Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 17, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Sunrise, Sunset

Do you know the song ”Sunrise, Sunset” from ”Fiddler on the Roof”? I have had that in my head for a couple of weeks as the hours and days fly by, I travel from place to place and winter becomes spring before my eyes..

From Florida sunrises ro Pennsylvania sunsets and a whole lot of activity in between…

Sunrise at the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference

Sunrise at the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference

The ast rays of the setting sun over the creek at The Mannings Handweaving Studio in Pennsylvania.

The last rays of the setting sun over the creek at The Mannings Handweaving Studio in Pennsylvania.

Sunrise, Sunset. This is the name of one of the songs that we sang gathered around the table while David played the guitar at the Passover Seder in which I participated at my friend Claudia’s home in Maryland.

10471195_10206350602506701_1973694388140159785_nThat was one of my stops on my way to my current ”home” at The Mannings in Pennsylvania. The journey took me to New York City, Salem Ohio and Wilmington Delaware.

I attended the monthly meeting of the Harmony Weavers Guild in Wilmington in what is the prettiest meeting venue I have come across so far…Greenbank Mill. As we drove by, I was just about to ask Carol if we could stop to take a picture of the mill and its wheel and then I realised that  this was the meeting spot and I would have all day to enjoy and explore it. It was a short stay in Wilmington and I left with images and stories of Dupont, grain and textile mills and lively, gushing, cascading creeks and a desire to return and see more.

greenbank millInside Greenbank Mill along with all the preserved mill equipment – stones, wheels, cogs – a hefty post surrounded by plenty of open space allowed us to hitch up our backstrap warps and stretch out like wheel spokes.

???????????????????????????????A visit to the Hagley Museum the previous day brought us to an unexpected sort of ”yarn bombing” of the entry gates…

yarn bombing Hagley Museum

In Ohio, in my host Tracy’s home, I knew I had come to the right place when I saw this…

???????????????????????????????Tracy’s warp weighted loom stands like a work of art in her living room along with the Tonkinese cousin of my own cat back in Bolivia.

warp weighted loomI got to throw a couple of shots of weft, just enough to see how to operate the the two sheds. I realised pretty quickly what hard work it is on the shoulders to be standing and reaching up to pass the weft and beat with an upward motion.

We wove together at the Canville Fair Grounds, home of the largest county fair in the US. I have never been able to plan my visits to coincide with a county fair in the US and would love to go to one.

Tracy and Marjorie had taken an Andean Pebble Weave class with me at The Mannings a couple of years ago. They worked on their own projects while the rest of the group started from scratch.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Tracy had bought some Harrisville Highland wool on that trip to The Mannings and had saved it for a backstrap. The red and green are the Harrisville Highland wool (the kind that is sold washed in skeins rather than on cones). The grey is a mystery  wool which is slightly heavier than the other two. It gave Tracy’s Andean Pebble Weave design a nice three-dimensional look. This wool was really fabulous….not at all sticky…a real pleasure to work with. Tracy is using it here to weave a backstrap. It’s the perfect weight for that. She chose a pattern from my second book.

???????????????????????????????Marjorie went to the other end of the yarn weight spectrum with a very fine alpaca yarn that she bought on giant cones on one of her trips to Cusco. This is not what I would call easy yarn to work with and I have all my fingers crossed for the success of this project. She also worked on a backstrap using Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale mercerized cotton but, at the same time, was curious to see how the alpaca behaved.

Marjorie also brought in this marvelous llama bone tool that she had acquired in her travels in Peru. I have never seen a carved one like this….how beautiful!

???????????????????????????????Here’s Tracy’s backstrap off the loom, braided and finished…

???????????????????????????????In the evenings, I had tatting lessons with Tracy and I got the chance to be a student,  which is always a useful experience. I would be going along with a nice rhythm convinced that I had it all down and then suddenly completely lose the plot and create an ugly string of knots instead of hitches.

My friend Vonnie in Sacramento had also taught me to tatt but Tracy showed me a different way to hold and manage the shuttle which doesn’t require the ”flip”. It is is less elegant but it is nice to have options. I was sent off with a couple of shuttles and thread. I hope to go back to Ohio some time and learn bobbin lace with Tracy. Those of you who are into lace will probably already know Tracy in her former business as The Lace Maker. She was even at Convergence in 2010 in Albuquerque as a vendor when I was there. I had been attracted to her stand because of the small warp-weighted loom she had on display but we didn’t meet.

In fact, Tracy’s home was a showcase of all the fiber activities and techniques in which she has been involved. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn a bit about the Theo Moorman technique from the runner on her dining table. You all know that I am a big fan of supplemental weft…

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m hoping that she will feel confident enough and find the time to use the handspun and naturally dyed yarn that she got when she attended the Tinkuy in 2010 in Cusco.

Yes, we were both there in 2010 and had a brief encounter. It’s about time we spent some more time together.

She has a large supply of the handspun dyed yarn in her plastic hamper as both she and her boyfriend took the natural dye workshop at the Tinkuy and I know that she will do something spectacular with it.

Hands have been busy and continue to be so as I move along from place to place. It is always great to hear from people as I move on and find that they have been working at their warps.

Here are some shots of busy hands at the loom. This first picture was taken by Sara Norine James at the Florida Tropical Weavers Conference and shows Berna expertly working the two sets of string heddles to open a shed on her Andean Pebble Weave warp…

berna FTWG by Sara Norine James

???????????????????????????????It was nice to meet Facebook friend, Alison, who came down from Ontario, Canada to weave with me at The Mannings and learn some Backstrap Basics. She wove the leaf pattern and then continued on her own to weave it as a negative image. In the picture you can see her busy hands selecting threads under which to pass her supplemental weft. Alison has been weaving using my books in her home in Canada and has made some lovely Andean Pebble Weave pieces….

???????????????????????????????And whose hands are these? Well, those are mine doing a demonstration with the silk Andean Pebble Weave cuff on wrist.

Laverne at the ManningsAnd now….no hands…not even any arms!

Laverne in huipilWe guessed that this must be a child’s huipil. I just managed to get my head through the opening but there was no way my arms would pass through those armholes. Yet the piece is so big! All that purple and green work is embroidered. Amazing.

Kristen got herself set up with a pillow case as an improvised backstrap. She said that she was challenging herself to let go of the pattern  chart by guessing what came next in the pattern by reading the cloth and then confrming by looking at the chart before passing the weft. Her cat helped, as cats like to do, by lying on the chart.

kristenHere’s Sarah in the showroom at The Mannings, amongst the looms and spnning wheels, using hands and head to figure out the next step in the process…

???????????????????????????????I have a whole week between classes here at the Mannings. You can be sure that there is no shortage of things to do and see when you are practically living in a yarn store. Linda and Carol dropped by on Tuesday to weave with me. Linda had read both my books cover to cover without touching a piece of yarn. Yet, she had somehow absorbed the technique and I needed to just to give her a little guidance before she was underway weaving lovely Andean Pebble Weave patterns. I figure that she must have amazing powers of visualization.

???????????????????????????????Here she is preparing her warp with its second set of heddles.

???????????????????????????????Carol came with something completely different in mind. She had been given an ikat warp from Guatemala. The warp had been wrapped and dyed and was ready to go on a floor loom. Carol wanted to weave it on a backstrap loom. She had put a similar warp on her floor loom and woven it as a balanced plain weave cloth creating a mobius shawl. Although the threads shifted more than she probably would have liked, I think that the finished piece is lovely. I hesitated over posting a picture of her shawl as my picture really does not do it justice.


Carol is no stranger to ikat having studied weft ikat in Thailand and bringing home her dyed thread to weave stunningly fine cloth on her floor loom. She came to The Mannings on Tuesday with the idea of putting the Guatemalan warp on a backstrap loom and weaving it into a warp-faced piece of fabric. We spent a great part of the day getting it sorted onto loom bars as it had somehow become almost hopelessly tangled. Here’s Linda holding one end of the warp while Linda and I try to straighten things out. The original warp was multi-colored and the several colors were bundled and wrapped together to create the motifs.


???????????????????????????????Now it’s starting to look like something but there is still a long long way to go and with each handling those threads are shifting.

