Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 19, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Come Fly With Me

Let’s do a little armchair traveling.

I have been enjoying talking to my weaving friends in the USA via Zoom and hearing about the little freedoms that they are now experiencing in their small post-vaccination worlds. Bubbles seem to be expanding to allow some people to feel comfortable in gatherings of vaccinated friends. Here in Bolivia as in many countries around the world, some of which are deemed wealthy, poor or somewhere in-between, we are still waiting. Thankfully, the internet allows us to travel to far off places from the safety of our homes.

First stop: the Tibetan Plateau. Daniel Miller allowed me to share this photo that he took of a backstrap weaver who is part of a nomadic group of people that lives on the high Tibetan plateau. The tent has been constructed from panels of woven yak fiber that are woven on a ground loom. The piece that the lady is weaving in this picture is more likely destined to be a saddle bag. She has found the perfect rock against which to brace her feet and make the operation of the loom a little easier on her back. The rock seems to be deeply embedded in the ground. However, I have to wonder if a rock of such perfect shape and size is a favorite that she transports on the back of a yak from from place to place so that she can quickly set up and weave more comfortably. Cheese made from yak and goat milk lies on the surrounding sheets of cloth.

I like to stare at this picture and imagine the sounds that might accompany this weaver…a gust of wind passing across the plain that causes the panels of the tent to billow and flap, the gentle clacking of the sticks as she changes sheds, the rasping sound of the sword against the handspun wool, perhaps the snorting, stamping or sighing of the yaks or a burst of bleating from the goats. I have a recently-formed habit of thinking sounds into pictures.

Tent panels of woven yak yarn. Photo: Daniel Miller

I have been listening to a BBC Radio program called Ramblings in which Clare Balding walks paths in urban and rural Britain while chatting with friends and other personalities. As beautiful as all that countryside must be, there’s something very special about only being able to listen to the sounds of Clare’s ramblings and her descriptions rather than being able to see it all. There’s the squelching sound of her feet on wet turf, the patter of hooves along a bridle path, the gurgling of a stream….

On a recent episode she walked with a sound recordist who introduced me to the words “geophony”, which covers sounds that are made by wind and water, for example; “biophony” which covers the sounds of animal life; and “anthropophony”, the sounds that we humans produce. It made me think of roughly this time last year when we were in our very tight lockdown and the way I had suddenly become aware for the first time of the sounds of our fall season in the form of the rustling leaves traveling over the cobbled yard as well as the birds that sounded like party whistles. It was weird and just a little difficult to adjust to at first.

Enjoying the sounds of lockdown from my third-floor window.

Sadly, one year later, that has all been drowned out now by the typical sounds we humans make as we go about our daily lives. Some are not necessarily unpleasant. Others are disturbing on many levels.

Just this morning I became aware of a new and unusual sound…a strange grinding metallic scraping followed by a heavy thump which was repeated at least twenty times. Leaning out the window, I came to discover that it was the sound of one man struggling to transport a large green oxygen bottle down four flights of stairs and into a truck. Apparently someone in one of the downstairs apartments has been suffering with Covid. The fact that the bottle was being removed and not replaced by another is hopefully a good sign.

But, back to the backstrap weaver seated at her loom far away on the Tibetan plateau. I would like to share a link of more of Daniel Miller’s spectacular photos that accompany an article that he wrote about these nomadic peoples. He has also published several books that are available on Blurb.

From the Himalaya, a video of a backstrap weaver preparing her warp and weaving her cloth has been making the rounds in the various online forums. Here we get to enjoy the sounds and don’t need to imagine them. The clacking of the sticks is my favorite part and makes me smile every time I watch this precious video. I like hearing her whispered mutterings to herself as she works and try to imagine from my own experience with warping what she might be saying. I love listening to her counting her threads while roosters crow and chickens fuss.

How wonderful that she separates the threads into the various sheds that she needs to weave her houndstooth pattern right there on the warping stakes. I marvel at the weaver’s confidence as she removes the warp from the stakes with her shed rods floating in the warp. I would have them all tied off with additional safety strings in place and still feel nervous about losing one!

And now, let’s fly over to the Outer Islands of Micronesia. Unfortunately, this very low-resolution map image is the only one that I could find. I hope that it gives you some idea of the location of Yap which is written in red on the map.

