Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 14, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Mayhem

I am kind of holding my breath here on this Carnival weekend to see what shape the Santa Cruz Carnival 2021 celebrations take in this time of corona virus mayhem.

Carnival is a big deal here…not as big a deal as the one in Rio de Janeiro, of course, but big all the same… with three-and-a half days of non-stop drinking, dancing, very loud music, and the throwing of water balloons and paint, all of which kicks off on the Saturday night.

The city has been placed into full quarantine lock down for the next four days so that people won’t gather in the center and cause a possible super-spreader event. I’m sure that all the downtown businesses have been pleased not to have to go through the usual task of boarding up their shop fronts and protecting their walls with plastic. Residents who park their cars downtown haven’t had to cover them in mud as a way of protecting them from the paint and junk that gets thrown around. The clean-up crews won’t have the task of hosing down streets (imagine all those partying people in streets with no public toilets!) and scrubbing paint off buildings.

  I have always passed a fairly peaceful time at home as all the mayhem generally happens several blocks away. This time, however, might be different and I am bracing myself for three days trapped inside with my idea of hell right outside my door.

Carnival Santa Cruz style. Photo by Steven Sheehy

The problem is that the full lock down was only called a couple of days ago. I am guessing that leaves lots of people with ruined party plans…alcohol will already have been purchased along with meat for the barbecue. Yesterday, I was nervously watching a couple of men who live in my condo unloading a vehicle with boxes and boxes of stuff in preparation for their celebrations right here in my Fortress of Solitude. When the truck shows up with the music system and gigantic speakers, I’ll know that I am in real trouble! Normally they would be having these parties at their Fraternity headquarters which is usually a property in a semi-rural area far, far away from me!

I guess, I’ll just shut all the windows, turn on the fan and continue weaving my own version of mayhem at my backstrap loom. If you have read my last couple of blog posts, you will know what I mean by that. I am still working on my three-part wall hanging series. The second panel has a design that is meant to represent the feeling of mayhem and chaos that I experienced at the very start of the pandemic.

I created a drawing that shows more or less what I am aiming for, at least color-wise, in this three part series…

Each piece is only about 7″ wide and 15″ long. I have finished Number Three. Number One, which is the one on which I am currently working, is the exact opposite of Number Three color-wise. The center one shows a transition from the first to the third. I have been creating the shapes in ikat by wrapping bundles of red warp threads in plastic tape before dyeing the warp black. The wrapped sections resist the dye and remain red. That’s basically the way ikat works. I am, however, putting a slightly different spin on it which I believe to be my very own.

Here’s the completed central pattern of Number Three in the series…

Here I am working my way through the chaos section in Number One in the series…

It’s still on the loom. There’s a lot more chaos to go!  I can at least show you what the two pieces look like side by side at the moment. My attempts to photograph these have been very frustrating!

And yes, I will make an attempt to explain what this all means, if anyone is interested, when I have finished all three panels. The series is called Within These Walls. I am using 60/2 silk and each piece has 1200 ends. I mentioned in my last post that I had run out of the amount of red 60/2 silk that I would need for the final piece, Number Two. I am now thinking that I will try to substitute two strands of 140/2 silk, in a similar red, and see how that goes as warp. Wish me luck!

I might take a small break from this when I finish this piece because there’s a small double weave project that has been tempting me all the while. Well…maybe  not a complete break…I don’t want to lose momentum! I might just throw a short narrow warp onto a backstrap loom and try a sample of the double weave pattern that has been teasing me to give me a break when I am wrapping Number Two with ikat tape. 

So, that’s what has been keeping me grounded…that and all the wonderful folk with whom I get to hang out in Zoom gatherings. And, of course, there’s interaction in the various online weaving groups in which I get to meet band weavers and backstrap weavers from around the world.

Roland Polk sent me these images of his latest project on his backstrap loom…

This is a silk warp with his own handspun merino (20 wpi) weft…imagine! He was able to get hold of a bamboo reed to help him produce this beautiful balanced cloth.

I love this picture of his warping set-up on a door! Resourceful!

Emilie Landré wove a length of band which she was able to sew into a neck tie. I love how the motif that she chose so perfectly fits the shape of the point of the tie.

She has also been dabbling in Andean Pebble Weave and wove this lovely tape using a chart from my very first book. I am so grateful that Sandrine translated that first book to French for me.

Mary Spanos wove a strap for her watch on her backstrap loom using an Andean Pebble Weave pattern… elegant!

And, this is Lizzie Ruffell’s guitar strap on which she used patterns which are charted in one of my pattern books….Carol Berry wove this beautiful band using patterns that are charted in my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book….

Kathy Olsen is weaving a pretty band of fish motifs in the Andean Pebble Weave structure that are charted in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. I love those four fish patterns and think that they are fun to weave along with the other River and Ocean-themed motifs in that set. It’s always interesting to see borders that are not solid-color plain weave.

All my books, as well as my video class, can be found at Taproot Video. There are detailed descriptions of each item at Taproot Video with an opportunity to “look inside” at a few pages of each but, if you ever have any doubts about where to start or which book to buy next, please feel free to ask me via a comment on this blog…or find me under my full name, Laverne Waddington, on Facebook or Instagram. I welcome the opportunity to correspond with you. There’s also a short Preview Video at Taproot Video for my backstrap loom class Operating a Backstrap Loom.

And finally, I would like to tell you about the series of awesome instructional videos that my friend Wendy Garrity has made and is generously offering for free on Youtube. Wendy studied the traditional kushutara technique of Bhutan while living there. In this technique, patterns are created on warp-faced cloth via the use of supplemental weft threads. Wendy has created and shared a series of videos called Kushutara Basics. 

I know that many of my backstrap weaving friends are taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to learn this beautiful and versatile technique.

The last time I saw Wendy was in August 2019 when we enjoyed a beachside dinner while watching the sun set over the Indian ocean in her hometown of Perth, Western Australia. She was helping me celebrate my birthday that evening in the middle of one of my Australian teaching tours.

So, for now, I will leave you hoping that my Carnival 2021 experience will be an unmemorable one! 

Happy weaving and stay safe.


Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 22, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Within These Walls Part 2

There really wasn’t any other name that I could give to this post except “Within These Walls Part 2” because that is pretty much all that I have been working on in the relatively long period of time that has passed since my last post. It’s partly about ikat. That alone is slow stuff. And, then there’s something even slower going on in this project…Andean Pebble Weave pick-up over 1200 ends of 60/2 silk.

Here’s the first finished piece that I showed you in my last post. It may actually end up being the third in the sequence when all is done. I haven’t quite straightened out my idea for Part 3 and so, who knows in which order the three pieces will end up in the final sequence.

Part 2 is the opposite of this piece color-wise. All the red areas will be black and vice versa. You can see the warp in the picture below after it had been dyed and partially unwrapped. I am using two sets of heddles for the two pebble sheds in the Andean Pebble Weave structure. Yep, that’s a lot of heddles but I love making them!

But really, apart from the time spent wrapping the warp threads with tape and dyeing, the thing on which I have probably spent the most time so far is planning what I am calling the “chaos section”. Coming up with a chart for that had me covering my floor with eraser dust. I wanted something that looked like an impenetrable maze. I drew maze-like patterns on my charting paper but the problem was that they looked like patterns. They made sense. I needed something that looked chaotic and unpredictable and I wanted the dominant color to be red. Once I had decided that what I wanted to see was pretty much “a mess”, it was much easier to get it down on paper. Just doodle a mess. Draw lines every which way. It was fun.

The first section was all about birds. And then came the chaos. I love the sheen of the silk that the camera’s flash picked up in this picture. The silk that I am using generally doesn’t show any signs of sheen until the finished piece has been washed and pressed. It can be disappointingly dull on the loom.

Weaving the chaos section wasn’t so much fun until I came up with a way to color code sections and match those to color markings on the charting paper. Then I also discovered that when you are trying to create chaos, nothing really counts as a mistake unless, of course, it is structural.

So, while I do manage to stick very well to what I have drawn on paper, an occasional line that wanders off to the right when the charts says it should be going left is no big deal at all…thankfully!

There will be some hummingbirds hidden within the chaos. I like how some of the chaos shapes can start to look like recognizable forms if you stare at them long enough…one shape might look like a llama, another like a rabbit, another like a demon, another like a flamingo. If you blink, you lose the spot on which you had been focusing and chances are you won’t find the rabbit again! It’s sort of like when you see figures in fast-moving clouds. 

And so, I am creeping along with this. It’s slow but I would say that it’s painlessly so! There’ll be an addition to the story when I get to the center. Once I get to the main black shape that the ikat tape had enclosed, I won’t be picking up across 1200 ends any more and the number of threads of pick-up pattern will gradually reduce. I am sure to feel as if I am zooming along at that point.