???????????????????????????????Carol has just inserted the cross sticks. That horizontal line at the start will be helpful but it remains to be seen if the upper layer and lower are well aligned. There are many many string heddles to be made before weaving can begin.

On the other days between classes I decided to work on a ”three-fer”, that is, one project with three purposes. I wanted to get my hand back in with a Bolivian embellishment technique that I call the ”coil stitch”. This project would give me practice in something that I am not doing all that often, provide an additional sample for one of my classes, as well as a little slip case for my new iPod. One of my students who has become a dear friend, along with her husband, gave me this iPod. I have never owned one before and am thrilled.

Bolivian embellishment coil stitchesYou can see some of the handwoven fabric made from naturally dyed handspun yarn that I use in my finishing and embellishment classes. I had a small leftover piece that was just the right size for the iPod. I have started by edging it with coil stitches and will dress it up with all kinds of doo-dads. I love doing that and it gives me practice in the various techniques. Next, I’ll make a pouch for the charger and cable using the fabric with the cochineal tones that you can see above.

bolivian embellishments coil stitchesI am using Cascade 220 superwash yarn for the sewing and the colors match so well. It’s a fun little project which mostly keeps me out of the yarn store where there are too many lovely things to buy.

???????????????????????????????I have one more fun thing to show you.

I was persuaded to buy new sneakers and got a kick out of the laces on the ones I chose which have a classic little inkle weaving pattern which matches the strap on my own woven handbag.

Now I will be able to hike some light trails when I am invited. Hiking was such a huge part of my past and I miss it.


I will leave you with a shot of the sun casting its golden glow at The Mannings. Another day ends and I enjoy my down time in this lovely peaceful place before I start bouncing again across the country











Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 31, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Where are you?

I’ve been getting emails and messages these last few days with a common question….WHERE ARE YOU???? Yes, I have missed a few blog posts, as I often do when I am on the road, and so here I am attepting to squeeze in a quick update before I start teaching a three-day Andean Pebble Workshop tomorrow.

I must warn you that there is not a whole lot of weaving related content in this post. I am, after all, simply attempting to answer the ”’Where are you?” question and I will save all the stories about new friends and fun people I have met along the way and the inevitable fibery tales for another post, if you don’t mind.

Right now, I am in the vicinity of this….

???????????????????????????????This is the view from my window on my way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After having spent six days in Florida, which had been downright refreshing after the brutal heat and humidity of the Santa Cruz summer, I had almost forgotten that yes, the USA was exiting a hard winter and snow was to be expected.

I had been looking at the small, odd and widely scattered patches of white from the plane window as we left Newark thinking that they might be salt lakes (!) and then remembered as we drew closer to Boston, where the white patches grew and started to merge one into the other, that Massachusetts had experienced record-breaking snowfalls this winter….duh!

???????????????????????????????I spent a weekend in New York city. Ah, ”if I can make it there”…..! :-)I was excited to be staying on the 15th floor of an apartment building in Manhattan with glimpses from my bedroom window of the Manhattan Bridge and the river. It was cold outside. I felt quite the silly tourist as I headed out to meet weavers in the New York Guild of Handweavers wrapped in a scarf and clad in my host’s long, well-padded winter coat but with my bare toes exposed to the elements in sandals.

Picture by Sally Ogren

Picture by Sally Ogren at the guild meeting…indoors… warm, toasty and welcoming.

And just a week before this I was here, in an area that my host, Berna, nostalgically calls ”old Florida”….a place where old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss line beautiful Lake Yale…

???????????????????????????????This was the venue for the annual Florida Tropical Weavers Guild Conference.

Strolling the lake shore in the cool, soft, early hours of the morning was my favorite way to start the days that were, in typical conference style, crammed with activity. It gave me time to think and get my head together before approaching a day of teaching.

??????????????????????????????? And whenever I got the feeling that I wasn’t quite alone out there, I was usually right…

???????????????????????????????And then the sun would make its glorious appearance, I would feel its heat and it would be time to head to breakfast and get charged with the energy and excitement of all my fellow weavers heading off to refine tapestry weaving skills, learn about the Quigley structure, study boundweave, dye skeins in multiple colors and play with cashmere…just to name a few of the workshop options that were on offer.

???????????????????????????????Well, okay, I will show you one textile thing before I go. I made some cuffs and have been wearing these while teaching. When attention is focused on what my hands are doing in amongst the warp threads, it is nice to have some prettiness on my wrists. I am really pleased with these. They are all fastened with snaps. You might remember that the brown one was a four-selvedge experiment and so it does not have any raw edges to deal with. The others are woven with fine thread with three selevedges and I was able to turn the one raw edge over and hem it without creating excessive bulk.

??????????????????????I definitely want to make more of these and have been inspired to make some very colorful ones by something that one of my students showed me. You will have to wait until the next post to see that.

So now you know where I am. As to what exactly I have been doing and what I have seen, there is too much to tell right now! It’s time to get ready for a fun day of weaving tomorrow. See you soon.











Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 13, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Tying Up Loose Ends

It will be just a short post this week as I tie up loose ends on projects and get ready to travel.

unfinushed projects backstrap weavingThere are buttons to be sewn on cuffs, warp-ends to be braided on key fobs, books to be glued and weaving to be finished. I need to break down the two extra weaving stations that sprouted and grew during this latest homestay of mine…the ones in the living room and kitchen… which were needed for keeping up with workshop prep and a weave-along while I worked on my usual large projects in the bedroom. I must clear away the various project piles with their balls of yarn, books with colored fingers of protruding Post-it notes, sketches and pattern charts so that all can be covered and kept dust-free in my absence.

The first thing I attacked was the journal-cover project. Once the weaving was done, the scary part, which involved gluing the cloth to the book covers, had to be faced. Fortunately, I had one rejected book cover piece which served as test fabric for the glue. You can see the rejected piece in the upper corner of the picture above. Would the glue soak through the cloth and appear as an ugly stain on the upper face? It didn’t! Now I can add a zipper to that test piece and turn it into a little pouch.

inside cvers of journals with backstrap weavingYou can see how I turned the end of the weaving over to the inside of the covers. The piece of cloth in the picture is still on the metal rod which I used to create a selvedge. I glued the fabric there and then used colored paper to completely cover the inside. Precisely positioning that colored paper while using a contact glue was probably the hardest part of the whole process. I also used a line of glue along the point where the book cover bends to open.

initials woven into spine of journalsI bought another journal and made a fourth cover. You can see the recipients’ initials on the spines. It is fun discovering that you can make recognizable letters with so few threads in such little space.

Here’s the fourth one set up and ready to go. I love seeing a fresh warp like this stretched out in front of me.

backstrap loom with two shed set up and coil rodI used a motif inspired by Guaraní textiles with snakes and a star…

backstrap weaving woven journal coversThen I settled into finishing the third panel in the Bird series with its ikat bird shapes filled in with three-color pebble weave. That was followed by a rather tedious session of sewing black on black as I lined the irregular edges of the ikat shapes with cross-knit looping…

ikat bird shapes filled with pick-upThese panels really fall into the category of ”samples” as I used them to learn much about tying warps for ikat. In the first panel, the dye leaked a lot under the ties, staining the threads within, which gave a surprisingly attractive softened look to the motif, especially around the edges, once the pick-up patterning had been finished. In the third panel, my tying skills had improved and the ikat shape had crisp, sharp outlines with the white threads within the ties completely untouched by dye. The bird shape in the third panel is brilliantly white as a result and leaves me wondering in the end which ”look” I actually prefer.

ikat bird shapes filled with pebble weave backstrap weavingWth this experience behind me, I shall have a lot of time in my travels to ponder the next ikat project that I want to start on my return. The aim has always been to create flowing curved shapes in ikat rather than the rigid block-like ones in the Bird samples. I want to fill beautiful curved shapes with pick-up patterns. I have two such shapes in mind and I will, no doubt, stumble across something while I am away that will inspire a third.

As you can see, the three panels above are still on their looms. So, I am not completely finished with this project. I have yet to decide how exactly I want to finish them in terms of weft twining, fringe or braids. Should I introduce some red in the first two panels? I will launch myself into that when I return.








Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 6, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Books and Bands

Last week I had my hands on the gorgeous handspun wool bands from the weavers of Cochabamba. I was enjoying all the beautiful warm tones the weavers had obtained from dyeing with leaves, flowers and cochineal. I admired the different textures in the cloth that the tight twist in the yarn had created.

weaving highland BoliviaThis week, I moved to the fresh, cool, blue of indigo-dyed fine cotton from Guatemala….

journal cover on backstrap loomThe variation in tone in the thread gives my woven fabric a lovely ‘rustic’ streaked look, almost like faded blue jeans. This is to be the cover for a journal that I bought to give as a gift for a friend. Her initials will sit on the spine of the book. I enjoy doing the pick-up for supplementary-weft inlay especially when using fine thread and I love weaving the warp-faced plain- weave base for the patterning. The back cover will not have patterns and will be very fast to weave. Doing plain weave with such lovely thread and in such a gorgeous color is a joy. I am using a coil rod as part of my set-up to prevent corrugation. You can see the thin coil rod in the picture beyond the cross sticks.

key fobs backstrap weavingGetting the width exactly right was the challenge and I was happy to have used the Guatemalan cotton in the Key Fob Weave-Along that we ran in the Backstrap Weaving Group on Ravelry recently. The blue and wheat-colored fobs gave me samples from which to make my width calculations.  I normally wouldn’t completely trust information from such tiny samples but I was lucky this time and the book covers turned out to be the perfect width.

???????????????????????????????I may even turn the key fob samples into matching book marks for these small journals. The covers are simply sitting on the books for the time being. The ends of the cloth have been turned to the inside and I will glue them there and then cover the inside with some pretty paper or card. I may have to also apply a line of glue next to the spine where the book cover bends to open. Tomorrow I shall go shopping for paper and more books because I am having a lot of fun making these.

The center red motif below the flower head  is an adaptation of a pattern that an online friend in Greece wove and showed me. It is fun charting the tiny initials to fit on the small space on the spine.

Here is a third one on the loom….

???????????????????????????????Apart from that, I got caught up a little in the recent interest in woven cuffs that emerged from the Key Fob WAL. It seems like a good natural progression…projects of similar length and just a little wider an lots of room for creativity with different kinds of finishes and closures.

I made the silk Andean Pebble Weave band that I wove recently into a cuff. Some people like to make the closure of the cuff a prominent feature using a pretty button or other kind of clasp. I didn’t as my cuff is heavily  patterned. I just overlapped the ends and secured them with press studs. The press studs, which are kind of ugly, get hidden under the overlapped ends. I used 60/2 silk which made a very fine band. This meant that turning and hemming the end did not create much bulk. One end has a selvedge and didn’t need hemming.

silk cuff backstrap weaving Andean Pebble WeaveThen I wove a cuff experiment in wool. I wanted to make a piece with four selvedges and see how much length would be lost to take up.

I would like to make a fairly plain wool cuff with four selvedges so that I won’t have a raw edge with unwoven warp-ends to have to deal with….just a fairly plain band with a large button and maybe a tubular edging for decoration. I warped a band of 7 1/2 inches and only lost 1/2 inch in take up. I couldn’t resist throwing in a little motif along the way just for fun. So, this finished band gives me the information about take-up that I will need for planning the next one.

four selvedge wool cuff sampleI will most likely make the celtic knot band, on the left, which has just been sitting around here for ages, into a wristlet too.

Now we are into March and the Key Fob Weave-Along is coming to its end. People are moving on to other projects and other looms or picking up backstrap things that they had put aside when the WAL began.

Gwen learned a lot about using stripes, spots and bars in her patterns in the Key Fob WAL and used that knowledge to go on to weave a striking guitar strap on her backstrap loom…

gwens guitar strapIf you are wondering about the leather ends and buckles that she used, check out the ad for ASpinnerWeaver on the side bar of my blog or on the RESOURCES page. My friend Annie’s husband makes them in black and brown.

Half-basket weave ground weave with patterns created with black supplemental warp Julia

Half basket-weave ground weave with patterns created with black supplemental- warp threads…by Julia

Another exciting thing that came out of the WAL is fresh interest in the supplemental-warp structure which has had us looking, thanks to Catharina, at patterns of Estonia and northern Europe.

We have also been comparing the techniques of the supplemental-warp patterning that I was taught in Peru and Bolivia with those that I learned in highland Ecuador.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect as I have just begun corresponding with a lady in Canada who contacted me via Facebook. She went to Colombia a year ago and has been sharing information about the suppementary-warp structure and how it is used there.

I will try to gather everything and write about all that next week.




Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 27, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Inspired by Nature

It’s that time of year again. The beautiful bands that I order every year from a group of spinners, dyers and weavers of Cochabamba in the central highlands of Bolivia have arrived….a box of color and rich aromas from the countryside.

Here are some of the ladies who spend months spinning, plying and dyeing their yarn with plants and cochineal before winding warps and weaving beautiful cloth on their simple leaning vertical looms…

faja weavers

These are also the ladies who are part of the team that took part in the 2014 global spinning event –Spinzilla.

I wonder if some of that Spinzilla thread was used for these bands. Dorinda Dutcher of PAZA Bolivia, lives in Independencia and devotes herself to promoting the recovery and revival of  these fiber and textile skills. She told me that the ladies were overjoyed to have the time of the Spinzilla event to spin, chat and laugh.

maxima It was exactly what they used to do as young teens. They would head out with the family flocks and meet up at a rendezvous point. 

The hottest topic of conversation would be the weaving advances they had made for the creation of their aguayos, the large pieces of cloth worn over the shoulders, that would be shown for the first time at Carnaval.

Because the ladies challenged and competed with each other, it was the time of their finest work. Now their daughters go to school and that particular tradition is no more.

Doña Máxima, at left,  is one of the few weavers whose daughters weave, most of the weavers’ daughters having migrated to the cities.

Here are the bands with all the stunning sun-soaked colors of the Bolivian hghlands…

weaving highland BoliviaI can’t help showing you picture after picture of individual pieces so that you can better see and enjoy the color arrangements. I love seeing how the varying amount of twist in the handspun yarn creates different textures  in the cloth and how each weaver has decided to arrange the colors that she has available from the latest days at the dye pot.

PAZA colors 1








??????????????????????All the patterns are Andean Pebble Weave.

And, we have our own talented spinners, dyers and weavers in the Backstrap Weaving Group on Ravelry as well as members who are brilliant at combining colors.

Here’s a cuff that Janet wove made from her own handspun Perendale wool which she dyed with indigo, cochineal and walnut…

janet cuff 2She made a series of wool cuffs and Wendy also showed one that she completed made from variegated cotton thread and finished so neatly with weft  twining…

cuffsJulia T in her home in tropical far north Queensland in Australia was inspired by the colors of nature and used fruit to inspire a set of bands for key fobs. She captured the essence of the fruit so well!

???????????????????????????????I contributed something cheery as well….a field of flowery “O” s amongst a lattice of ”X”s…

flowers both sidesCatharina joined our group to share with us her explorations in traditional Estonian patterns in the supplementary-warp structure and our minds have been blown.

llunallamaBut, back to the ky fob WAL which has been chugging along to its one-month anniversary…

pebble fobsJulia T, Arlene and Betsy worked on Andean Pebble Weave bands. After her first sample, Betsy added more twist to her handspun wool and is happier with this latest result. Arlene’s band, with its rope pattern, has an unusual and attractive tapered finish and Julia T used JoAnne’s original cat design along with her own heart composition and a knot work motif from my second book.

plain weaveI love that plain weave continues to be popular inspiring more and more creativity in combs and stripes. What I have dubbed ”Wendy’s Watermelon Warp” (center bottom left) inspired the idea for Julia T’s tropical fruit collection as well as Gwen’s comb combo, above right. WannaGTD wrapped the warp-ends for a neat finish on a her classic band of horizontal bars. The yellow stripes really give it a zing.

mixedSupplemental weft made another appearance in the work of Valtricot, above left, Linda, center bottom, and Wendy, bottom right. Wendy also put to use her considerable skills in Bhutanese supplemental weft technique. Susan celebrated Valentine’s Day with her own composition of hearts in Andean Pebble Weave. I like how she added the small heart spots betwen the large motifs…they really set it off.

sheep combo

??????????????????????I had been reading comments online about confusion in the English-speaking world about what exactly the animal is for this Chinese new year…a sheep, a goat, or…???? At the same time, I spotted Louise Ström’s sweet tablet-woven pouches (above left) with their animal motifs and decided that I would try something similar in Andean Pebble Weave (above center and right). The level of success of my attempt to create sheep will be left for you to decide!

