Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 4, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Cheerfully Plain

I have been weaving my way through the yarn jungle that is my living room while I prepare warps for workshops. Yes, it’s that time again….yarn on every surface and hundreds of warps to prepare. I hesitate to allow myself to feel secure in being way ahead of schedule on this as I fear jinxing myself. But, I am now looking forward to a relaxed couple of weeks at my big loom, weaving for myself, as I am so near to finishing and packing away all the workshop stuff.

I was hoping to have my red Guatemalan cotton warp off the loom to show in this post. I got so close! I really dedicated myself to workshop preparation these last two weeks with just a few moments snatched here and there to sit at my big warp.

backstrap weaving red guaemalan cotton supplemental weftNow I am at the end and I am just weaving some plain unpatterned rows to fold over into a hem.

One of the many things I love about the backstrap loom is the fact that there can be very little loom waste, if you wish, although I admit that it isn’t a whole lot of fun trying to open sheds, prop them open and feed shuttles of weft through tiny openings when there is a mere four inches in which to work.

last inches on backstrap loom I don’t usually choose to be so frugal with my thread. The problem is that I was not sure of having enough red cotton to create this project in the dimensions I wanted and so I had to calculate for take-up and warp the bare minimum length. As I am using a 60/2 weft at the end for the hem, progress on this last inch or so isn’t exactly fast.

I so enjoyed weaving this piece. As I said in my last post, I love having the loom bars filled with thread and really enjoy using the big swords. Warp-faced plain weave is so gorgeous and fun to weave in fine thread. This thread is rather grippy and I had to work hard to clear sheds, especially the stick shed for which I had to strum to break each thread’s sticky grasp on its neighbors. I broke one of my pick-up sticks with zealous strumming. Don’t use your finest and favorite pick-up stick for strumming. My weaving teachers use strong llama bones for strumming for a reason and, goodness knows, I have a bunch of those. One thing to which I paid close attention in this project was strumming evenly and smoothly in both directions.

A backstrap weaver from Pitumarca, Peru with her llama bone tool ready to pick up at any time and use for strumming, beating and picking up threads.

A backstrap weaver from Pitumarca, Peru with her llama bone tool in her lap ready to pick up at any time and use for strumming, beating and selecting threads.

I have one large skein of brown left in this particular Guatemalan thread. I would like to use it to weave two identical wide panels that I can join with bright decorative stitches. I gaze at Maxima’s beautiful aguayo and would like to use the kind of stitches that she has used to decorate the join. You can see the row of colorful triangles where the two pieces come together.

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia and Dorinda Dutcher

Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia and Dorinda Dutcher.

However, I will not attempt to give my panels four selvedges….not with this fine cotton! I am not ready for that yet and probably never will be. My successes with four selvedges, so far, have only been with wool and alpaca yarn and once with fine acrylic with the guidance of my teacher in Potosí. The difference is that the wool and acrylic are stretchy and that helps a lot when trying to squeeze in those last passes of weft.

A wool plain-weave runner with four selvedges that I decorated with supplemental-weft patterns.

A wool plain-weave runner with four selvedges that I decorated with supplemental-weft patterns.

I wove the red piece of cloth because I wanted to use it on the display table at my workshops and presentations….a nice splash of color. I can pose all my small woven samples on it. A brown one won’t exactly provide the eye-catching spot of color that I want but, if I decorate it with supplemental-weft patterns and make the joining stitches bright and cheery, I think it will look very nice.finishing techniques backstrap weaving

I have tried one kind of decorative stitch to cover joins on some wool bands made by ladies in Maxima’s cooperative (see the example on the right). I will need much more practice before I will be able to have them as neat and beautifully even as Maxima’s.