You can probably spot the hummingbirds in amongst the chaos in this shot. They are on a journey, the end of which will be revealed when I get to the center of this piece.

I am still not able to capture the richness of the red in these pieces. Once Part 2 is finished, I’ll put the two finished pieces together and get to work trying to figure out how to photograph them better.

I hope I’ll be able to show where those hummingbirds are heading in my next post.

Zoom meetings are still keeping me good company. I so love being able to get together with weaving friends on a regular basis and my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms workshops have been going really well with students turning out some really pretty bands, some of which have their own original patterns. By the way, the new book that I am currently writing is another project that has been keeping me busy behind the scenes.

Take care everyone and please continue to stay safe.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 2, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Within These Walls

2021…..Yes, it’s a new year. No doubt there will be new and better things on the horizon but I don’t expect things to change too much in the life I am living within these walls. I don’t mean that in a gloomy way. My loom and Zoom have chased away the gloom. They have been my best friends during the pandemic along with a little help from my Kindle and camera. I have stayed safe, healthy and well-fed in both mind and body and I guess I can be grateful for being at an age when getting things done just doesn’t seem as urgent as it used to be. I have the time to do some in-depth study of certain weaving techniques and, thankfully, people are still interested in what I do which often leads them to purchasing my books.

One of the 1992 adventures: Starting the first non-snow leg of the Mt Hood climb.

In a Zoom call with my 29-year-old nephew, I was trying to recall what I was doing when I was his age and trying to imagine how I would have reacted to having all my plans suddenly shelved by a pandemic. I was single, I had quit my job, and my plan had been to hike and backpack around the USA for six months starting in the month of April of that year. So, of course, there was a sum of money in the bank that would have allowed me to do that.

I hate to think how I would have reacted to being stopped in my tracks by a pandemic…. jobless and stuck at home spending that travel money just to get by while looking at my four walls. At that time, my life was all about the outdoors. Stay put and weave for a year? Unthinkable!

I can still remember waking up in my bunk bed in the Honolulu Youth Hostel, which was my first stop on that trip, smiling and closing my eyes, smelling the ocean, hearing the waves and thinking about all the possibilities for adventure that lay ahead. There have been a few times over the years when I have actually said to myself…stop, drink this in, remember this scene, the sounds, the smells, and how you are feeling because it will be fun to be able to recall this exact moment some day in the future. That moment in Honolulu was one of them.

I am so impressed by the way the much younger people in my life are handling this situation. These are also times to stop and drink in and imprint in the mind. Some time in the future when things are better I am sure that it will be occasionally useful to be able to recall the sights and sounds of our surroundings and the way we were feeling in this difficult period. 

So, within these walls, I have been busy planning a weaving project that somehow captures the idea of creativity within confined spaces. I like the fact that this idea still allows me to play with ikat. I try to do other things but keep getting drawn back to it.

I am using the ikat to create the confined spaces in the warp within which all the activity is taking place. Once the warp is dyed, all that lies outside those spaces will be dark and will represent the unknown.

This is the ikat warp that I showed you in my last post. Tape is wrapped to form the pattern on the red warp. This goes into a black dye bath. The taped areas (hopefully) resist the dye. I seem to have come to grips with my technique in that part of the process and my plastic wrappings don’t leak. This gives me a nice sharp pattern on my warp which I try to keep as sharp as possible as I weave. 

So, that’s me at my backstrap loom, within my walls, imagining the world outside.

This required some large pattern charts. Juggling balls are there for scale…yes, I’m still juggling.I am still a pencil-and-paper person and drawing charts sprawled on the floor is a big fun part of the process for me. Of course, I could have downsized the blank pattern charts but I wanted everything to be large enough to be able to simply glance down to read the pattern. There were, after all, six hundred threads to be picked in the widest part of the pattern. (The warp has 1200 ends of 60/2 silk.) I didn’t want to have to be squinting at a small chart or moving an image of it around on my laptop screen.

The first half finished….So far, so good, as far as keeping the ikat image sharp. But, you can never tell how things are going to progress. That aspect of working in ikat is still fairly unpredictable for me.

Here’s the finished main section of the Within These Walls piece. The warp threads behaved and gave me nice sharp outlines for my walls. This is the only shot that comes close to showing the richness of the red color in the silk thread I am using.

I would like to make a series of three pieces in this Within These Walls theme. They can be framed and hung on the wall in a future home. Unfortunately, after winding the warp for the second piece, I realized that there wouldn’t be enough red for a third. I do, however, have loads of black 60/2 silk and quite a lot of a similar red in 140/2 silk. The third piece could be a non-ikat one using black warp with red pattern in supplementary weft. I am actually really enthusiastic about planning that one and making it work with this theme. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I have no choice but to work with what I have on hand.

But that is way down the track. I have only just wound the warp for the second piece and mounted it on the frame so that I can start wrapping it with tape. There’s going to be a whole lot more wrapping on this one and that will keep me occupied for a couple of weeks, I should think. With the summer humidity, that will mean two weeks of walking around with stray hair-like strips of ikat tape clinging to my body, turning up in my food and washing off in the shower! With the ceiling fan going, those stray strips go everywhere.

I sit on my bed and have one edge of the frame leaning against the edge of a table with the other end on my knees. That works quite well. The hard skin that I developed on my finger from the last session of wrapping and which was really annoying while I was weaving (getting itself caught on the fine silk threads), has finally worn itself away back to smooth new skin….just in time for this next wrapping session…ha! I have seen photos of ikat artists in India working with some fingers wrapped and wonder if they are avoiding this same problem.  

I’d like to finish by thanking all of you who have been buying my books. I hope this new year gives you time to explore them and hope that the free time that you have available to devote to it is on your own terms rather than being forced upon you due to yet another lockdown.

Here’s something that Mary Spanos has been doing within her walls….a beautiful Andean Pebble Weave pattern in 20/2 cotton using one of the patterns from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. This particular pattern has the over-under look of weaving leading someone to point out that it’s like “weaving within weaving”.

Outside my walls, our entire city has been shut down this weekend…no vehicles or pedestrians are allowed to circulate, no shops or businesses allowed to open, no alcohol can be consumed…everyone has to stay home while a brigade of seven thousand covers as many neighborhoods as possible in two days to assess the extent of the current second Covid surge. Very few people get tested here…they can’t afford to…and so this is the government’s way of trying to reach and assess the needs of those who remain in darkness about their condition and have no choice but to ride out the disease at home. 

So, we are all staying within our walls this weekend.

Take care and stay safe, please.



Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Limbo Land

I don’t like being in weaving Limbo Land. Usually, while I am sitting weaving one project, I have the next one already developing in my head or on paper. I’ll be gathering yarn and charting patterns when not at the loom so that I can launch myself straight into warping once the current project is off and washed and sewn. 

While I had the general idea for the next project sorted out, I hadn’t quite pinned down the finer details and so I found myself in Limbo Land once my current project was off the loom.

Urgh…I dislike Limbo Land. Limbo Land is the place where I do crazy things like suddenly decide to cut my own hair. Fortunately, I decided to spend this little jaunt in Limbo Land in a much better way….starting my next book! And then I suddenly got the little spark of idea I needed to pull together all my thoughts for the next project. I really need to write these things down because I have already forgotten the source of the spark.

The ikat piece that I just finished was about weaving shapes that would allow me to calculate take-up for future projects. I was interested to see how much length was lost in the original ikat shapes once they were woven using warp-float patterning rather than the plain weave that I usually do.

I think I mentioned in my last post that I was getting bored with the pick-up pattern that I had chosen to weave within the ikat shape. Well, I came up with a way to amuse myself for the second half of the pattern. I decided that the bottom half looked like foliage and that I could slip a little hummingbird in among the plants in the upper half. Planning that out was fun and I realized that this was really what I originally had in mind  when I saw the drawing of a hand in that magazine ad that I have mentioned in past posts….weaving pictures within pictures.

So I have decided to weave a series of small silk pieces based on this basic shape filled with pictures. I have just finished tying off a larger and simpler version of this shape in red 60/2 silk again which is now soaking in preparation for dyeing tomorrow. I have a pretty good idea of how I want to fill it. Let’s see where all this takes me.

I suspect there will be some moments of “What was I thinking?” when it comes time to weave and I have to come to grips with all the detail that I have put into the pictures! I can guarantee it won’t be boring to weave!

Another source of inspiration for this idea of pictures within shapes arrived in my inbox just this morning. The Textile Museum in DC announced the arrival of The Textile Museum Journal, Volume 47 and the cover picture fits very well with my latest weaving projects.

This volume is devoted to “color in textiles across time and space” and includes an article by Elena Phipps on “Woven Brilliance: Approaching Color in Andean Textile Traditions.” You can take a look here for more information about subscribing to the journal, this issue, and back issues.