I also played with beads, at left, in a plain-weave comb design band. I lined the edges with beads and popped couple up in the center just to see how they would hold there. I think I would like to use beads in the center of a band to form part of the pattern itself.

My workshop prep is almost done! Soon I will be able to sit back and relax at my loom again. My large three-color Andean Pebble Weave/ikat bird  project is moving along at a snail’s pace with the workshop prep and key fob WAL having occupied my attention for the last few weeks.

And now I am going to warp to make covers for some small journals that I would like to take away and give as gifts. One of the key fobs I wove during the WAL will serve as my width sample for the Guatemalan thread that I want to use. I will use patterns inspired by nature…my little leaf motifs that I like so much.

supplementary weft leaf pattern journal cover backstrap weaving











Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 13, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Workshop Warping

I wound over 120 warps this week as prep for workshops and I am not even half way. I put on some music or the tv, make sure I have absolutely every thing I need on hand…scissors, rubber bands, cross sticks and string…and away I go. I have long sticks all over the room wedged between books on the book shelves and I hang the completed warps on those as I go. It’s very efficient. I always wind in the same direction with the balls of yarn in the same place. It has become so automatic and so much about feel that I have reached the point where I can wind two colors and separate them into sheds as I go without even looking to check if I am putting the right color on the right stake.

And then I decided to take a break and wind something for our Key Fob Weave-Along that is still buzzing along in the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group.

wal collage 1I decided to weave what is often called a ”threaded-in” pattern. Basically they are stripes, or ”dots” (tiny horizontals or single ends in a contrast color), or horizontal bars, or any combination of the three and can be as simple or as complex as you like.

??????????????????????Here is one that I did a couple of weeks ago for the key fob Weave-Along…


Warping in pairs in my workshops helps makes the processa little less daunting.

Warping in pairs in my workshops helps makes the process for beginners a little less daunting.

And that is when I was reminded of how it feels when you are first learning to warp…trying to follow the path, handle two threads at once, remember which color goes where and when while trying to tie off ends and maintain tension. You feel like you are all thumbs.

I was remined of that beginner feeling because winding some of these kinds of threaded-in patterns from one stake to another and back, as I do for the backstrap loom, can be a little tricky. It is not always as beautifully straightforward as it is when winding them using a circular warp for an inkle loom, for example, where one circuit of the inkle frame gives you a single end. The way I warp, each ”circuit” gives two ends and often four if I am winding doubled threads.

Sometimes a half revolution is required, knots have to be tied at the other end of the warp and sometimes it works best if you reverse the winding direction after the halfway point. I am not used to having to stop and actually think about what comes next…about how to avoid spaces between the colored horizontal bars in each column, about which of the two central posts each color is supposed to pass around and how to make sure the pattern is balanced. I didn’t like having to get out paper and colored pencils when I got confused! I tell you, old habits and muscle memory are hard to break.

The idea of a threaded-in pattern is that it is created by the way you set up the warp and separate colors into the two sheds. Once that is done, all you have to do is weave it off in warp-faced plain weave…no pick-up or other manipulations are needed and the weaving moves along so quickly!

??????????????????????So, if you are interested, here are the warping instructions for the fob at left. These instructions are for those who are already familiar with winding warps on four stakes/posts and separating colors into their sheds as they go….

I am calling the Start and End post ‘A’, the two posts in the middle ‘B’ and ‘C’ the post at the other end ‘D’.

3 revs of purple
1 rev purple and yellow wound together and separated between posts B and C (yellow on C, purple on B)
1 rev yellow
1 rev yellow and green together (green on C, yellow on B)
1 rev only green
1 rev green and purple together (purple on C, green on B)
1 1/2 revs yellow and green together (green on C, yellow on B) you will stop at post D, cut the green and tie purple to the green end.
1 1/2 revs purple and yellow together starting at post D (yellow on C, purple on B) you finish at post A.
2 1/2 revs of purple finishing on post D. You need to tie the purple off to something. I tie it to the green and purple ends. I like to untie the knot in the green and purple and then tie all three ends off together.


The only other key fob I wove this week required nice straightforward warping. I was inspired by Joyful’s use of a button on one of hers. Instead of sewing the folded woven band to itself to secure the ring, she created a slit, ot buttonhole, while weaving and used a button to make the connection. I wove a black plain-weave fob for my silver-color button.

??????????????????????The other small project I have been working on is a silk bookmark. It was originally planned as a keyfob for the WAL but I was enjoying weaving it so much and didn’t want to stop at key fob length. It is 60/2 silk and has a traditional motif of the Isoseño Guaraní people of lowland Bolivia. Many thanks to the people who commented last week with ways to make one’s hands silk-friendly. The piece on the right is a supplementary-warp band that I made ages ago in tencel which needs to be finished and used as a fob or bookmark.

sil cotton tencel bands backstrap weavingTerri, who very recently joined the WAL, showed us that simply knotting the warp ends is a very neat and time-efficient way to finish a band and this is how I finished the black fob rather than try a new braid.

Let me show you now what our other Weave-Alongers have been making…

simple warp floats supp warp and pebble weaveHer are three fobs made by three weavers using three different structures. Eska’s fob on the left uses the simple warp-float technique floating two colors to create a motif found in yurt bands and other Central Asian textiles. Ilze’s name band is woven in the supplementary-warp structure and Julia’s is in Andean Pebble Weave using a motif that I adapted from Central Asian weavings and which is charted in my second book.

combs and barsWendy, Terry and woolfancy were all  on the same wave length color-wise and designed with stripes, combs and bars. That D ring with the added split ring makes so much sense for wide bands that won’t sit well on the curve of a regular ring.

supp weft designsValtricot continues her studies in patterning with supplementary weft. Celticthreads made three fobs, two of which also have supplementary-weft motifs.I love the white plain-weave one with its colorful stripes and braids. Joyful, wove a rabbit figure in angora supplementary-weft. You can also see her use of a button as well as sprang in the unwoven warp-ends.

Our two Julias have been working on Andean Pebble Weave

andean pebble weave fobsJulia T wove a Valentine’s Day themed fob while Julia W wove one of the knotwork patterns from my second book.  Sarah’s completion of her first Andean Pebble Weave band and Lesson One in my first book shows that she is well on her way to starting her first patterns.

Gwen took a break from weaving the panels which she will sew together to make a cover for her weaving bench to join us in the WAL. Let me show you the two gorgeous panels she has made so far along with her first fob…

gwens fob and panelsSo, it is back to the warping board for me and the workshop prep. I have decided that I must finish this task before settling back into my big bird project.

???????????????????????????????While I wind my dozens of warps, my mind is on to the next big project and then the next and the next and I am thrilled to say that, thanks to something inspiring that showed up on my Facebook newsfeed recently, I have found the curvy shaped motif that I want to create in the ikat technique and then fill in with pick-up patterns. I can’t wait to work on it!

That has been the whole idea behind my recent ikat bird experiments. I want the ability to create curves and irregular shapes and fill them with pick-up patterns. I stand at the warping board and dream about that, plan out the steps and think about the wonderful opportunity that has recently come my way to study with an ikat artist while I am in the US this spring.

This city is vibrating to the rhythm of the coming Carnival. See you next week…








Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 6, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Key Notes


Key fobs in earthy colors

Key fobs in earthy colors

I have been wondering if the number of keys a person needs to carry about is some kind of indication of the complexity of their life. After making lots of key fobs in the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving Group’s Weave-Along, I realised that I only have one key! That’s the key to my front door and I have a spare hanging in the kitchen. I don’t have a car, so there’s no key for that.