From visityap.com

I met Emily Robison when she came to weave with me on one of my visits to the USA. She told me about her experience learning to weave with backstrap weavers when she was living In Micronesia and allowed me to share some of her pictures in a blog post I published some time ago. This is the loom that Emily built and set up for her own use in the style that she was taught by the weavers of the Outer Islands of Yap state.

This and the following three photos are from the website of weavingconnections.org

An organization called Habele found Emily via my blog post and contacted her for help on one of their projects called “Weaving Connections. Habele describes itself as…

a 501c3 nonprofit promoting educational access and accomplishment among Micronesian communities.

“Weaving Connections” an initiative of Habele established in 2020 to support Remathau women in the mainland United States. “Weaving Connections” helps in sustaining and continuing their distinctive weaving traditions that keep and maintain cultural identities and can provide means for economic support.

On their website you can find detailed instructions with plenty of step-by-step photos on how to build one of the typical looms as well as tutorials on constructing a warping board and making a sword.

An interesting feature of these looms which I find quite unusual is the use of a board as the cloth beam. Instead of a rod, a broad board is used as the near beam and it is to this piece of shaped wood that the backstrap is attached. I can see the advantage of this in that it raises the top layer of the circular warp high above the lower layer. I have often found the closeness of the cloth to the unwoven warp ends in the lower layer of a circular warp to be distracting, particularly when I am using supplementary weft.

You wll find more pictures of this broad beam in use on the loom on the website.

Emily writes:

I’m super excited to share a project I’ve been working on to support the preservation of indigenous Outer Island Yapese backstrap weaving. One of our major goals is to help young Micronesian women living in the US get access to the tools they need to learn their craft while going to school and such, but this website is a great resource for any backstrap weaver interested in Pacific Island technique, including plans for building tools.

Other articles on the website talk about the lavalava which is the typical garment that is made from the cloth woven on the backstrap loom. You can also read about what weaving means to the women who live on these Outer Islands.

When thinking about sounds, I like to add those of the ocean, tropical birdlife and breezes blowing through tropical vegetation as I imagine these women seated at their backstrap looms.

In my next post, I’ll take you to visit the Boruca people of Costa Rica via the pictures that Constance Lee generously shared with me. Constance traveled to Costa Rica from her home in the USA to stay with a family in a Boruca village in the Talamanca Mountains. She was shown the process of preparing, spinning and dyeing cotton with natural plant dyes so that it could be woven into cloth on a backstrap loom. I had no idea that backstrap loom weaving was still practiced in Costa Rica and was so grateful that Constance organized an invitation for me to attend a program that she gave on her experience via Zoom. Here’s a taster…

As for my own backstrap loom, it currently sits as a pile of sticks on my bedroom floor while I plan Panel 4 in the Within These Walls series. Yes, I have decided that a fourth panel is a must and I would like this one to represent what I imagine my post-pandemic world will look like. I am skipping the post-vaccination stage as I have absolutely no idea what that world might look like. Does anyone?

The panel that I just finished is the transition between the chaos of Panel 1 and the relative harmony of my new normal within the walls of Panel 3.

The hummingbirds will unravel the lines of chaos from the first panel and help build a space of safety and harmony.

I won’t explain this in detail. Everyone has had their own pandemic experience and I have actually been enjoying hearing how others are interpreting this series. As I have said before, it is a combination of literal story-telling and symbolism. You can make of it what you will. 🙂 Yes, I am still struggling to get decent photos of it.

So, I see a definite need to weave a fourth panel so that I can end the story on a note of hope as well as create a match for Panel 1 in terms of layout.

I would like to include several weaving figures in the fourth panel and have been working on designing another backstrap weaver in the Andean Pebble Weave structure. This one is viewed from the back rather than in profile. That way I can place several weavers sitting around a tree weaving together.

This is my fourth attempt on this sample band to get this weaver right and I am pretty pleased with. It does include some floats that are longer than ones that I would normally tolerate in this structure but I think that I can get away with them in 60/2 silk. I just need to add a heddle rod and shed rod to the warp. That part is easy. The stick that is currently in the warp is a sword sitting within a shed. The hard part was creating a weaver in the same scale as the other weaver figure that I have been using in the other panels so that they can happily sit side by side.