The cover of latest volume of The Textile Museum Journal…what I see are pictures within pictures!

I have actually had a pretty colorful morning all told as I got to attend a Zoom presentation by dye master Dagmar Klos on the basics of dyeing which was simply marvelous. There was plenty of information for me to apply to even the occasional dyeing that I I do for my ikat projects.

This picture of a weaver taking a break from her backstrap loom from the Threads of Life Facebook page really speaks to me. Maybe she is turning over ideas for her next piece.

And, sticking with the subject of color, I wanted to tell you about collections of beautiful backstrap-woven fabric squares that Threads of Life in Ubud, Bali is selling via their online store. I have been signed up for the Threads of Life newsletter ever since my failed attempt to attend their weft ikat workshop back in 2017. They were incredibly understanding about the misfortune that prevented my being there and I have always been very grateful to them for that. Of course they are just one of the many organizations that are being sorely affected by the pandemic and the resulting absence of tourism. They rely heavily on the purchase of textiles from visitors to their gallery in order to be able to continue supporting the various backstrap-weaving communities with whom they work.

From their website:  By aligning with indigenous culture in its fieldwork and marketing, Threads of Life alleviates rural poverty, helps weavers to form independent producer groups, and facilitates their sustainable management of their natural dye resources.

I was very impressed by how quickly the Threads of Life staff sprang into action once the full extent of the pandemic had been realized and came up with new and truly unique ideas for their online store. Apparently, they have been holding onto an assortment of textiles that have been purchased from the weaving communities over the years that, due to having some small flaws, have not been sold in the Gallery. These pieces have been cut into squares and are being sold in beautifully coordinated color sets that can be used in patchwork and quilting projects. They make my mouth water!

The sets include squares of solid-color naturally-dyed cloth in stunning indigo blues and in rust and terracotta tones woven from handspun cotton as well as ikat and batik pieces. The cloth originates from various Indonesian islands and have been placed in these sets accordingly.

Here are some pictures of some of the sets: those blues!!

This is just a small sampling of all the products that they have to offer. There is also a range of large naturally-dyed lengths of fabric in the collection that they call Farmer to Fabric, tablet-woven trim in naturally dyed cotton and heirloom quality textiles and baskets representing various islands and communities.

This link to Threads of Life won’t just take you to their store. I hope that you can take some time to explore the site. There is a nice slide show at the bottom of the page illustrating the steps and time involved in the creation of an ikat textile. There are also tabs that take you to pages with information on the organization’s field work, natural dyes, the artisans with whom they work and the organization’s classes and workshops. 

And, finally, I would like to tell you about the inclusion of an article I wrote in the latest issue of tinyStudio Creative Life magazine….”The Inspirational Publication for Mindful Crafters”.

(I would like point out that I would never have dared to wear shorts if my weaving teacher, Trini, was not also wearing them! This picture was taken by anthropologist Kathleen Klumpp when I accompanied her to stay with Trini and her family of cotton spinners and weavers in coastal Ecuador.)

I met the magazine’s editor, Suzy Brown, when I was in New Zealand last year. We wove together over a couple of days and she later invited me to write about my experience learning to weave in South America. The magazine comes out quarterly and this issue has 126 pages of luscious fibery inspiration and yes, there is quite a lot about color in there too with extensive articles on dyeing with woad and cochineal. It covers topics ranging from sheep breeds to fiber preparation, spinning, dyeing and felting, spinning tools and equipment and includes focus articles on various fiber artists (this issue includes an artist who creates amazingly innovative art work using machine-knit fabric as a base), visits to artists’ studios, as well as instructions for craft projects.

Suzy puts together a fun flip-through video for each issue on Youtube….

With a new ikat project about to hit the dye bath and a new book in the works, I don’t see any more wallowing in Limbo Land in my near future!

Take care and stay safe, please.






Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 13, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Different Paths

Facebook is fond of showing me memories from past years and the latest one to show up is from November 2017 when I was at my brother’s home in Australia working on weaving the samples for my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. Sometimes, the will is there to start a new book but for some reason it is just so very hard to get the project off the ground. At times, I have started by laying out the table of contents in a Word doc and that has been enough to kick me into further action. In the case of Complementary-warp Pattern Book it was the act of sitting down with this lovely blank Andean Pebble Weave warp stretched out before me that started the ball rolling.

There would soon be four horses galloping along the length of that warp…four horses called “Eldy’s Mustangs” by their creator, my weaving friend, Deanna Johnson. I love the simplicity of this set-up. Another warp that I set up for this book would have angels dancing among snowflakes, candy canes and Christmas trees. I think that just the colors  that I had chosen would have provided a hint of what was to come.

And this next one was set up to display different kinds of maze-like and geometric patterns.

Watch and learn….Of course, I was focused on the way my teachers’ fingers were moving among the threads while picking colors to form the patterns. The body movements when using such narrow warps are very subtle.

All three warps are set up for the two-heddle pebble weave method that I favor when I weave this structure on my backstrap loom. The pencils that you see in the warp are holding what I call the “permanent picking cross”. In the twenty-four years that I have been traveling here and there to study these structures with my indigenous teachers, one of the most important things that I have brought home with me time and time again is the fact that there is no one correct way to do things. There are many different paths that can be taken in order to arrive at the same place. I am so glad that I have been exposed to four very different methods that can be used to weave the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

The set-up that you see in these photos was the one that was taught to me by my very first teachers back in 1996. The mother and daughter who sat with me day after day as I wrestled around with those two sets of heddles came from Ayacucho in Peru. They happened to be living in Huancayo at the time.

I would like to say that they sat by patiently as I made a mess of their carefully prepared warp but it isn’t so. They were perplexed and annoyed by the fact that I was pulling away so violently at the heddles. My warp threads were breaking with all the friction and abrasion. I was not aware at that time of the role my body needed to play in the operation of the loom. The body needs to move and make subtle changes to the tension on the warp which makes the smooth operation of the heddles possible. Several movements need to be coordinated and when you finally find yourself picking up and slipping into the rhythm, it’s almost like a dance. Until then, you are brutish and clumsy and the result is heddles clogged with fluff, broken warp threads and annoyed teachers!

I didn’t understand that there was much to be learned about basic backstrap loom operation before I could hope to learn about the patterning technique. Fortunately it all started to come together eventually.

You can see my teacher picking out her pattern while working close to the cross sticks. This is the method used by weavers in Ayacucho. The two sets of heddles hold the regularly repeating pebble sheds….those that create the little spots, or pebbles, in the fabric.

(If you also find yourself seated at a nicely prepared warp but are unable to progress because of heddles clogged with fluff, you might consider taking a look at the video class that I prepared back in 2016…Operating a Backstrap Loom. It’s available as a dvd or as streamed content from Taproot Video.)

My weaving teacher here in lowland Bolivia uses this pebble weave structure on the large vertical frame loom that is used by the Guaraní people to weave hammocks. Angela uses three sets of heddles…one set holds the threads from one of the two pebble sheds. A second holds all the dark threads and the third all the light threads. The threads for the second pebble shed lie on a shed rod or in one large loop depending on the width of the piece being woven. The Guaraní weavers have a very interesting way of making their string heddles. You can see how they are sort of chained together.

Angela was only working on very narrow commissioned pieces when I studied with her and so I have included here a picture (courtesy of Aude Rossignol) of another Guaraní weaver who is using the full width of her loom for a hammock in pebble weave. You can see the advantage of those loose chained heddles on such a wide piece. If the heddles were suspended on a rod, it would not be possible to just pull on the rod and achieve a good shed clear across that wide warp. This is a fixed tension loom and so using the body to make tension adjustments as one does with a backstrap loom is not an option. Instead, the weavers pull on groups of chained heddles working their slowly way from one side of the loom (in this case from right to left) to the other and inserting the sword as they go.

Picture courtesy of Aude Rossignol.

My weaving teachers in the central Bolivian highlands use yet another method when they weave narrow bands to create the same Andean Pebble Weave structure…

The only name that I can think of for this kind of loom is “body-tensioned”. Maxima’s index finger is one “beam” and her big toe is the other. Her left index finger is permanently in this position to maintain and adjust tension on the warp. All loom operation and pick-up is done with the other hand. There’s no backstrap. The warp is set up with one pebble shed in heddles and the other pebble shed in one large loop. Max makes a picking cross with these two sheds and from there picks the colors to form her pebble weave patterns. And, you should see the speed with which she does so!