And yes, life does become a bit more complex when I am on the road teaching. Then I carry eight little TSA padlock keys for my two big pieces of luggage and it is a nightmare keeping them in order. Plus there’s a spare set, so I have sixteen keys in all.

calcha flower design key fob

leaf pattern in double weave and 9 strand braidSo, why make all these key fobs?….well, it’s just plain fun. On top of that, as I mentioned last week, it gives me a chance to sample a new motif, new-to-me yarn and color combinations. And for people who are new to backstrap weaving, it is a chance to learn new techniques. Some of these key fobs will be gifts and some will remain with me as samples for my classes. One or two might actually be used for my keys. But, I think that they will mostly serve as guides when I come to use these motifs and yarn in bigger projects.

This week I made some new samples and also worked on finishing some of the bands from last week. I tried my leaf pattern in warp-faced double weave and enjoyed the very robust look of the motif in that structure.

I also received a nice message on my blog on how to extend the instructions for the five-strand flat braid to a nine-strand version and I used that on the beige band above left. It makes a tighter, more practical barid for this kind of thing and I love it.

woo fob and finishesI made the dark brown wool fob you see above and used the five-strand flat braid for that one. I was surprised to find how slippery the wool was with the silk supplemental weft and there are definitely things I would do differently next time when using that combination of fibers. I didn’t like the thin and spindly look of the four-strand round braids on the green fob and so I gathered and bound them together. The snowflake fob has a finish that was taught to me by Chris, one of my students. It is the first time I have tried it and I think it needs a bit more practice.

positive and negative space inlay in supplementary weft inlayRight now I am working with 60/2 silk. This is something that I have been wanting to do for a long long time…ever since I bought the little tubes of left-over silk when I was with Sue in England in 2012.

I have been happily using it as gorgeous supplemental weft in a lot of different projects, like the pouch at left, but what I really want to do is weave using it as warp.

I made a tiny sample with this silk a long time ago in Andean Pebble Weave…

pebble weave with silk….and found it very hard to handle the fine strands of silk that wanted to stick to and snag on any imperfections in the skin of my fingers.

I did manage to use it in a warp-faced double weave piece I was made for my nephew….

silk bookmark for ryan backstrap weavingBut I really want to use it for Andean Pebble Weave.

Ever since I wove this Guaraní design in a guitar strap many years ago, I have been wanting to use the motif again…(it’s charted in my second book)

Guarani star pebble weave guitar strapAnd so I decided I use the key fob WAL to create a two-fer….the Guaraní pattern in the 60/2 silk…

guarnai designin cotton and silkBut now that I am actually weaving it, I don’t think I will stop at key fob size. I will weave off the entire warp as I really want to get confident with this and use the silk for larger projects. You will notice I chose black…the hardest color to see. I figure if I can manage it in black, I will be able to manage it in any other color! I am just getting a handle on width and tension, for now. The silk feels so good!

???????????????????????????????The silk project and the big bird project have been keeping me busy. Plus, February 1st was the date I set to start my workshop prep. I have three distinct work stations set-up in the wee apartment now. The kitchen counter is Key Fob Land, the bedroom floor is Birdsville and the living room floor with warp hooked to the tv cabinet is Workshop Prep Mayhem Zone.

I did slow down a bit yesterday and today as I am suddenly one tooth less wise and will be probably be without another wisdom tooth after a visit to the dentist later today. That has made me feel a bit wonky.

Let me show you what other folks have been up to.

In Australia, my friend and student, Susan, has been making key fobs athough she doesn’t do the online group thing that much. She sent me a picture of her progress so far and it is a nice sampling of different techniques….

SusanFrom left to right….Bedouin warp-subtitution technique, a threaded-in pattern, simple warp floats and Andean Pebble Weave.

Helen Halpin hosted a backstrap weaving class in her weaving studio in Springwood when I was in Australia last year. She went on to weave a piece in Andean Pebble Weave on her floor loom and created this lovely bag…

helen halpin pebble weave Wendy, over in Perth, Australia has joined us and showed us her warp and set-up. She has also been visiting the local yarn and craft stores and giving me good information about the different kinds of backstrap-friendly yarn she has been discovering in Australia.


Another Aussie, Julia T, designed two pieces using supplemental weft and made a great collage of pictures to show us the completed pieces along with their sources of inspiration…

julia t collageAfter completing her first-ever sample using a supplemental weft, she was able to make some necessary adjustments and then turn out these lovely pieces. She was also inspired to use beads along the edge of the paw-print piece by Joyful’s use of them in this band…

clippers-band-front_mediumOur ”other” Julia has been working up several of the small motifs in my second book in Andean Pebble Weave and other complementary-warp structures and has a lovely collection of key fobs in 5/2 perle cotton each with its neat weft-twined finish….

julia collageIt’s nice to see people trying patterning with supplementary-weft (below) and I hope we see more of it. Julia T made a key fob with her own design, Marsha is weaving a cuff on a vertical loom and Valtricot created her own design for a cellphone pouch. Each weaver shows a different way of handling the turns of the supplemental weft and I think that is really cool.

supp weft startersIt is normal for the patterning to come out a bit disjointed the first time around. Samples need to be woven to be able to figure out just how many strands of supplemental weft material will suit a certain weight of ground warp thread. It’s all a bit of guess-work at first. On top of that, you are counting threads and learning to create the pattern spaces and handle the extra weft etc. Quite often the need to adjust the way you are beating is not immediately apparent. The designs always look nicer if there is connection between the rows of weft. The motifs will look more like solid shapes that way. Knowing how your charted pattern will look when woven is another thing to consider. Sometimes the dimensions of the cells on the chart will not perfectly match your picks per inch/ends per inch ratio. And that’s the idea of this WAL…the opportunity to make tiny samples and figure all this out.

Betsy, who is away from home right now, is still determined to join us in our WAL and has come up with a clever way to wind her warp in her temporary home. She is using her own handspun as well as crochet cotton for her projects. She has come up with some nice patterns using only four ends of each color.

betsy warping handspun and cotton

week 2 variousEska made three fobs using the simple warp-float technique experimenting with floating just one and then two colors. JoAnne designed her own clever Andean Pebble Weave cats. Linda floated both colors in the simple warp-float technique to create this yurt band border pattern and knitnfrenzy reminded me just how striking ‘plain’ Andean Pebble Weave, that is, the basic structure without a motif,  can look.

We had some talk about cuffs. Janet mentioned her intention to weave some and I remembered having seen some in a Peruvian Connections catalog when I was in the US last fall. It seems that quite a few of us are not into jewelry but would consider wearing a hand woven cuff. Janet got to work with her naturally dyed handspun and showed us her work, complete with button holes….

janets cuffsThis pattern is charted in my second book.

I have been scratching around in the closet jumble and getting out some of the sample bands that I have woven all of which would be suitable for key fobs. And there are many many more. I know that I have a bunch of Bedouin-design bands somewhere and then there is a myriad of bands that I wove as samples for the second book.  

backstrap weaving key fobsAlthough I like the look of this colorful jumble of bands, and could make plenty of fobs, that’s not the point of the WAL…the idea is to try something NEW. So, for now, I will continue with my silk band and dream about the day when I can weave a large, fine, silk wall hanging on my backstrap loom with lots of pick-up patterning.

I will leave you with this Challenge Family Triathlon motivational poster which was put together after last Sunday’s Challenge race in Melbourne, Australia in which my nephew took part along with over 1200 other athletes. It was a nasty day with big seas, wild winds and cold. I followed it on Saturday afternoon in Bolivia all the while horrified by the poor weather conditions. That’s my nephew, Ryan, in the poster!






Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 30, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Rewards

??????????????????????It is a fine comfortable feeling I have when I am  weaving away without challenging myself….I have the warping, set-up, heddle-making and loom operation all under control. I have not had to ditch a warp because of a ”fail”in any of these areas in a long, long time. I guess I am quite at home for the most part with creating motifs and charting patterns too.

But, throw in a little color challenge, I lose control and everything changes!

