and raise the blue threads creating a nice big shed.

As I pointed out before, there are many methods that backstrap weavers use to operate their looms and this is just one of them. It is good to have many techniques up one’s sleeve to use in different situations. Often the stickiness of the warp threads will determine the method I choose to use.

I am grateful for having had the chance to weave with, observe, and learn from backstrap weavers from many regions and countries and try out their various methods.

I get very excited about all these details. I hope I haven’t bored you all with this! I am not sure how many people share my enthusiasm for these kinds of things! Here’s what I have been weaving this week… ???????????????????????????????These are the two red panels that will accompany the black and white ikat and brocade panel I have been working on lately. I have just started a simple warp-float pattern on it and am using two sweet shuttles that Father Kyriakos made and gave me when I was in Australia. Yes, I have gone back to using a shed rod and a second stick in a second cross.

Whether I keep the ikat panel or start over will be decided when I get back from my fall trip with a new supply of black dye. I wove the seven tabs last week and will show you those once all the messy stray weft ends have been put away.

Julia posted a picture of her latest band that has a complementary-warp motif from the Peruvian highlands…part of a series of motifs that I charted in my second book…a complex technique resulting in simple beauty! She has based her color choices on a piece of weaving from the Cusco region. DSC04864_mediumThe summer heat has hit here in a big way and it isn’t even officially spring yet. I am looking forward to some fall coolness in the US. See you next week…                                    

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…














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