The last time I visited Max and the other ladies in the co-op, I demonstrated a new pattern for them using a warp that was tied to my waist in the manner to which I am accustomed. I could see Max studying me and I could almost see from the expression on her face that she approved of this set-up which gave me two free hands with which to operate the loom…a definite advantage when working with the rather sticky handspun wool thread. All the ladies kicked off a sandal and started winding warps using their fingers and toes as warping stakes. Max took a length of yarn and tied hers to her waist. She had decided to try out this “new” method that I was using which involved tying the warp to her body rather than just suspending it on one finger. To my surprise she was immediately mocked by all the other ladies for wanting to do things the “gringa” way!

Max, Antonia and some of the other ladies learned to read my pattern charts. You can see a picture of Antonia showing off the band she wove using patterns from the book I had left behind. Don’t we all love to learn new patterns?

The fourth way is the way that is used by some of the backstrap weavers that I have observed in the Cusco area of Peru in my travels. We were also privileged to have two ladies from Chinchero come to Santa Cruz Bolivia, where I live, to attend a small conference that was held here back in 2011. Only a handful of people from the general public applied to attend and it was wonderful to be able to spend so much quality time with these weavers over the three days that we had together. My Guaraní teacher, Angela, was also invited to demonstrate.

The warp being used by the Chinchero weaver in this picture is set up with all the threads of color A in heddles and all the threads in color B held on a shed rod. She uses two swords to hold what I call a “temporary picking cross” in which all the threads from both layers of warp are raised at the same time and held on swords. She can weave a variety of complementary-warp structures using this method. Some of the patterns that Chinchero weavers use are a complex combination of more than one structure which means that there is no real advantage to storing the pebble sheds in heddles. Some parts of a large motif can be woven using the two-two-two pebble arrangement of warp floats while other parts of the very same motif can be based on a two-one-two-one arrangement.

This two-sword method is he one that I teach in my Complementary-warp Pick-up Book. In my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book I teach both this and a modified version of the two-heddle method. In fact, I teach three methods in that book.

You might have guessed that my favorite method for the backstrap loom is the first one that I showed with its two sets of heddles. For me, it has many advantages. I won’t go into them but, if you have ever taken one of my Andean Pebble Weave classes on a backstrap loom, you may recall my talking very enthusiastically about a thing called the “saver cord”. On the inkle loom, I guess I prefer the two-sword method of the three different methods I teach on that kind of loom.

Mary Spanos has woven with me on several occasions when I have been visiting the USA. She loves the backstrap loom and recently showed me her latest project….

This is a Japanese sashiko pattern that is charted in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. Julia Weldon translated the traditional stitched pattern to the Andean Pebble Weave structure and kindly contributed it to the collection. Mary is weaving it beautifully into this band. I particularly like the way that she has chosen to use a lavender and white strip of plain Andean Pebble Weave as a border stripe instead of a solid color.

And, here’s another band by Mary using a series of fish patterns from the same book alongside some of her own creation…

Carlos is also using a backstrap loom and the two-heddle method to weave a wide piece of fabric to be made into a shoulder bag. The same book mentioned above has charts for three bee motifs. The center bee on this piece is included and is Carlos’ own creation.

Lausanne also learned the two-heddle method using a backstrap loom with me on one of my visits and you can see her here weaving a hatband for her husband with, yet again, a pattern that is charted in the Complementary-warp Pattern Book (from a pre-columbian textile fragment). This is one of my favorites…one of some cheeky viscachas rocking to and fro…

Here it is on the hat….

Annette Giles is using the two-sword/temporary picking cross method to weave the Andean Pebble Weave hummingbirds. Yes, they’re from that book again.

And, here are some initial results from Carol Berry from one of the very first Zoom classes I gave on Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms…

So…… enough pebble weave! How about some double weave?

Nancy Ayton is using her inkle loom to weave warp-faced double weave bands and is creating her own fabulous patterns. Don’t you love the elf?! That’s just one of Nancy’s original designs on this band.  The band includes some motifs from my book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms.

I think I will weave the elf on a set of Christmas tree hanging ornaments like the ones I made last year.

On Maureen Farndell’s warp-faced double weave band you can see the motif that I adapted from Bedouin textiles and charted in the book. It’s lovely the way she has connected the motifs and turned them into one continuous pattern along the length of the band.

As for me, I am plodding along with another silk ikat sample. This one is a study of take-up  and the number of warp-ends and picks I need to create a square. Hopefully the information on take-up will help if I later decide to try and tie some curved shapes into a warp. I do hope so because the study sample pattern I have chosen is just plain boring to weave! It’s rare for me to sit at my loom and think “Urgh, I just couldn’t be bothered”! But sometimes you just have to slog through this sampling process. Hopefully, when it comes time to write my next post, it will be off the loom and I will be on to something else with all the valuable information I have gathered from this sample.

Until then….stay safe and well.








Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 30, 2020

Picking up Ikat AGAIN

I have come back full circle to my ikat explorations again. I meandered over to Finnweave for a while and then made a quick visit to three-color double-faced pebble weave. Now I am back in ikat territory and making experiments by adding a twist of my own. Meanwhile, I am planning on paper the large projects in Finnweave and three-color pebble which will be next on the to-do list.

I smile when I remember one of my first ever attempts at ikat. I am pretty sure that I did this after my first trip to Ecuador in 2005. There I had seen that ikat weavers were using strips of cabuya fiber (agave) to wrap their warp threads and I brought back some to try for myself. I found it impossible to use! There must have been some tricks to effectively preparing and/or tying the cabuya that I had obviously missed.

For some reason, I decided that it would be a good idea to use my own hand spun llama yarn as the warp for this first attempt. Bad idea. Even worse was my attempt to dye it with cotton dye. I had no idea about such things at the time. For me, dye was dye and should work with any material. I was mad about the fact that what was supposed to be a strong so-called Mexican Red came out Barbie-pink but I started weaving it anyway.

Looking back on it now, I tend to think that it wasn’t a bad first attempt but it hadn’t pleased me at the time and I abandoned and discarded it. I wish I had kept it now. I suppose the Barbie-pink would have faded and washed out eventually anyway. I have learned some stuff since then!

After giving up on the cabuya, I tried using strips cut from plastic bags but I found that the plastic stretched and often broke as I tried to tie knots. Besides that, it was very hard to cut really fine strips. I remember watching a tv show in which someone was destroying some incriminating evidence on tape. They ripped the tape out of the cartridge and broke it apart. I was thinking…yeah, right, tape is not that easy to snap apart in bare hands. And then it dawned on me that cassette tape might make good wrapping material. That Barbie warp is wrapped with cassette tape. (I learned later that it doesn’t stand up too well to very hot water).

The next attempt was with wool singles that was sold as warp for tapestry weaving. I figured it wouldn’t be as stretchy as my hand spun llama. I am pretty sure that I used hair dye on this one! It was also abandoned because the threads shifted more than I was willing to tolerate once I started weaving. In any case there was and always is something to learn in these ikat experiments.

Let’s try again with something even less likely to stretch. This one was in UKI 20/2 cotton and the appropriate dye (I only owned cotton dyes at that point and was still under the impression that the Mexican red dye that had turned out Barbie-pink had just been a bad batch.)

What was supposed to be a deep ocean blue came out like this…what?! Another bad batch?! No. Here’s a new lesson. You need to scour the cotton thread to make it ready to accept dye. Fortunately, I really liked this kind of blue but this experiment also went to the trash despite the fact that the ikat patterns had come out quite nicely.

This next one on un-scoured cotton (the lesson was yet to be learned) came out a wishy-washy grey instead of black and had me contacting the seller of this 20/2 thread for help and it was he who told me about scouring. Who knew?! I was able to rescue the wishy-washy grey piece by running it through a second dyebath. It gave me something very close to the jet-black that I had been looking for…

And so goes the process of learning on your own!

Hooray, this time I got the color I was expecting. This is 8/2 cotton. These experiments were taking place in 2012.

In 2015 I started playing with creating shapes in ikat and filling them with pick-up patterns as I wove. I used both two-color and three-color pebble weave in the bird series at left. While doing those, I learned that if the proportions of the shape were important (for example, if I wanted to weave a circle rather than an oval), I needed to account for take-up when I wrapped the pattern into the warp. The tied figure would need to be slightly elongated.

Those experiments were in 8/2 cotton. At this point I had been given a roll of Japanese ikat tape which held up well in very hot water, I knew about scouring, and I had learned that there were different kinds of dyes made especially for protein fibers and other kinds for plant fibers. Now I could just concentrate on wrapping warp threads and weaving!

Fortunately, my most recent experiments with ikat in silk, which were started in 2019, have made it off the loom complete and have stayed out of the trash.

Recently, I experimented with leaving some spaces in the ikat pattern to add motifs in supplementary weft as I wove. That was fun and I enjoyed figuring out the exact point at which to start adding the supplementary-weft pattern and choosing a motif that would fit nicely in the available space.

I added just a small motif using supplementary weft to the center of this one…

These latest projects have been about learning to fold the warp in half either horizontally or vertically in order to wrap two layers of threads at once and create instant repeats of the pattern.