So, launching into another warp of doubled 140/2 silk that needs to be tied and dyed before I can even begin weaving gives me a lot more time to spin yarn for the projects that will follow this Within These Walls series. There won’t be a fifth panel! I have been devoting all my Zoom time to spinning and that’s coming along nicely.

As I type these final lines, the sounds I hear are those of the birds raucously finishing their day with the setting of the sun. And then one of them gives a signal, or so it seems, and they all stop at once. There’s a moment of hush.

Until next time…..

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 2, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Story of the Hummingbird.

I am busily weaving the third panel in the Within These Walls series and having quite a lot of fun with it. After all the pick-up that I had to do on the second panel to create that sensation of chaos, I am enjoying the wide open spaces in this third piece and feel like I am zooming along. In this piece the friendly hummingbirds play a major role in building the transition from the chaos and darkness of Panel 1 to the harmony of a newly established normal in Panel 3.

I am using doubled 140/2 silk for this one as I had run out of my red 60/2 silk. It’s a rosier red and I love it even though much of it ended up being covered by black dye. It did mess with my head at the start when I kept counting the doubled threads as two threads instead of one when I was doing the Andean Pebble Weave pick-up. I am well over that now.

It’s funny to think that the very first motif I ever wove with my teachers in Peru was a hummingbird. This year of 2021 happens to mark the 25th anniversary of my first trip to Peru during which I had my first experience learning to weave on a backstrap loom. I know that I met my teachers some time towards the end of August 1996. My birthday is in mid-August and I remember quite clearly spending that day alone in Ayacucho. I was so sick and had been for weeks after having eaten something that had been fried in bad oil. I decided to move on to Huancayo and find a place to stop still for a while so that I could give myself a chance to recover. It was either that or head back to Chile. Thankfully, the abuela who ran the hostel at which I stayed made it her mission to make me well again. She made me dandelion and papaya smoothies every day which she said would clean my liver.

I have been thinking back on that experience and those little bands of fine threads that I wove with one end of the warp connected to my waist with string and the other end tied to a bush in the yard. Before my teachers arrived with their thread and sticks I had no idea what motifs we were going to weave, what structure I would be learning or even what kind of loom we would use.

The very first motif the ladies started demonstrating looked like it was gong to be a simple triangle flanked by a couple of inverted ones. I thought that it was very sensible starting with some basic shapes like that. However, just as I started to get my head around that, hoping that I could then predict what was to follow, things changed and I was lost. I thought that asking what the figure was meant to be might help. I was told it was a hummingbird. That didn’t help because I simply could not relate the little figure on the band to anything that looked like a hummingbird to me!

Even after returning to Chile with all my little bands with their clearly recognizable dog, llama, puma, human and various bird motifs, I simply could not make out how that little figure was supposed to be a hummingbird. The figure you see above is my replication of my teachers’ motif woven with a lot of their help which mostly involved their pushing my hands out of the way and taking over every time they saw that I was lost or about to make a mistake. You can tell from the wonky selvedges that this was not their masterful work.

And then I thought that perhaps I had misinterpreted what my teachers called “picaflor”, which is not the official Spanish word for hummingbird. Perhaps that’s their nickname for bees. But nope, I still couldn’t see it. In any case, I have since learned that picaflor is indeed another name for hummingbird.

Here are some more figures from my learner bands from 1996…

And then one day, it occurred to me that perhaps the black outlined triangle in the figure is the bird’s beak and the bird is looking straight at me. That would make the red line and two little bumps directly above it the top of the bird’s head and two eyes. The main red triangle is the bird’s body and the sides are its wings. Can you see it? The bird is flying straight towards me. I was delighted! How unusual to depict a bird head-on lie that! Once I could see it, I couldn’t un-see it. The band was glued into my journal and I never wove it again. It was quirky and interesting but I didn’t like it enough to use it in any of my projects. Later, I found another hummingbird motif on a band from Taquile Island and now I have created my own original one.