One of my personal challenges during the key fob WAL that we have been running on Ravelry this week was to take a bag of odds and ends of 3/2 perle cotton and put together some color combinations in plain weave…combinations that are not exactly natural for me. Yes, I am color-challenged. I had one result that I would call successful, the one pictured at left, one with which I am ”kind of” pleased and three ”fails”in the trash. It is funny how three colors that looked great together on their balls looked awful when warped up.

Luckily, only tiny amounts of yarn were involved. There was no point in trying to salvage them. I like burying failed projects deep in the trash and then immediately pretending that they never happened….clean slate.

I can understand the way that fellow weavers in the WAL feel when they have had to trash their projects too….things get tangled, sticks fall out, warps slip off bars before they can be lashed, crosses get lost. Throw that teeny tiny warp away, take a deep breath and start afresh.

plain weave backstrap weavingThat’s a five-strand braid at the end of my successful band. One of my students taught it to me and I love it. She had looked at me in horror when I had suggested finishing her band with lots of tiny four-strand round braids, my favorite braid for warp ends. She quickly grabbed all the ends and made this one fat attractive braid and then taught it to me. The looseness of this braid may not make it the best choice for a fob that will spend a lot of its life at the bottom of a handbag as the threads will most likely get snagged on things. This fob will hold one of my spare keys and will hang safely from a hook in my kitchen.There’s a tutorial for this five-strand flat braid here on my blog.

Sometimes it is good to be reminded of the process involved with setting up and weaving a plain-weave band on a simple body-tensioned loom. Here are a few process pictures…

This is the warping board I have been using….

???????????????????????????????It was built for me when I first moved up to Bolivia from Chile in 1998 and this is the first time I am using it. It is really quite awful. Of the ten embedded stakes, only four don’t wobble. Of the four sturdy ones, none stand perfectly straight. The whole thing weighs a ton. I would never consider warping all the way up the stakes as the difference in the length of the warp from start to finish would be noticeable due to the leaning stakes. However, I figured that with these very narrow warps we are creating for keyfobs, I could get away with using it as long as I kept my warp turns low down on the stakes. It has worked well, so I guess it is not so awful after all.

wal 3You can see the warp as it comes off the warping board with cross sticks in place. I attached it to my loom bar, and attached the other end to an S hook lashed to my bed. With the warp under tension, I made continuous string heddles around the ends on the near side of the cross and installed a shed loop around all the ends on the far side of the cross. In the last picture you see the warp all dressed up and ready to go.

Here’s a mini warping board that my friend Ruth made. She can dismantle it, throw it in a bag and to take it to weaving get-togethers in other people’s homes.

ruth's mini warping boardShe gave us some instructions and tips for making and using it….

To make one, get a piece of wood about the size of a furring strip—what I had is about 1/2 inch thick by just under 2″ wide, and a dowel at least 1/4″ in diameter, and make sure you have an Xacto or other carving knife to cut and trim the doweling. a sanding tool and a little bit of glue are all you need besides.

I recommend using the same size drill bit as the diameter of your doweling; you can wiggle the drill around a little bit in the hole to give yourself a little ease, without making it too loose.

ruths warping board 1Eyeballing all measures, I cut the board to the size I wanted (you may vary the length you want by how large is your usual carry-bag) plus two more little pieces to glue onto the ends; drilled holes to seat the pegs in for carrying, and the four holes for the pegs to friction-fit into for use. Here’s where you want to make sure your holes fit Just Right — you don’t want your pegs to lean inward at all when they’re under the tension that simple warping will put them under. If you’re unsure of your ability to drill vertically, use a drill press or a jig that ensures your drill bit is perpendicular to the wood in all ways.

ruths warping board 2You can hold the stick in your hand or set it on a table while winding your warp, which is ideal for travel use: you don’t need clamps for this part. 

Make sure you pick it up by the base when you go to finalize your warp set-up and make your string heddles, or no matter how splendidly wedged a post you pick it up by, it will pop out. If (ha. when) this happens, you can pick up your cross again from the nearest peg, and all is well.

Have fun practicing with many small warps!

Apart from the occasional color failures, I have been finding weaving these fobs lots of fun and really relaxing. I have been using them as little breaks and rewards while I slog away at my large project. My large projects are usually fun and relaxing too and the weaving is all the reward I need, but the current one went wrong and I had to unweave three days of work. I needed some little rewards to get over that!

Guatemalan natural dyed cottonHere is the fine Guatemalan cotton that I have been wanting to sample. This key fob WAL seemed like a fun way to do that. Cindy and I had bought this thread at ANWG in 2013. She bought a bag of the blue and I got the gold and we shared it. The tiny ball is the 60/2 silk that I have been using as supplementary weft.

Here’s the first fob in a set of process pictures…

wal 1

???????????????????????????????– Set up on the loom bar. I am using a fine steel knitting needle lashed to loom bar with cable ties which enables me to create a third selvedge.

– Removed from the loom bar and with the weft tail ready. I will thread that tail on a sewing needle, remove the steel knitting needle and, using the sewing needle, fill the space it occupied with the weft.

– Needle removed and space filled.

– The end of the band is fed through the ring and folded.

– The back of the band with the third selvedge that will be sewn down.

In the meantime, Julia has been using the WAL to try out some Maypole 3-ply worsted wool (before you Google that, let me tell you that, alas, the stuff has been discontinued) and some 5/2 perle cotton. We all think that the chocolate and melon together look fabulous. I like her use of the weft twining at the ends of her bands.

julia collageJanet  has been using her gorgeous handspun. She only uses natural dyes now and but still has some yarn in her stash of handspun that she colored with synthetic dyes.

janet collageThe yarn in the upper bands is Perendale lamb dyed with cochineal and walnut husks. The lower one is natural alpaca and dyed kid mohair.

JoAnne made the wee viscacha motif in Andean Pebble Weave using 5/2 perle cotton…

joanne collageLinda made three bands using stripes and tiny horizontal bars all with nice third selvedges. Joyful had me looking for the the beads I bought while in the US last spring when I saw the way she had used beads in her band. Our other Julia used the more traditional lashing method to attach her warp to her dowel and create the third selvedge. I love this combination of stripes and horizontal bars.

linda joyful juliaHere’s more handspun, this time from from Erin who actually made these fobs with Andean pick-up patterns before the WAL for an exchange amongst her weaving friends. She’ll be joining us to learn and practice some new techniques with cotton before trying them with her lovely wool yarn. She uses natural dyes.

ErinBetsy just started an Andean Pebble Weave fob with her handspun today and I will show you that next week when she has made a bit more progress, Each person’s handspun yarn has quite a different look and Betsy’s looks beautifully soft.

I am back on track with my current large project after all that unweaving. It is the third panel in my ”bird” project. This panel will have bird shapes in ikat filled in with Andean Pebble Weave motifs in three colors. I have decided to make one bird red and black and the other white and black rather than mix all three colors in each bird. I think it would be a bit too busy that way. Besides, it is quite a fiddly technique that I haven’t used all that often and I want to keep things simple while I get back into it.

???????????????????????????????What I am most pleased about so far is the ikat. I did some things differently this time and the ikat came out so very well even on the long sections. And the best part is that I know it wasn’t random and due to luck this time. There was only one tiny leak as wide as a pencil line. It feels like a nice reward for all the time spent experimenting.

And now you are going to want to slap me because I am about to complain….I kind of miss the seepage! My ikat shape is sharp and clean and in-your-face. While I am very pleased with having gained control over the leaks, I think I actually prefer that fade-in-fade-out look when the dye seeps in at the edges of the motif. Anyway, I feel prepared to go on to large circles and other curved shapes now and securely wrap long areas….yay.

Unweaving three days of work might sound like a lot of unweaving, but when you are doing pick-up it sometimes doesn’t represent a lot in terms of inches. I think I have mentioned here before that one of my weaving teachers here told me that weaving the distance of four fingers is what she would consider a good day’s work.