It has also been fun seeing the effect of using a multi-colored base warp and making some useful things in the process like this silk cowl.

And now I am back to the experiments in combined ikat and pick-up. I am starting out with a sensibly small project in 60/2 silk. No one wants their silk to end up in the trash!

I am going to revive a picture that I posted back in 2015 when I was first combining ikat with pick-up. This is what you get when you do a Google search for those two terms…

Michelle Nussbaumer’s ikat pickup truck from the Dallas Morning News

In my last post, I showed my latest attempt at this combination on the loom…

Here it is off the loom waiting to be something. Of course, it could just spend its life being a sample but I decided that, although there are some kinks to be ironed out in the process, the finished piece would make a nice second pouch for my iPod.

I added eye-patterned tubular bands to the sides  and made a simple four-strand braid for the neck strap. I didn’t like the blank space at the top of the warp and added a piece of a pair of earrings that one of my students had made. I remember telling her when I bought the earrings that I wanted to dismantle them and use the pieces as pendants.  I had planned on weaving or braiding the necklaces for the pendants. Of the four pieces, I still have three to use as pendants and one which now nicely fills the space on my pouch.

A second experiment with this technique is underway. I am adding a little something more this time. We’ll see how that goes. I am still at the wrapping stage.

So, that’s what I have been up to at my loom. I have also been doing a lot of Zooming with weavers. I feel that we can quite nicely re-create the feeling of a weaving circle via Zoom….not quite like these intimate circles of which I have been a part in the past but I feel that Zoom meetings have been working remarkably well and are doing a wonderful job of creating a sense of together-ness. My Zoom workshops on Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms have been going really well, I feel.

Here we have a group from New Zealand and a group from the USA from back in the good ol’ days. Now we can have individuals gathering via Zoom from all over the world!

In one of our get-togethers, Mary showed me the backstrap that she had just woven. I was so happy to see that the instructions from my tutorial are still being used. I wrote that one way back in 2009. I particularly like this way of making a backstrap because you use the entire warp. The unwoven parts at the start and end are braided and become part of the backstrap. Mary did a beautiful job with her braids.

You can find the tutorial for this backstrap here. It tells you how to weave it on a backstrap loom and what to use as an improvised backstrap as you do so. The article includes instructional video clips.

Todos Santos is approaching when here in Bolivia it is customary for all the family to visit and spend time with one’s departed relatives at the cemetery. Part of the act of remembrance is baking what are known here as tantawawas (bread babies). This picture from the website of Bolivia Bella shows one of the many forms these bread babies can take…

Small ceramic faces can also be bought in the street markets. They are pressed into the dough and then removed before baking. Once out of the oven the faces are fixed to the bread ( in some manner unknown to me). This image is from the bolivianita website….

This year some enterprising folk are selling some special 2020 faces that ae wearing Covid-protecting face masks. I would like to think that they are locally made and not brought in from China.

I am wondering in what creative ways Halloween will be celebrated in this extraordinary year. I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of people creating special shoots via which candy can be delivered while keeping a safe distance way from the kids. 

Until next time, stay safe, please!


Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 16, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – A Bit of This and That

I’ve been spending a couple of weeks finishing things off, sampling, researching, soaking up some online inspiration and planning while I build up to getting into some meatier projects.

First I added the loops to my cuffs so that I could call them well and truly finished. I made simple three-strand braids from some of my hand spun wool, threaded them through the bands and knotted them on the other side. These slip over the buttons that have been sewn to the other end and secure the cuffs nicely around my wrist.

Next, I decided that I really needed to add a Finnweave cuff to the collection. It was fun planning and weaving this small Finnweave project after the larger one that I had recently completed. I used rows of curl patterns that are often found on Huichol double weave pieces and designed a pattern that I thought had a Mexican flavor to sit between them.

You can see the difference in the gold color in my Finnweave cuff and the cowl on the left. So much of the gold color came out when I wet-finished the fabric for the cowl! Not a bit of black came out and my Color Catcher cloth turned a deep gold color, almost orange. The cuff fabric in 20/2 cotton was light enough to allow me to turn a hem at the two ends without adding too much bulk. I used two black plastic snaps to secure it.

Apparently there is some golden yellow inspiration out on the streets these last weeks. I haven’t been out to see them, but the Bolivia 360 page on Facebook tells me that the yellow tajibos have been blooming. This is one of their photos…

So all three of the latest cuffs are finished and are ready for an outing one of these days!

I would love to also make a cuff from my three-color pebble weave sample in 8/2 tencel on the left but it is just that little bit too wide for any of my ribbon crimps and too thick to hem. It can sit in the sample drawer until I come up with an idea for it.

Next on the list was a return to something I had been playing around with back in early 2015. Back then, I was in one of my ikat phases and wanted to create shapes in ikat and fill them with pick-up patterns. I was heading in the direction of creating curved shapes in ikat to fill with pick-up and was working with 8/2 cotton at the time. I wove a wall hanging with angular shapes…two bird figures that I had seen in a book on a large piece of pre-columbian cloth…I ended up making three pieces in this series of birds. They currently live in my closet. Hopefully one day they will hang on my walls.

That project of angular shapes was followed by ikat circles which I also wanted to fill with pebble weave pick-up. It was successful except for the fact that I had forgotten to account for take-up. when I first tied the shapes into the warp. When I wove the cloth, I ended up with shapes that were certainly curved, but not quite circles. 

Now I am taking the same idea to my 60/2 silk and starting off once again with the somewhat safer angular shapes in order to ease myself back into this. But, I am not making anything nearly as large as a wall hanging! In fact, I thought that I might make this practice piece into a wrist cuff at first but decided that something a bit wider would be more helpful as a sample for future projects.

I used some red silk as the base color, tied it with ikat tape and dyed it black. I really shouldn’t take photos late at night as they are always pretty awful, but I wanted to get a quick picture of this so that it could go into the tub to soak overnight and be ready for dyeing the following afternoon.

I should mention that tying red warp with pink ikat tape is not fun! The colors are too similar and it was very hard to tell if the tape was reaching all the way to the margins of the pattern.

The pattern is a very simple one…horizontal and vertical bars that are supposed to look as if they are interwoven as warp and weft. I may have mentioned in other posts about ikat that I find creating straight horizontal lines particularly challenging. My bundles were pretty small. I find it much easier to wrap a thick bundle rather than a thin one.

Here it is on the loom with some of the shapes filled with Andean Pebble Weave pick-up….

I had by-passed my folders of charts and gone straight to the shelf and taken down my own pattern books to leaf through and choose a pattern.  I used one from one of my pattern books after having modified it to suit these small strips of weaving. I wanted a fairly busy Andean Pebble Weave pattern but not one  that had horizontal lines because I didn’t feel like fussing with the necessary modifications while weaving with this fine silk.

So far, the threads are behaving quite well. I think the interwoven effect would be more pronounced if there was less space between the vertical and horizontal bars. I was concerned that if I left too little space and if the shapes blurred along their upper and lower edges, one shape might end up merging with the next. You watch….next time I’ll leave less space and that is precisely what will happen!

I don’t often look at my own books because I have folders and folders of pattern charts with all the patterns that are found in my books along with so many  more that haven’t yet been published. And so, it was kind of fun looking through my Complementary-warp Pattern Book and remembering the time when I was putting this book together. I spent something like six weeks at my brother’s home in Australia drawing charts and weaving the samples. That visit to Australia was supposed to be about visiting family and then popping over to Bali to take a workshop on weft ikat. You may remember my tale about being five hours into the six-hour flight to Denpasar when a volcano on the island of Bali erupted. That forced us to turn back and all flights from Australia to Bali got canceled for a week or so after that. Of course, the workshop went ahead without me.

And so I  stayed in Sydney with my family instead and  work on the book continued.

Starting the collection of sample bands.

The book was finished something like four months later and it has been wonderful seeing these patterns being woven around the world ever since….

By Gonit Poratin Israel (right) using a backstrap loom and one of her students using the frame of a rigid heddle loom.

Frances Lewis used the fish charts from the Rivers and Oceans set to weave a band of fish, but using tablets instead of heddles. She filled in some of the fish outlines with her own pattern ideas.

Julie B liked the set of four cats in the animal section. I love weaving these too and wove them into a silk wrist cuff along with some of the paw prints that are also charted in this book. There are three different kinds of paw prints in the book.

Wendy made this beautiful hat band for her fisherman husband using the fish and other watery patterns from the Oceans and Rivers set…

Bees get a section all of their own in the book as there are four of them to choose from. Here is Carlos’ backstrap-woven bee piece…

Carlos was one of the designers who made a contribution to this  book. You can see his own bee design (below) flanked by some of the patterns from the Borders and Dividers set.