Just the other day on a Zoom call I pulled out my learner bands because I wanted to tell my weaving friends about my 25th anniversary. I had long ago removed the bands from my journal so that I could photograph them and show them in my workshops. I started telling them The Hummingbird Story and showing them the little figure. Literally as the words were coming out of my mouth, I suddenly saw it! The figure is TWO hummingbirds in profile facing each other with connected beaks. Of course! How did I not ever see that? I am sure that you saw it right from the beginning and must think that I am mad.

I was actually a little disappointed about this new discovery. I had quite enjoyed the unique idea of depicting a hummingbird flying straight towards the viewer. Oh well.

The little hummingbirds that I created in my Within These Walls series are depicted in profile. Some are solid and some are outlined. You can see one of them in my latest panel busily unraveling the chaos lines that had covered the previous panel…

Others are collecting sticks and plants with which they will help me build my own world within my walls. I am quite accepting of the fact that I shall most likely remain within these walls for the rest of the year. The supposed roll-out of a vaccination plan here has been carried out in the true Bolivian style that I have come to expect…utter chaos and confusion. I gather that it may not have been much better in some other more developed countries. And, I know that with limited resources this can’t be an easy task.

Some of the supplies have already mysteriously “disappeared” according to a newspaper report today. Every time I turn around there is a new website on which we are supposed to register. I have signed up to three so far with no sign yet of when anything will actually start happening for the general public..

I have advanced quite a lot since I took the picture of Panel 3 above. I am just about to reach half way and my thoughts have started turning to what I might weave after this project. I am still deciding about whether to weave a fourth panel in this series. If I don’t, I hope to weave something with my handspun wool and have decided that all Zoom time from now on should be spent spinning. I would really like to do some more of this three-color reversible Andean Pebble Weave. Here you can see the technique on two wrist cuffs that I wove last year.

I also have these two strips that you can see below (they’re both about twice the length that you see here) that I wove from my handspun llama fiber years ago, probably back as far as 2005. I sewed them onto cotton cloth that I had also woven on my backstrap loom and made shoulder bags. The black bag with the grey strip got used a lot and the cotton part ended up looking rather shabby. I have since removed the llama part which looks good as new and thrown away the cotton cloth. So, I want to weave new pieces to create new bags but, this time, in my handspun wool. I am never short of projects! The brown one was my attempt to replicate a scrap of band that I had bought in Cusco on that first trip in 1996.

The fabric for the bags will be in warp-faced plain weave and I’ll weave straps in the three-color reversible Andean Pebble Weave. On a strap, the different ways that the three colors position themselves in this technique on the two faces can be appreciated. The two faces can look quite different…

While on the subject of spinning I wanted to tell you that tinyStudio Creative Life Magazine is now offering subscriptions to its magazine in print form. I have seen Suzy Brown and the team showing off the print version of the latest issue and it looks luscious. There are 120 pages of content beautifully bound in such a way that it always lies nice and flat on the table. You may remember that Suzy asked me to contribute to issue 9 (below) with a bit of a story about my learning to weave with my indigenous teachers. Hopefully, once subscriptions have taken off, she will consider printing some of the back issues too. Subscription includes free shipping for the four issues per year from New Zealand. Here is an excerpt from the website which will give a better idea of what this magazine is about:

Mindfulness, simplicity, and a conscious approach to fiber crafts. These are the foundations of an inspirational magazine! tinyStudio Creative Life Magazine is created especially for fiber artists of all kinds, spinners and yarn artists. We aim to enhance your fiber life with projects, patterns, creative rituals, fiber artists’ stories and articles, ideas for storage and decluttering, ways to reuse and recycle, and articles on fiber producers who themselves adhere to conscious and caring processes. The ultimate lifestyle magazine specifically for people like us, who have a passion for all things fiber!

I actually have a lot more to show and tell you about things I have been seeing online in forums, Zoom lectures and via backstrap weaving friends about backstrap weavers on the Tibetan Plateau, on the island of Yap, the Himalayas and in Costa Rica but I think I will keep those for a post all of their own soon.

To finish, I would like to share with you another part of the continuing story of Maribel. You may remember that I first met her back in 2017 when I went to the central Bolivian highlands to meet the ladies in my teacher Maxima’s co-op. Nineteen-year-old Maribel had been the first one to show up at the gathering with her toddler Daniel, eager to get involved, put the weaving skills that she had been observing but not practicing her entire life to use and become a paid member of the co-op. She asked to learn how to read my pattern charts and after starting to weave one of the patterns set about copying charts from my book.

