Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 29, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone

Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone

???????????????????????????????It’s always nice on my teaching tours to return to known venues. There is something very comforting in the midst of all the “what-ifs” and unknowns of travel to meet once again familiar faces and places.

However, there are always new people and venues to add and I have enjoyed visiting new guilds and new US states on this trip. This was my first time teaching in New Jersey, for example, and now I am about to venture into Nevada for my first ever teaching gig there. There are new experiences, like trying to navigate the New York Port Authority with loads of luggage for the first time, going flying in a Cessna over Cape Cod on a perfect spring day, and being made very much aware of the rather “shaky” nature of the California coastline! (see picture above).

The mysteries and trepidation of going to new places are always short-lived. The new landscapes are exciting and the new weaving groups without exception are warm and welcoming.

The western part of this weaving trip has take me through a variety of landscapes….from the beaches of lovely Santa Cruz to the big cityscape of Oakland and the forested high passes and lakes of the Sierra Nevada range.

Walking the paths of West Cliff Santa Cruz was a wonderful way to unwind after a day of teaching. We watched surfers, pelicans and sea otters at play in the light of the setting sun.

Walking the paths of West Cliff Santa Cruz was a wonderful way to unwind after a day of teaching. We watched surfers, pelicans and sea otters at play in the light of the setting sun.

The view from the 19th floor room that I shared with Jennifer Moore at CNCH 2014.

This is the view from my 19th floor bedroom at CNCH 2014 last weekend. It was fun sharing with Jennifer Moore whom I had met and spent time with backstrap weaving and at the opera in Santa Fe last year.

One of the beautiful peaks on the way to Truckee California.

One of the beautiful peaks of the Sierra Nevada on the way to Truckee California.

Yonat weaving amongst the Redwoods in my Santa Cruz class.

Yonat weaving amongst the Redwoods in my Santa Cruz class.

A new venue and new faces in Grass Valley California...backstraps in position and ready for action!

A new venue and new faces in Grass Valley California…backstraps in position and ready for action!

I like to call my Santa Cruz group my “firsties and besties”. As it was my fifth time visiting and weaving with them, I decided that it was time to push ourselves outside our comfort zones. The challenge was to take one of the structures that we had studied on the last four visits and use it in something wide and/or fine. Some group members warped up something much wider than anything they had attempted before while others used much finer thread than they had ever used on a backstrap loom. The results were wonderful!

First we learned about different ways to set up warps for wider projects, for example, using multiple swords for creating picking crosses instead of fingers.

Jane uses a mulitple sword technique to pick up a pattern for her backstrap project.

Jane uses a mulitple sword technique to pick up a pattern for her backstrap project.

Jane is not actually one of the original “firstie-bestie” group but she has put in so much time and effort since her very first Basics class last October, that she was able to fit in perfectly with the skill level of this group. She has woven an impressive array of Andean Pebble Weave bands since that class only six months ago.

Jane makes exquisite baskets and brought along one of her creatios filled wih her Andean Pebble Weave bands. Ripples the cat had to get in on the act.

Jane makes exquisite baskets and brought along one of her creations filled wih her Andean Pebble Weave bands. Ripples the cat had to get in on the act.

Here’s a closer look at the pretty bands and Jane’s basket without the giant cat-head distraction!….

Jane Milner's basket and pebble weave bands.

Jane Milner’s basket and pebble weave bands.

Jane has tried patterns from both my first and second books…

Andean Pebble Weave bands woven by Jane using Omega Sinfonia yarn.

Andean Pebble Weave bands woven by Jane using Omega Sinfonia yarn.

The upper band is an adaptation of a pattern that was woven by Louise Ström using tablets. Many tablet weaving motifs can be easily adapted to the Andean Pebble Weave structure and I have charted some of these in my second book. The lower motif is a doodle I made in the second book where I am showing how people can go about creating their own pebble weave patterns. The hook motifs placed in various diagonal arrangements are, of course, classic Andean patterning.

On the first day at Yonat’s place, I found myself just “hanging out” as my students wove and planned their projects with increasing independence.

weaving at yonats place

In the afternoon, we did a little “round robin” activity on my prepared warps to brush up on structures and techniques that we had studied in other classes and help in the decison making and planning process for the next days’ project…

round robin backstrap weaving

Dorothy's wode project included three columns of Anean Pebble Weave motifs. As she was only able to take two of the three-day workshop, she had to leave with her heddles installed and just a handful of picks in place. As she is heading to Peru to study with tapestry master Maximo Laura this summer, I am wondering when she will find time to sit and finish her project.

Dorothy’s wide project included three columns of Andean Pebble Weave motifs using Tahki Cotton Classic yarn. As she was only able to take two days of the three-day workshop, she had to leave with her heddles installed and just a handful of picks in place. As she is heading to Peru to study with tapestry master Maximo Laura this summer which will lead to a whole new world of weaving, I am hoping that she will find time to sit and finish her project soon.

Peggy used Reynold's Saucy yarn (now discontinued) to create a warp for a backstrap . She liked my "Rolls Royce" backstrap...the thick and cushy one and so, chpse a pebble weave motif along with the intermesh structure to produce thick fabric.

Peggy used Reynold’s Saucy yarn (now discontinued) to create a warp for a backstrap. She liked my “Rolls Royce” backstrap…the thick and cushy one…. and so, chose a pebble weave motif along with the intermesh structure to produce thick fabric. Anne went the other way and used fine thread to make a cell phone pouch. She will use two sets of string heddles to make the process partly loom-controlled and decorate the pouch with an Andean Pebble Weave motif.