Original patterns contributed by Maja Burger, Laura McCarty and Carlos Vargas.

Nora included one of the bees and its hive in her band of patterns from the Garden-themed set…

I chose some patterns from this book (along with a couple from another one of my books) for the Christmas tree hangers that I made last year…

Could this be my favorite among my books? I’m not sure. I certainly had fun sitting down and looking through it while planning my latest ikat experiment and there are certainly some nice memories associated with weaving the samples (despite the disappointment of the failed Bali trip).

I guess one of the things I like the most about this book is the fact that there were so many contributions from people who had bought my earlier instructional books and then gone on to create their own awesome original patterns. Within the book itself, it’s impossible to pick favorites from the one hundred options. Julia transferred Sashiko sewing patterns to the Andean Pebble Weave structure. I love those. They are charted in the Geometric set.

I have woven my slightly adapted version of Maja’s weaving woman quite a few times. Yes, she might be my  favorite….my current favorite in any case! She appears on the cover of the book. The cheeky viscachas (Andean chinchilla-like animals) also appear on the cover. I charted this pattern from a pre-columbian textile fragment. 

I hope that if you own this book, you may now feel inspired to take it out and browse through the patterns as I have done. And, if you don’t yet own it, perhaps you will put it on your Christmas Wish List. Complementary-warp Pattern Book. And, if you haven’t learned how to weave Andean Pebble Weave yet, both my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms and Complementary-warp Pick-up (for inkle and any other kind of loom that allows you to weave warp-faced bands) books show you how.

Our national election here in Bolivia is this Sunday. I hope it passes peacefully. I have re-stocked my pantry in case it doesn’t but let’s hope that there isn’t a repeat of last year’s upheaval.

Take care and stay safe, please.


Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 2, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Flip Side

Lots of people ask me about how the pandemic is affecting me here in Bolivia and there is plenty to say about all the negative ways in which lives have been changed. But, there’s also a flip side…at least there is in my case…and there are some positive things going on as well as a direct result of not being able to travel and being obliged to stay in one place. I was thinking about it and this is the longest period of time I have stayed here in Bolivia since 2005! There was a period prior to that during which I hadn’t left South America for nine years but, after 2005, I seemed to be regularly picking up and flying away.

This long period at home has my Ideas Notebook crammed with planned projects and leaves me with plenty of time to play with those things that do require more sampling, planning, charting and trial-and-error which, for me, is best done over one long uninterrupted period of time. I have lots of uninterrupted time.

I showed my finished Finnweave sampler in my last post and am pleased to tell you that I found a use for it beyond just being a sample to which I can refer for future projects. It makes a wonderful cowl. Having worn my hair long for most of my adult life, I am very much aware of my bare neck and how cold it can get now that I have cut my hair short. I was very conscious of that on my winter visits to Australia and New Zealand last year.

Yes, I had a moment of frustration the other day and took it out on my hair in the form of yet another DIY haircut. At 10:30 pm with toothbrush in mouth this suddenly seemed like a good idea. While we are certainly not in cowl-wearing weather here south of the equator, the time will come when I can be back visiting the USA in the spring and fall, and hopefully Australia in the winter months, when the air can get a little nippy.

Quite a few people have been curious about the Finnweave I have been doing. I explain that I chose this structure simply because the pre-columbian textile fragments that I have were woven this way. There are of course other kinds of double weave pick-up structures that can be used to weave figures and the figures will have a certain appearance on the front and back of the cloth. Weavers can choose the look that they prefer. As always, I refer to the Doramay Keasbey article in Handwoven Jan/Feb 2011 in which she compares the front and back of bookmarks that she wove using five different doubleweave pick-up structures. 

So, what about the flip side of my Finnweave? The Keasbey article includes Finnweave and I can show you the two sides of a motif on a piece that I wove some years ago using 8/2 cotton which I think is much clearer than trying to show you the example in the finer 20/2 cotton that I just wove.

You can see that smooth horizontal lines on one face look like toothy lines on the other . This particular motif does not have any fine vertical lines but a fine vertical line on the “good’ face looks like a column of small disconnected horizontal dashes on the back. Occasionally, I prefer the way a particular motif looks on the back in that from a distance it resembles blurry ikat with those toothy edges. It’s a softer look. The upper face has a much smoother and sharper appearance.

So, I will keep my Finnweave cowl on hand as I think about my next project using this structure. There’s not much chance of it being used as a cowl any time soon as we have temperatures in the high 90s with one day at 100 degrees forecast for the next eight days. The tropical “winter” is over!

What has been keeping me busy lately is refreshing my memory on three-color reversible pebble weave. It’s another one of those things that grabs my attention every few years. I showed you in my last post the sample I wove in tencel using this technique some years ago in which I used yellow and white on a blueberry background.

I can’t find that sample anywhere now but, thank goodness, I am better at keeping tabs on my notes. However, my notes could have been better and it was frustration with trying to interpret them that led to the late night hair-cutting incident! After a good night’s sleep, I got the notes all sorted and I chose primary colors in 8/2 tencel once again to test whether I had indeed understood the steps.

Examples from Peru shared with me by Mary Spanos with the red, green and yellow sections of three-color pebble..

I am using my backstrap loom with string heddles as you know. If you are a tablet-weaver, three-color double-faced pebble weave is apparently quite straightforward. I have read about people doing it by using triangular tablets but also square tablets that have holes in the sides. So, if you are in a great hurry to learn this, you might want to go with tablets. I’ll leave you to investigate that further.

I will be writing a tutorial on this eventually for those who use string heddles. “Why don’t you just use tablets?” you might ask… I am more interested in the string heddle process as that is the way the technique is woven here in South America.

I have examples of three-color pebble weave in pieces I bought in Peru on my very first visit in 1996. These particular pieces were relatively expensive and I had to think long and hard about investing in them back in my do-it-on-a-shoestring backpacking days. They blew my budget for the following ten days. I am so glad I bought them, though. My weaving friend Mary also sent me pictures of some similar pieces that she owns.

The three-color pebble weave figures in these particular pieces are not identical in appearance on the back of the cloth.

Here you can see the back of one that I wove myself many years ago in a non-reversible technique….

I haven’t yet had the chance to sit with a weaver who knows how to do the double-faced version and so my efforts have been guided by the writings of Adele Cahlander and Marjorie Cason in The Art of Bolivian Highland Weaving and a lot of trial-and-error of my own. Just by chance I was able to pick up a small piece of cloth that was woven using the double-faced three-color version. It was being used as the cover of a small photo album that I found in a souvenir store right here in Santa Cruz. I grabbed it! Thankfully, it had only been glued to the photo album along its edges and I could easily remove the cloth.

Bolivian cloth with pattern in double-faced three-color pebble.

The cloth is so very tightly woven as is the way here in Bolivia, that it is impossible to separate the warp threads to perhaps get some clues about how it was woven. In any case, I am using a series of  steps for my own experiments and am getting the results I want. I feel that I could replicate the pattern on this cloth if I wanted to.

I would, however, love to be able to spend time with the Bolivian weaver of this piece of cloth and see if she has some other less laborious and more efficient way of achieving this which will no doubt have me slapping my forehead and exclaiming “Of course!” On the other hand, perhaps I am doing it just the way she does….I would love to know! Bolivian weavers think nothing of what may appear to us as extremely laborious weaving tasks….think of what they go through every time they finish a piece of warp-faced cloth with four selvedges, or the thread-by-thread pick-up that goes into weaving pieces like the red and black one you see here….

A weaving of the Jalq’a people of Potolo, Bolivia.

So, here is the piece in tencel that I wove to practice creating patterns using all three colors as outlines, background and fillers. My sample motifs got smaller and smaller as I gradually centered my focus on just some very specific aspects. These patterns are charted in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book.

The idea was to refresh my memory about this technique and, as it turned out, improve my notes for next time. But it was also about wanting to weave something using the wool I had started spinning during the Tour de Fleece. My spinning output is quite sad. I simply can’t manage to motivate make myself to devote that much time to it. I am more interested in charting and weaving. In any case, I have some yarn to use and after sampling in tencel, I was ready. I had originally planned to sample in some industrially spun wool but everything I found in the closet was either too heavy or too stretchy. I do have some Knit Picks Palette but I didn’t want to push my luck with that. The method I use has a lot of heddle action and I wasn’t sure how well the Palette would stand up to it.

A couple of wrist cuff projects seemed like a good way to start….

I used a little leaf motif that I had created for my Complementary-warp Pattern Book (slightly modified here) as well as part of a larger flower motif that I had created for the same book in the Garden-themed section.