Some weeks later, she showed up at the co-op with her first woven band in naturally dyed handspun yarn using the pattern that I had taught her via the chart.

You can see that it was accepted and labeled by the co-op ready for sale. I so wish that I had bought it!

Next came her first faja

That has been followed by her first aguayo, completed with the help of her mother-in-law. This piece was not destined for the co-op but is most likely for her own use. These ladies much prefer the finer synthetic threads with their bright colors when they weave for themselves.

Dorinda tells me that Maribel is now Secretary of the Association of Artisans in her community of Huancarani. Such good news! I can’t wait to see what she weaves next.

March 31st marks the end of another quarter of business on the Taproot Video website where I sell my books and video class. Thank you so much to all of you who continue to support me by buying my books and telling weaving friends about them. I have been enjoying meeting new pick-up weavers and re-uniting with past students in my Zoom workshops and love running into some of you here and there in the social media forums.

Take care everyone and stay safe, please.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 7, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – That Inevitable Question

If you are a maker, I think that you know the question to which I am referring in the title of this post….”How long did it take?”

I find that I am being asked that a lot when I show people the completed second panel in my Within These Walls series. I actually have to look back through my photos and find dates to be able to at least remember when I started this second one. I was shocked to see that the first picture that I had taken with the warp on what I call the ikat frame was taken on January 2nd. I am not able to process that! I can’t remind myself that…oh yes, I was doing that when a certain event occurred. I can’t tell myself that I was tying the heddles the day after I went to such-‘n’-such a place or that I dyed the warp on the afternoon after I hung out with a certain friend. I am sure that you can all relate. I am not doing anything or going anywhere to set the landmarks through which I can meander and mark the passage of time.

However, it’s strange that I can remember the song I was listening to when I wove the first hummingbird as that marked a change in pace. I recall the episode of the BBC comedy show I was listening to when I was roughly an inch into the chaos section because it had taken an inch of weaving that pattern to convince me that this idea was going to work. I know which re-run episode of The Gilmore Girls I was watching when I reached the main blacked-out section of the design because that blacked-out section reduced the amount of pick-up I had to do in each row….it was an event! 

I just don’t know WHEN those things were happening. Were they two weeks ago, a month ago? Not that it matters. I really have settled into this sort of timeless existence and I am sort of okay with that. I had wasted a lot of head space getting anxious about Carnival and its associated disruption. It didn’t happen. It was DEAD QUIET…seriously, not a peep! So, I can’t even associate part of the weaving process with Carnival craziness. Not that I am complaining! 

I have to say that I enjoyed every step of the process….the drawing and charting, the warping, bundling, wrapping, soaking, dyeing, drying, unwrapping, heddling and weaving! Even a broken thread didn’t phase me. However, there was a jolt when I realized, at some distance into the  weaving, that I had neglected to wrap one part of one bundle of twenty threads. How to quickly become an expert in replacing broken threads…replace twenty of them in a row! I had to tie and dye a bundle of twenty ends so that they would match the color changes in the warp and then cut out the offending threads and replace them, carefully matching the black and red sections along their lengths.

 

A big part of the enjoyment in every step came from the fact that there had not been anything nagging and telling me that I need to hurry up because I’ll be traveling soon and will need to stop weaving to spend weeks winding literally hundreds of warps for up-coming workshops. But, having said that, gosh, I miss the traveling and weaving with friends! Thank goodness for Zoom.

A weaving party at Janie’s!

Anyway, here’s the finished second panel (which is actually Part 1 of the story told by this series)…

If you know the Bob Marley song Three Little Birds, you might know the message of hope that the little hummers in this piece are bringing me along with yarn and sticks for my loom.

Here are two of the three panels….

The third panel will soon be underway. I’ll be using doubled 140/2 silk for it in a different tone of red. It will be the center panel and for that reason I think that I can get away with it looking a little different color-wise. You might ask what in the world am I doing with 140/2 silk. Allow me to drop some names! These cones were given to me by Betty Davenport and Sara Lamb who had decided that they certainly were not going to put them to any use. They have sat in my drawers for quite a few years and now out they come to rescue my project. It’s a different kind of silk and I hope that it takes the black dye as well as my 60/2s does.