Here is Yonat's backstrap warp rolled up at the end of the day with just a couple of inches left to go. Yonat found taht weaving outdoors seated on the ground with her warp angled steeply was much more comfortable for her.

Here is Yonat’s backstrap warp rolled up at the end of the day with just a couple of inches left to go. Yonat found that weaving outdoors seated on the ground with her warp angled steeply was much more comfortable for her.

Barbara's challenge involved weaving her favorite "viscacha" motif in fine thread (Aunt Lydia's #10) and swapping the colors for the motif and background while creating beautifully straight edges.

Barbara’s challenge involved weaving her favorite “viscacha” motif in fine thread (Aunt Lydia’s #10) and swapping the colors for the motif and background while creating beautifully straight edges.

The following day, after having looked at images and watched online videos of the cute Andean viscacha, Barbara brought in a tapestry piece  which had been woven on a backstrap loom in Pitumarca, Peru. She had just realised that the critter at the bottom of the piece was the same as the one which she was weaving into her fine backstrap band.

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Outside workshop hours, there was also lots of fun to be had. Yonat and I looked at experiments that the late Nora Rogers, former member of the Santa Cruz guild,  had been performing on backstrap looms. Here is another kindred spirit and it was amazing and almost eerie to see how closely my backstrap weaving experiments have been following the path of her own carried out years before I came to be involved in this.

Here is Nora's experiment in the white-on-white patterning technique using supplementary weft on a light, open cotton ground cloth. I bought a piece like this at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market last year in the hope of studying and trying to replicate it myself.

Here is Nora’s experiment in the white-on-white Guatemalan patterning technique using supplementary weft on a light, open cotton ground cloth. I bought a piece like this at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market last year in the hope of studying and trying to replicate it myself.

And then there were various beauties to be examined created by Yonat’s own hands…from tapestries to handmade beads to Ravenstail twining. I saw one of this set of Ravenstail leggings finished on my last visit. This time I got to see the completed pair….

???????????????????????????????Yonat and I also went to a local store that buys and sells ethnic textiles from around the world. We had a super time digging through loads of pieces to find some special treasures. Some pieces were long and large and required no digging at all….

It seems so long agao now since my friend Lisa sent me a picture of a yurt band she had bought and I becane fascintaed with the simple warp-float technique thathad been used to create it. Here in the store was a gorgeous example in those lovely sun bleached reds and blues that I adore!

It seems so long ago now that my friend Lisa sent me a picture of a yurt band she had bought and I became fascinated with the simple warp-float technique that had been used to create it. Here in the store was a gorgeous example in those lovely sun bleached reds and blues that I adore! This technique produces a pattern of warp-floats on one face and areas of exposed weft on the other.

The warp-substitution technique is another one on which I have spent some time experimenting. We had to resist completely unrolling this band to see how the motifs changed along its enormous length. The designs are crisp on the upper face in warp-faced plain weave. Colors are warped doubled and the weaver simply substitutes one for the other to create the patterns. The unused colored warps float on the reverse side of the textile until they are once again called into use.

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Here are three bands from across the globe….from Bhutan patterned with supplementary weft….a three-color double weave belt from Bolivia and a supplemental-warp patterned band from Mexico.

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But the jaw-dropper as far as I was concerned was this poncho from Bolivia (see below) patterned with strips of warp-faced double weave. Yonat uncovered this one at the bottom of a pile of mixed textiles on a shelf.

I call this technique “embedded” double weave as the strips of double weave with pick-up patterning are flanked by warp faced plain weave. The yarn is very fine synthetic thread and the weaving was superb! It is a beautifully finished four-selvedged poncho. I know from experience how maddeningly difficult it is to finish a double weave piece with four selvedges and the thread used in this piece does not have the advantage of the springiness of wool which can make the task somewhat less difficult. How I would love to sit by the weaver who created this!!!

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???????????????????????????????The visit to Santa Cruz also included a few get togethers with my dear friend Annie.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know Annie as ASpinnerWeaver, creator of guitar straps and custom bands and sashes on inkle looms. She gave me the lovely strap, at left, to use on my camera bag.  It is as much fun seeing what wonderful combination of colors she has come up with for her one-of-a-kind pieces as hearing the personal and inspiring stories behind her custom projects.

One of her latest challenges is to create a sash similar to one used by Johnny Depp in the Lone Ranger movie!

I shall leave you here for now. I am in Truckee now and grateful to my hosts Suzanne and David for their patience while I bury my head in photo editing and blog writing. I’ll be teachng by the shores of Lake Tahoe in a couple of days and can’t wait to see it!

I shall probably write from Portland, Oregon next with further tales of  the Grass Valley group, the CNCH conference in Oakland and weaving at Lake Tahoe. Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Great seeing you at CNCH. Your blog has me motivated to pick up backstrap again. Looking forward to your visit in November. I will plan a gathering at my place. Gina

  2. Great classes in Santa Cruz, CA and Grass Valley, CA :) Looks like a photo bomb of Ripples!

  3. Hi, Laverne. It’s wonderful see all the photos you share on your travels — photos of weavers, and of weavings old and new.
    On the simple warp float yurt band shown above, the pickups are not accompanied by dropping a complementary warp? Is that why the wefts show on the back? For some reason in my early days of doing pickups on inkle looms I always dropped a warp when I picked one up. I think that was the way one author recommended. Are there different regions that do it differently?

  4. Hi Laverne: Just heard from a friend that your Tahoe class was great. We talked at CNCH and I’d really like to be on your list to hear when you’ll be teaching again in N. CA. – Kate

    • I have quite afew things going on this fall in north Cal, Kate. I will email you.


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