I spent breaks from this larger project working on the key fobs. I have been loving using the fine Guatemalan cotton with the silk supplementary weft and it is always fun to throw in work with 3/2 perle cotton and play with stripes. I have all my fob ”tools” sitting to one side ready to grab when I feel like I want to warp up for a wee fob…

???????????????????????????????…pick-up stick (optional for supplementary-weft inlay), sword/beater, pencils for cross sticks, heddle stick, coil rod (optional…I use it to eliminate ridging in plain weave) far loom bar (optional… string through the warp ends can be looped over an S hook or over a big toe!) near loom bar with cable ties…the steel needle slips under the ties. The steel needle is also optional and my use of one is not traditional. If you would like to see how a weaver from the Bolivian highlands lashes her warp to her loom bar take a look at the video on the right hand side of this webpage.

I have been using motifs that I wove into a ”Four Seasons” wool project some time ago. It’s been interesting seeing how my charted motifs look in this very fine cotton. It seemed fitting to weave that snow flake even in the middle of summer down here. Julia showed us snowy scenes from the window of her Pennsylvania home.

???????????????????????????????Linda gave me a great reminder of how luscious a bold solid color can look in warp-faced plain weave. She has been weaving her fobs using a pillowcase as a backstrap and decided it was about time she had a woven one.linda backstrap

She used a cotton yarn that I had never heard of …Luisa Harding’s Jesse…and it really looks beautiful. I will get to meet Linda this spring and will have a chance to look at this up close. Now I have the urge to make a whole bunch of fobs in bold bright solid colors like this! Maybe some of my wee balls of 3/2 perle cotton will do the trick. Beads, solid colors, handspun..I have been rewarded with lots and ideas and motivation in just one week of WAL.










Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 16, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Long Time no WAL

It has been a long, long time since we ran a Weave-Along, or WAL, over in the Ravelry Backstrap Weaving group….too long!

jenI don’t know what the person who first created the idea of ‘weave-alongs’ had in mind but, for me, a weave-along means gathering a group of weavers together to explore structures or create projects based on a chosen theme.

The ‘theme’ could be a structure, like Andean Pebble Weave, which was the theme of the first WAL we ran back in January 2011. You can see one of Jennifer’s Andean Pebble Weave bands from that WAL at left.

We ran a plain-weave WAL in which we were challenged to design with color rather than complex structures.

We had a Year of the Snake themed WAL in which we made something snake-like in any structure we liked and then, in another, we focused on a particular technique in plain-weave…warp ikat.

So, the new theme for this latest WAL is Key Fobs…lots of key fobs.

key fobs backstrap weaving???????????????????????????????The idea is to make short and narrow warps over and over again and turn out lots of key fobs. There may be the temptation to create one long warp and cut it into several fobs. Of course that would be more efficient, but the idea, as far as I am concerned, is to have people warping and setting up a loom over and over again. I can’t place enough emphasis on the importance of warping practice and it is the lack of confidence with this part of the process that tends to stop people from trying backstrap weaving or advancing beyond the basics. So, rather than weave one long band, I propose making many short ones.

The fobs can be in any structure…with pick-up patterns or plain-weave…a single solid color or a riot of stripes. Weave one and then another…warp, make heddles, weave…over and over again until you are winding those warps smoothly and efficiently and not dreading the heddle-making process because it will have become so easy… and maybe even enjoyable?

??????????????????????We can take advantage of the fact that  we can weave on the tiniest of warps using a body-tensioned set-up…

keyfob-loomThe other advantage of weaving individual key fobs, each on its own warp, is that each one can be started with a third selvedge. The selvedge is the edge of woven cloth that will not unravel. The two sides of a woven band are selvedges. You can create a third selvedge by starting to weave at the very end of the warp rather than having a fringe there. The starting end of the warp is the uppermost one in the above picture. That will be the end that gets passed through the metal ring of the fob, folded and sewn down…no need for hemming or extra folds as that end will not unravel.

??????????????????????I use some kind of metal rod at the start of my weaving and lash that to the loom bar. Depending on the weight of yarn or thread that I am using I use piano wire, a bicycle spoke or fine double-point steel knitting needles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3651631230_0ffe08c581_zNote that this is not the way that backstrap weavers traditionally do this.

None of my indigenous weavers use such a metal rod. The use of the metal rod is just one of my ‘things’.

Backstrap weavers here generally use a piece of yarn in place of the metal rod that I use and lash that to the loom bar all the way across the width of the warp. You can see my teacher in Potosi preparing a warp below. She is in the process of lashing the header thread to the loom bar. The bar will then be dragged to the start of the warp and the heavy stake that was used for warping removed.

LASHING EGDE CORD_0And below, you can see a Peruvian weaver tightening the cord which she used to lash the header weft to the loom bar.

tightening the lashing cordAs for me, I like my metal rods. When I have finished weaving and remove the metal rod, I  fill the space that it once occupied with the tail of the first weft shot. I thread the end on a tapestry needle and pass it at least twice through the space. Therefore, when you start weaving, it is important to beat the first weft passes well against the metal rod so that the space the rod occupies is as small as possible.

third selvedgeI am going to use this key fob WAL as an opportunity to sample some yarn. I have some Guatemalan cotton that I want to use to weave a scarf and I think I will use that for the first fob to see how this thread behaves. Such small projects can be good for sampling your handspun too if you do not want to risk possibly wasting it on an unsuccessful larger project. I know that Janet, who uses her beautiful handspun in projects of all sizes, will most likely weave her fobs with handspun yarn. Here’s is her latest Andean Pebble Weave project using her handspun hemp and bast bamboo…

Janet finch ebble weave backstrap handspun hemp bambooShe created the dog paw and cross bone motifs herself…the paws are adorable!

In the meantime, in the Backstrap Group there have been questions about edges and how to make them neat. I know that this kind of response can be maddening, but the truth is, it really just takes practice!

Using a weft color that contrasts witthe color fo the edge warps can help you see better what is going on there.

Using a weft color that contrasts with the color of the edge warp threads can help you see better what is happening there.

I do tell my students who have the chance to have face-to-face instruction, that about 25% of it is being able to watch a demonstration and then doing your best to imitate the moves.

The other 75% is about experience and ‘feel’. A lot of it really is about ‘feel’ and that will come without your even realizing it.

Weavers of warp-faced cloth have different ways of handling their weft. Here are a few tips based on what I do.

Two problems I see with edges are….

1. Wobbly ones…the width wanders frequently from narrower to wider and back again with sudden and frequent indentations.
2. Loose ones…there is exposed weft between the last few warps and along the edge caused by excess weft in those areas.

1.Wobbly edges are usually caused by the weaver being erratic with the way he or she pulls the weft through the shed….getting into a rhythm and pulling it with a certain amount of tension and then suddenly losing it. That’s just all about practice.You can try pinching the edge of the cloth (on the side where your shuttle entered the shed) as you pull the weft through. As you do this, the weft itself is also trapped between your fingers and you will feel it sliding through. This will give you better control and can help stop you from pulling the weft through too hard and distorting that edge. You will be holding that edge firmly and not allowing it to be pulled out of line.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second problem with excess weft and spreading warp ends is best explained in video and I will try to add that to the FAQ page on this topic. This topic has been on the FAQ index list for years and I have never made the page for it.

arrow motif red on red panelsA big part of creating straight neat edges, for me, is knowing my yarn and, therefore, knowing exactly what width I can expect from the number of warp ends I have wound with that yarn. And I mean ‘exactly’. I measure down to the millimeter and spend a long time fiddling with my warp and pushing threads around before I pass the first weft.

Knowing my yarn means having woven several samples with it and having taken measurements from those. Samples need to be updated as your weaving changes and improves. If I am simply guessing the width, I might start weaving cloth that is too narrow. The band will want to widen and I might start to have to fight it to keep that initial width consistent. I might fight it harder and more successfully at some times than others and, as a result, the band edges get wobbly.

I believe that there is a place where the threads want to sit and a width that they want to create and, if you know that width and start off there, you should never have to fight the cloth’s urge to widen or contract. In this way and as long as you have a rhythm and are handling the weft in a consistent manner, you will be able to avoid wobbly edges . And that comes down to practice and experience.

I know very well the Clea cotton thread that I used in the red panels above and have been using it for years. This means that I know exactly what width I can expect from a certain number of warp ends in each of the structures that I weave.

As for progress on Panel 3 in the ‘bird’ project…

two of three pre columbian bird panels backstrap weaving…it has been a long week of tying ikat tape and sampling.