One of the challenges for me when using this three-color technique is finding three colors that will work well together on both faces. I have a light color -white, a very dark color – black and a medium color- let’s call it tan. These three work well together. Other combinations may not. If, for example, I use two medium colors like purple and green, I can have them sit on either side of the  lightest color on one face, but they will have to sit right next to each other on the other face. In that case there may not be enough contrast between the two for the pattern to be easily distinguishable.

You can see that  tan and black sit right next to each other in the leaf motifs on the upper face and are separated by white on the lower face. I played with the outline color in the flower motif using both white and black as shape outlines and tan and white as the fillers.

My hand spun yarn stood up well. Admittedly, this is only a very short and narrow piece but I can tell thatf it will do well even in something much larger.

I added an eye-patterned tubular band in the same colors and then played around with different buttons for the button-and-loop closure. I love this cuff! 

Next on the loom, was another cuff project using the green and purple that I mentioned above. I didn’t do any outline color-flipping in this one. Here it is getting its tubular edging. I love weaving and sewing that edging! (Check out my book if you would like to learn how to weave this patterned tubular band to use independently as jewelry, for example, as well as weave and sew it as an edging).

These are the buttons that I eventually chose…a flower one for the garden-theme and an interlocking shape to match the interlocked motifs which are charted in my pattern books.

The last thing is to braid and sew on the loops that go around the buttons to close the cuffs.

So, what’s next? While I am in wrist-cuff mode, I might make one in Finnweave. I do like to have examples of the various structures that I use in my wrist-cuff collection. I also feel motivated to spin some of the colors that I am least likely to use and then dye them so I that I can continue to play with three-color pebble. If you have suggestions for three colors that would work well together no matter how they sit in relation to each other, please let me know. I wove this wool three-color pebble some years ago in which the orange and green played well together when placed right next to each other….….and look just as good on the other face where they are separated by white.

Finally, I would like to promote my publications…in this case, the one I produced on the eye-pattern tubular band which you have seen along the edge of the cuffs I made. My ability to earn has been greatly reduced with my inability to travel to teach and book sales help to keep me afloat. Perhaps you would like to try weaving an eye-pattern tubular band. I have two versions of the book. One, which is only available as a pdf, teaches how to weave the band as an independent tube which can be used in jewelry and other accessories. Ideas are given in the book.

In addition to this, the other extended version shows you how to weave and sew the band to the edge of cloth as I have done. It also goes on to teach two other decorative finishing techniques that are used by some of my Bolivian weaving teachers. This extended version is available as a pdf and as a spiral-bound book.

Both the short and extended versions, in either pdf or book form, give access to supplementary instructional video clips and are available at Taproot Video.

I’ll be donning my masks and venturing out a bit more in the next week or so as I need to re-stock the pantry before our national elections this month. I plan on staying in and well out of the way during and after that event.

Take care and please stay safe.









Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 18, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Round and Round it Goes

‘Round and ’round it goes…..I seem to work in these sort of cycles. For example, every four years or so there’s an ikat phase. And now the Finnweave phase has come around again. I won’t be waiting four more years to get back to my ikat, though. I am just having a short Finnweave interlude while I analyze my stash. The dwindling stash situation is obliging me to think very carefully about the next Finnweave project as I only have enough of the black 20/2 thread for one more. I have tons of the gold!

So, I am thinking of having a brief three-color-reversible-Andean Pebble Weave interlude while I ponder and draw charts for my next Finnweave and ikat projects. Andean Pebble Weave is more commonly found in two colors. Having three colors appear at the same time on both faces of the cloth is a bit more challenging. This is another technique that seems to come upon me in cycles. Some years ago I wove a few trial pieces in this reversible three-color structure in 8/2 tencel. Here’s a very subtle one with yellow and light-blue figures on a blueberry background. The back has blueberry and light-blue figures on a yellow background.

And then I went to finer thread and used it in 60/2 silk in my Big Silk Wrap project combining red, brown and gold in a Celtic-knot pattern.

I even used it in an ikat project. I created these bird shapes, that I had seen in a pre-columbian textile, in ikat and then filled them in with the three-color pebble weave structure. This is 8/2 cotton.

Now I would like to weave something using my hand spun wool. I finally finished spinning the yarn that was supposed to be my Tour de Fleece challenge and I would like to use that in a three-color pebble weave project having never used my own hand spun for that structure before. It will be just something small. I am thinking about another pouch for my IPod…one I can use when the one I have now is being washed. That pouch gets SO much use!

Don’t ask me what kind of wool it is! I got some variety packs that had been put together for felters when I was visiting the guild in Melbourne. The large balls are the result of spinning the fiber from three of those packs. I guess there’s enough there for a few small projects.

But first, I will weave the structure using some commercial wool or maybe tencel so that I can get my head and hands back into this technique.

It was the same story with the Finnweave. After not having woven it for so long, it was like starting from scratch. I was just going along mechanically following the instructions I had carefully written down until a friend asked me to explain it to him. I am so glad he did because now I am able to make sense of it and understand many of the whys and wherefores. I am sure that having this will help me retain it better so that next time I won’t I have to fish out and study the written instructions to get started again.

In my last post I told you about the double filet crochet patterns that I was using for ideas in this sampler. I was disappointed that I hadn’t been able to get the lovely round shapes that the designer of those patterns was able to achieve in her work in double filet crochet.

Well, I finally managed to get that sorted out. That involved doing some serious sampling rather than just fooling around with trial and error. I was running out of warp! So I wove a pattern that would give me the opportunity to test some square shapes which then enabled me to adjust the proportions of the squares on my pattern chart. In doing so, I came up with what, to me at least, is an easier way to record and read the patterns on paper…..and….I got to weave the circle at last. I just managed to squeeze it in at the end.

What this also confirmed (and I knew this from previous pieces I had woven) is that it is not a good idea to weave large areas of solid color as the layers do not connect in those parts. It makes the finished fabric feel unstable and, as I was not using a reed to maintain sett, I found that I lost a little control of the sett in the vast area of solid black. Some warp threads started to wander out of position and way too close to their neighbors. It all seems to hold together very well as long as I am weaving pick-up patterns. 

So, it is off the loom and wet-finished now. I just did some weft-twining at the ends because it is after all just a sampler and I’ll leave the fringe in its wild state. I call it a successful experiment!

Just before the circle motif you can see the pattern I wove as a study of squares and thick and thin vertical lines. I found this pattern as I was looking around online. First it showed up as a filet crochet pattern and then I found it as a cross stitch pattern. The addresses of the websites are on the photos…..

‘Round and ’round it goes….this pattern gets to live a new life as a Finnweave pattern! I made some small changes to it for the purpose of my study.

While on the topic of circles….this time along the lines of the “circle of life”, I have some news to share via my friend Dorinda on little Zuni and young Veronica up in the highlands of Cochabamba. Back in 2011 when I visited and wove with Maxima, her little granddaughter Zuni kept us company. Her voice is a part of almost all the videos I shot on that visit!

In this photo from that 2011 visit, I am watching Maxima weave a on a warp she has suspended on her toe while, Zuni plays at spinning, imitating the motions that she has seen played out around her during her entire young life.

Dorinda tells me that Zuni is now learning to weave…

As for Veronica…. you may remember her from my last visit when she completed her second band on the finger-and-toe warp…

She is now learning to weave on the leaning frame loom on which the weavers in this area of Bolivia weave their wide pieces. Maybe she will be able to join the co-op producing yoga-mat straps and earn a little money along the way.

Both Dorinda and I wonder when we will be able to safely travel to visit these ladies again. Apart from the obvious problem with Covid, we have national elections here next month. You may remember that the attempt to hold them in October 2019 was a disaster which resulted in Evo Morales fleeing into exile. With the pandemic happening in the middle of all that political turmoil, the new election date has been postponed twice. Another postponement won’t be tolerated and so we will see how it goes in a country where voting is mandatory and there is no such thing as a mail-in ballot.

And here’s a reminder to take a look at the blog that Dorinda writes on all that is happening in weaving, spinning and dyeing in the lives of these ladies up the Cochabamba highlands. The first week of October is Spinning Week and Dorinda has written about their preparations.

I’d like to show you some projects from my inbox to finish this post…

KathyO is weaving the viscacha pattern  that is in my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book. This book teaches the technique via step-by-step pictures, detailed explanations and video clips and includes a collection of pattern charts. The viscacha is a chinchilla-like animal that is found in the Andes and it shows up in various forms on the textiles that are woven here. I just found an image of a pre-columbian textile that has a viscacha figure in the Finnweave structure that I am currently studying.

One of the things I emphasize in my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book is how easy it is to design your own patterns in this structure. Terry Martin’s 9-year old granddaughter sat by her side as she wove and created these butterfly patterns. Then she sat by and called out the pick-up numbers as Terry wove!

Nancy Ayton has also been designing and has moved on to wider warps to weave her original pattern of diamonds in warp-faced double weave. This is another book that comes accompanied by instructional video clips.