And now I have realized that I really need to weave a fourth panel.

The third one in the series, which is the one on the left in the photo above, shows me in my present timeless state…happily weaving away within my walls in my own little world with everything outside the walls being a big black unknown. I think I need to finish the story with a panel that shows that I am actually able to imagine myself in a future post-pandemic world. I had a dream recently in which I could hear magpies singing outside my window which is a very Australian sound to me. It was so real. Birds seem to be carrying messages to me lately.

If you are unfamiliar with the sound of magpies, here is a little clip that I made the last time I was in Australia in 2019.

In this break between working on the panels, I decided to try out an idea for the fourth panel using some 20/2 cotton and warp-faced double weave.

I was inspired by Japanese braids that had been created on a takadai braiding stand that I had photographed at the Braids 2012 conference in Manchester, England. Yes, it has taken me this long to get around to taking a closer look at them.

What attracts to me them is the way the motifs are not contained within the width of braid. Sometimes you only see half the motif or even less lying along the edge. The motifs roll off the edge and then reappear later. If you understand that I want this fourth panel to represent the opposite to being confined within walls, you might see where I am hoping to go with this. 

My double weave sample is in black and gold 20/2 cotton with flowers that I saw on the Japanese braids just to see if I could create the same kind of effect using a totally different structure. The real project will naturally be in red and black 60/2 (or, more likely, doubled 140/2) silk and the motif will be humming birds. I am in the very early stages of getting this idea sorted.

So, that’s what I have been up to. Now I can show you what some of my weaving friends and online acquaintances have been doing…

Jessica used a band lock and rigid heddle in a backstrap set-up to weave this beautiful band in which the pattern is created by supplementary warp threads. You can see the brown belt that she uses to secure the warp to her body.

Susan Bratt is keeping all her friends supplied with her beautiful guitar straps. She uses a backstrap loom with dowel rods like I do and the patterning structure is Andean Pebble Weave. 

This beauty is by Rosita Scheidt using a pebble structure that doesn’t have regularly repeating pebble sheds. This is one of the classic Andean hook patterns which is charted in my More Adventures with warp-faced Pick-up Patterns book.

Here’s another classic Andean hook pattern that Joanne Teague wove on her inkle loom. This one appears in Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms as well as in Complementary-warp Pick-up. That hook shape is the base of so many larger and more intricate Andean patterns.

This one was woven by Sally Backes. I love her beautiful dense twisted fringe. these kinds of knotwork patters work really well in Andean Pebble Weave. This is one that was designed by Louise Ström for tablets. She allowed me to adapt it to Andean Pebble Weave for my books. It’s in the More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

I have shown Shilpa Nagarkar’s work here before. She combines bands and constructs the most amazing bags. There’s that classic Andean hook again in black and white. These patterns are in the pebble weave structure. She also weaves and includes bands that use supplementary-warp techniques and plain weave. Her piece is on one of the Windhaven double-sided band looms. You can see more of her work on Instagram.

Anyone for more hooks? The options seem endless and this is one of my favorites of the Andean hook patterns in the Complementary-warp Pick-up book. This was woven by Jennifer E Kwong.

To finish I want to show these five little dragon patterns in Andean Pebble Weave that I don’t believe I have shown before. Several years ago, I was asked to translate a popular historic double dragon figure that is traditionally woven using tablets to the Andean Pebble Weave structure. An online friend wanted to weave it on an inkle loom without using tablets. It’s the second one from the left. Of course, the chart I created is for a simplified version of the original and the structure is totally different. I liked the little dragons and looked for more tablet-woven bands that included the dragon heads. So, here are five of them.

The charts for these are included in my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

I am really excited about the fact that I have been invited to attend a presentation next Saturday by a lady who traveled to Costa Rica to learn about the preparation of cotton for weaving and the creation of cloth on a backstrap loom. I had no idea that the backstrap loom was still being used in Costa Rica by the Boruca people. I hope to have something to share with you about that next time.

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 stevensheehy.com

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…..so 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.

 

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