I have been tying tape over very long stretches of warp and seeing how different methods affect the amount of dye seepage. Some methods worked better than others but the worrying thing is that there does seem to be a certain amount of luck involved! There are times when I feel that I wrapped two sections in exactly the same way yet they give me different results.

3 color pebble weave samplesI have come to the conclusion that I am not yet willing to risk this on the large white bird panel that I wanted to create where very long sections of warp will need to be wrapped in tape. While the seepage in the first black panel and resulting staining kind of added to the fade-in/ fade-out character of ikat and actually got quite lost in amongst the black and white pick-up pattern, I don’t think that random grey stains on what are supposed to be large areas of white background will look quite as attractive.

So, I have come up with another idea for that third panel…birds patterned with three-color pebble weave. I’ll have the same all-black background as the first panel and tie the same sections to create the bird shapes. For the pick-up pattern, I’ll be adding a third color…no prizes for guessing what that third color might be. This means that it would be nice to have some red in the other two panels as well. I guess some red weft twining along the bottom might look good.

Here I am sampling for that. If only I had made the samples narrower, I could have turned them into keyfobs for the WAL and had a two-fer :-)

See you next week…






Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 9, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – ‘Tok-Tok’

I love weaving wider pieces for many reasons, one of which is the chance to get out the big sticks. I use multiple swords, especially when I am doing Andean Pebble Weave with its two sets of string heddles. I often have to open a shed and walk it down to the weaving line in baby steps, using a sword to clear the first heddle while inserting another to clear the next and then inserting another. The swords smack against each other from time to time with a pleasant ‘tok tok’ sound. I love placing them on their pile on the ground when I am done with each part of the process and hearing them rattling and clacking together.

I have gathered together quite a few swords over the years. I have no concept of what makes the one perfect sword and have never sought swords with certain characteristics when I have picked them up in my travels. I take one when I can get one if it looks like it might serve a purpose or if it holds memories of time spent with a weaver. I guess I prefer not to have the swords highly polished….the grippier the better. Different weights and shapes serve different purposes for me. swords for latest backstrap project Andean Pebble Weave warpThese are the four that I used on my latest project. I bought the lower one at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival a couple of years ago for no particular reason. It reminds me of the fun two days I spent there with Claudia and Janet.

I guess I liked its length and width. It is just the right width for the length that I make my string heddles. When I am using multiple string heddles, as in the example at left of a warp set up for Andean Pebble Weave, I use the sword to help me raise them. You need to work one set of heddles against the other.

I wrap one set of heddles around the sword and roll it. This increases tension on the threads that are held in those heddles. Then I lean forward and relax tension on the warp which slackens the threads in the other heddle. Then I pull up the other set of heddles. Works like a charm. It helps if your sword is just the right width to suit your heddle length.

That is probably a lot to ask you visualize so you can watch a weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola, Peru doing it in this short video clip…..

Returning to the picture of the swords, the next one up is what I suspect was meant to be lease stick and was made by a weaving friend’s husband. I like that it is very narrow. Apart from that, it reminds me of Barbara when I use it. I use it when I need to do some warp manipulations right down at the weaving line and there is little space between it and the first set of heddles. The sword is narrow enough to create the space I need in order to get my hands in without taking up too much room.

chichi market guatemalaI know that the next two swords up are from Guatemala. I bought the narrower one when I was there in 2008 at the fabulous market stall pictured at left.

As for the larger, very well used one….I don’t remember from where or from whom that one came but it looks like a Guatemalan one to me and it’s a beauty!

The narrower one has a nice pointed nose which is handy when the space held open by the shed rod has become very narrow and I need to insert a sword with a fine pointy nose to work it back open again.

The large sword is the big beast that I need to use to clear the threads in the second set of heddles through the first set. I lean back, strum and then let the big guy, turned on its side, do its thing. So here is what those swords have been helping me create…. two of three pre columbian bird panels backstrap weavingI made a two-color panel to go with ikat pre-columbian bird that I showed you last week.

The all-black panel comprises the bird motif made with ikat and then filled with pick-up patterning. The new piece is all Andean Pebble Weave. The birds are larger on this one because the dimensions were determined by the structure of the weave rather than by the size of the motif that was fixed by the ikat. The stepped diagonal line is edged with stitching to sort of carry over the theme of the stitched edges on the ikat piece.

The third one in this set will be all white with the ikat motif in black filled in with pick-up patterning. The challenge will be to make this second ikat bird motif as close as possible in size to the first. It’s time to set up the ikat frame again and get used to walking about with bits of ikat tape stuck to my legs and turning up everywhere.

Here are some more swords… swords for backstrap weavingwayuu motif with twiningThese are all Guatemalan and all came from a lady in California who had traveled in Guatemala in the 1970s. She wanted to find a good home for the loom that she had been given by her weaving teachers at that time and she sent me all her equipment while I was in the US as well as her journals that tell the tale of that visit back in the 70s….treasures!

The loom bars that I have been using on my current bird project were also hers…good, sturdy, nicely shaped pieces of wood.

That very fine sword is a beauty to use when closing the gap on a four-selvedge weaving and that very hefty one was excellent when I did the wide intermesh piece at left. Intermesh is quite dense and I needed the heft of that sword to clear the sheds. ??????????????????????These two are from a set of six of various sizes from Salasaca, Ecuador which form part of every weaver’s set of equipment. The large one is from one of the ladies to whom I taught pebble weave and the small one, which is the smallest in the set, is from the gentleman (Anita’s cousin) who taught me the supplementary-warp technique that weavers there use to decorate belts.

We used the smaller one for doing pick-up and one of the large ones to beat…it was a violent slamming beating motion on the steeply angled warp. You held it by the handle in your right hand and, as the beater was so much wider than the band, you had to make sure your left hand was well out of the way.

Here’s one that I don’t own and I want to show it to you so that you can see just how different some swords can be… sword for backstrap weaving Aymara weaver northern chileIt was being used by an Ayamara backstrap weaver of northern Chile who came to Santa Cruz for a weaving event…. Aymara backstrap weaver northern chileThere’s quite a difference between this and the slim tiny sword that I used with my first-ever teacher in Peru… backstrap weaving swordsThat’s the tiny one there in this picture…the first sword I ever got. I have been using it since 1996 and it has lost its original straight edge. I can’t seem to let it go, though!

In this picture you can see swords from various sources. The upper one is a brand new one from the market in Guatemala. It has very sharp edge…too sharp for my liking and I haven’t used it much. Below the tiny one is a very odd one that I got in Peru. It was lying about in a cooperative store and I asked if I could buy it. I am sure that it could tell some stories! It is so very misshapen and has obviously had a lot of use. There are indentations in the wood from years of having warp threads pass over it. There is a little red staining which might be from the cochineal dyepot.

thread indentations in backstrap swordThe next sword down is from a weaver I visited in San Roque, Ecuador. This sword has also seen a lot of action. It has lost its straight edge and has developed some very deep indentations from warp threads.

The lower one is from the ticlla class that I took at the Encuentro de Tejedores in Cusco.

I will leave you with another old faithful of mine…a very humble and ordinary piece of wood. This was made for me by the furniture maker who lived two doors down when I lived in southern Chile. It was originally a very long shuttle for my Navajo loom. When I returned from my first trip to Peru I had it cut down and beveled an edge to make a sword. The rest of the shuttle was made into a portable warping board that I used to take on my travels so that I could warp and weave key fobs along the way. sword made from old shuttleI love this sword. There is nothing pretty about it but it is just the right width for that rolling action I was describing to you when I do two-heddle structures like Andean Pebble Weave and intermesh.

ikat pre columbian birdI love going to my big bins of sticks and selecting my tools for a new project. I usually end up sitting on the floor with a pile of sticks around me…picking up each one and examining it. I usually discover one, long forgotten, that had been lost in the depths of the bin….sometimes it is one that would have been ‘just perfect’ for the project I had just completed.

But for now, I don’t need sticks. I probably have a week of this kind of ikat wrapping ahead after I wind my new warp. This one will be quite different as the area that I wrapped last time in the picture at left will be the only exposed part this time.

See you next week….

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