Here’s another Andean Pebble Weave band by KathyO using 12-thread patterns from the Inkle Loom book as well as a few from some of my other pattern books. I like her use of black weft which places decorative black dots along the red edges of her band.

Lori Gayle is weaving from the double weave book and is making a nice sampler of the 12-thread patterns.

As for backstrap-loom weavers, Kristen showed us the kaku obi that she wove using her own handspun linen and hemp. Too beautiful for words! She is wearing it around a vintage kimono.

I’ll leave you with a close-up of this beautiful cloth and the feeling of space and calm that it brings. Please stay safe and well.


Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Seed of an Idea

I would say that many of my ideas for my weaving projects are born from having found something of interest in woven cloth that I have seen in books or online or in-person in my travels. It may be a particular pattern, a certain color combination or a technique. An example would be my wanting to experiment with the ikat technique again after having seen how it is used in many of the beautiful textiles of Indonesia.

Other times the idea for a project might be based on wanting to use a structure that I have learned with my indigenous weaving teachers to produce motifs and patterns that are not at all like the ones that my teachers use.

Or, they could be about practicing a method of construction, like cloth that has four selvedges or cloth that has a built-in pocket. (at left)

Some projects are just about challenging myself to weave on my backstrap loom using the finest threads that are available to me and/or to weave something wider or longer than I have managed before.

I rarely weave anything simply because I have a real need for the finished product. I have something on the loom now that I am enjoying weaving but I have no idea what it will be when it is finished.

There have been times when ideas have come out of the blue from the strangest of places. One such time was when I was traveling on an American Airlines flight and spotted this in the in-flight magazine…

This gave me the idea of creating shapes on a warp using the ikat technique and then filling in the shapes with pick-up patterns. I started with a small circle to test the idea….

…but didn’t have the confidence at that point to go from there directly to large curved shapes. What if successfully creating this first circle was just a fluke? I played it safe and continued with something very angular….

The horizontal lines are outlined with  cross-knit loop stitch.

And then came the bigger circles….

An attempt to create a circle in ikat and fill it with a pick-up pattern. Due to take-up, my circle got flattened as I wove it.

It’s funny that these projects grew from that chance encounter with an ad as I flicked through the in-flight magazine. I still have that ripped-out page pinned to my notice board in the kitchen. It reminds me that one day I will return to this particular challenge.

Another unusual thing that pushed me towards returning to ikat on a different occasion was the appearance of these ikat-like patterns in the way the layers of dark and light threads were interacting in a fresh warp on my loom…

And I remember another time when light was having an effect on the shapes that appeared on my fresh warp. That time I was seeing fine swirling lines that reminded me of the lines on Shipibo textiles and pottery. I didn’t manage to photograph that.

That led to this big double-weave project in which I enclosed fine curve-like lines within heavier angular shapes….

I haven’t had any visions on my fresh warp threads lately! And so, I draw inspiration from more conventional sources. My latest project involves using a balanced double-weave pick-up structure.

I have chosen to use the Finnweave structure because this particular balanced double-weave pick-up structure was used in fabric in old Peru. I was fortunate to find a couple of fragments of pre-columbian cloth that were woven using this structure. They were stitched to dolls that are sometimes sold in the various tourist markets in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. These dolls are modeled on cloth figures that were buried with members of the Chancay culture in the arid coastal regions of Peru about six hundred years ago. Some of them have even made their way all the way over to Santa Cruz Bolivia where I live. I found these in one of the typical kitschy souvenir stores in the center of the city.

The large doll in the center has a fragment of this balanced double-weave cloth. The easiest way for me to distinguish finnweave from other kinds of balanced double-weave pick-up structures is by looking at the back of the fabric. Finnweave does not produce two identical faces. Some shapes on the back resemble the corresponding shape on the front more closely than others. The back always looks a little strange.

I tried to chart a replica of the pattern of the cloth that was sewn to the largest doll. I think I got a lot of it right. Some bits need adjustment. Then I was able to weave it and compare the back of the two pieces of fabric. I made it a bit confusing for myself by arranging the dark and light colors in my piece opposite to the way they are arranged on the fragment.

Now, I would like to leave replicas aside and just play with the structure. The motifs that can be created with it are based on vertical and horizontal lines and so it is quite different to some of the other patterning structures that I use, like Andean Pebble Weave, in which pattern shapes are very much based on diagonals. Finnweave allows me to create true vertical lines of any length, rather than the slightly wavy ones that other structures I use produce.

So, I showed you in my last blog post the sampler that I have been weaving. My piece is not truly balanced. It is definitely warp dominant and I don’t like the fact that I am not getting some of the square shapes that I have created on my pattern charts. My charted square shapes come out as oblongs on the cloth. I will figure out how to use one of my bamboo reeds for the next attempt and hopefully get everything squared off. I had managed quite well without a reed when my projects had been in 8/2 cotton (the replica piece above is in 8/2 cotton). The 20/2 cotton that I am now using is proving to be more challenging in that regard.

I think I mentioned in my last post that thoughts of the wrought-iron work that I saw on Victorian-era terraced houses in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne keep coming to mind as I weave this piece. The problem is that those patterns are for the most part curved! Why would I be thinking of those when I am limited to verticals and horizontals when using this structure?

And then came some inspiration in the form of ….crochet! I honestly can’t remember when I first saw the work of crochet and knit designer and artist Svetlana Rogatykh on Instagram. I don’t even know why I would have been looking at pages associated with these two crafts.  Is it just a coincidence that she is using black and gold in some of her work and that I am too, or did I see her work a long time ago and have it somehow sew the seed of an idea without my even realizing? The only colors I have in this 20/2 cotton are black, gold and bleached white so it’s not like I have much choice.

Here is one of Svetlana’s pieces….

When I first saw this image on the tiny screen of my iPod, I thought…oh, cool…finnweave! I was struck by the way she had used vertical and horizontal lines to create the impression of curves in one of these motifs. The accompanying description was in Russian and it was only when I started looking at Svetlana’s other photos and video clips that I realized that this was in fact crochet. Maybe this technique is well known in the crochet world but I had never seen it before. Apparently, it goes by several names, a couple of which are Interlocking Crochet and Double Filet Crochet. From what I can tell, it is two independent layers of filet crochet, one in black and one in gold, that connect when there is an exchange of colors between the two layers…just like the double weave I am doing.

Here’s another image of Svetlana’s project. Look at those circles!

I think that Svetlana’s designs are amazing. These patterns can be translated directly to the finnweave charting paper that I am using. However, on my cloth they would come out very elongated because my work is warp-dominant. You will be able to see my attempt at Svetlana’s round motif in the photo I posted earlier. I had to alter it to make it shorter but even so, I ended up with an oval shape. This is very good incentive for me to get out my reeds and aim for a better balance in my epi and ppi. I think that I might still have to adapt just a little depending on how my cloth changes after wet-finishing.

You can find Svetlana on Ravelry as SvetaRo and see more of her work in crochet and machine-knitting. As mentioned, she is also on Instagram as svetalna_svero. Many thanks to Kate Dudman who introduced us on Ravelry.

So, maybe I can apply some of Svetlana’s tricks for creating an illusion of curves to the wrought-iron patterns I hope to represent. If not, oh well…there are always lots of leaf patterns  to design!

I have only woven one more motif on the finnweave piece in the two weeks since I last posted. Where did the time go? Well, I was working for the most part on my Zoom presentations and workshops as well as combing through years of old photos to choose the best ones to accompany an article that I was asked to write. That sort of thing always tends to lead one down memory lane. Just like I got lost in my tool drawers recently, I got lost in pictures on discs and thumb drives.

And then I went back further in time to my pre-digital days when my weaving pictures would get printed and then pasted into my hand-made books. I originally pulled out the books because I had wanted to photograph some of  my bone and wooden weaving tools and I thought that covers of the books would make a good backdrop. But then I went and opened one of the books and that was the end of that…the rest of the day was devoted to reading and remembering!

I would make a book every time I learned something new with my indigenous teachers here in South America and Guatemala and would wait excitedly for the rolls of film to be processed so that I could document everything I had learned. These books are full of my little woven samples, drawings, diagrams, photos and yarn and fiber samples….lots of textures…dating back to the mid 1990’s.

Getting a digital camera that allowed me to record video kind of put an end to all that. I did weave what was to be the cover of the book (see below) on the techniques I had learned with my teachers from the Vietnamese hill tribes in 2010  but that was as far as I got with that. By that time I was already writing about my travels on this blog and putting together instructions in pdfs to teach others.

I still have some Zoom presentation work to do but I hope to spend more time at the loom in these next weeks. I am keeping busy and staying home despite the fact that restrictions here are gradually being eased.

Take care and stay safe, please.





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