Not all the weavers here are as precise in their stitching as Maxima. The piece below from Calcha, Bolivia is well used and the stitches are quite worn and the thread faded. In this picture you can also see the ”terminal area” of this four-selvedge piece where the weaver had to stop creating the warp-float pattern and use plain weave to finish. The last few sheds would have been created without the aid of heddles or sticks with every other warp thread picked up using the blunt end of a needle. The weaving, apart from being a little moth eaten, doesn’t show signs of wear. It looks like the long decorative stitches are the first things to break down on these pieces.

terminal-areasWell, it’s back to the loom for me to weave off that last inch or so and then plan the brown thread project. I will leave you here with pictures of my Facebook friend, Oscar Armando Vazquez in Mexico, weaving on his backstrap loom. He says that there aren’t any backstrap weavers where he lives and so, lacking a teacher, he has been studying techniques on my blog instead. Here he is doing warp-faced double weave using this tutorial and creating patterns of his own. Wonderful!

oscar backstrap weaving






Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 21, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – New Challenges

Laverne WaddingtonI guess I could say that I have a lot of experience with weaving warp-faced fabric on my backstrap loom. Years of practice have led to my having a certain consistent way of handling the weft, a certain amount of tension that I apply to the warp with my body and a certain beat (depending on the structure I am weaving). My weaving has settled.

Therefore, I can use a sample I wove a year ago to give me the reliable information I need for a new project in terms of the number of ends I must measure in order to achieve a certain width. This wasn’t so when I first started backstrap weaving when I would find that my weaving had dramatically changed within the space of a few months and that I couldn’t rely on old samples to give me the information I needed. My notes had to be constantly upated.

Sampling rep weave and various finishes for a larger project.

Sampling rep weave with various finishes for hemming before taking on the larger project.

I don’t depend on a wraps-per-inch type of calculation to tell me the width I can expect from a new yarn. Certainly, it would give me an idea, but there’s no getting away from the need to sample.

I can give an identical warp to eight of my students and each will weave a good warp-faced band of a different width to that woven by their companions. I can’t make a calculation for the yarn based on wraps-per-inch and then expect everyone’s band to turn out exactly the same. Some weavers have the warp threads rammed up tightly next to each other, others have them barely touching or with a hair’s width distance between. The weft will still be concealed and the resulting fabric will be warp-faced. The width achieved from one weaver to the next can vary considerably.

I tend to weave at the more relaxed end of the scale with my warp threads barely touching. The new challenge I am facing now is how to keep that sett consistent across the entire width of the warp when doing plain weave with fine cotton thread. This is what I am dealing with in my latest project.

Cotton from Guatemala.

One of the scarves I wove with cotton from Guatemala.

The other day, I uncovered some Guatemalan cotton in a basin on the shelf. I had dyed it from yellow to red a long time ago hoping I would get a nice deep tone similar to the dark-ish red I usually use in my wall hangings. It came out bright and happy rather than deep and somber. Oh well. It ended up on the shelf where I forgot about it and found some other yarn to use for my wall hanging.

After suddenly coming upon it, I see it with new eyes. Now I am in love with this shade of bright red and have decided to weave a square of cloth on which I can pose some of the small woven samples that I take to workshops and presentations. It will make a nice bright splash of color on the table.

I took measurements from two warp-faced scarves that I had woven with this same cotton some time ago and figured that 1472 ends would give me 40 cm, or about 15 3/4″.  That width would sit well on my loom bars and I had several swords of just the right length for it.

The leaf pattern

One version of the leaf pattern.

If I wove this piece in un-patterned plain weave, I know that slight variations in the spacing of this fine thread would not be noticeable. If I had chosen to weave a single narrow column of supplementary-weft figures say, down the center, I doubt that spacing variations would have been an issue either.

Of course, I had to make things difficult for myself by choosing to weave repeated supplementary-weft figures all the way across the bottom. And this is where the variations, at least to my eye as I sit at the loom focusing on picking up tiny threads, become obvious. I am weaving a leaf pattern which I now like to think of as one of my ”signature” ones and I can see the variation in leaf dimensions, ranging from robust to slender, across the width of the warp. Well, I suppose that is the way leaves come in Nature and I shouldn’t let it bother me too much!

supplementary weft leaf patterns I had been aware of this potential problem from other supplementary-weft pieces I have woven with heavier thread and I did try my hardest to have all the threads spread evenly…dragging the point of my pick-up stick across the threads in attempt to have them settle in place as my teacher in Guatemala had done. I even unwove and started again when the leaves on the right were too narrow. I  shall have to seek out a Master and try to capture the secret of getting all those very fine threads evenly distributed. I long for such an opportunity.

What I have woven so far is the bottom border. Only the pattern of three leaves on the far right and left will continue in a column, waving to and fro, until I  finish with a band of leaves across the top to match the bottom. In the space within this border of pattern, I plan to weave scattered leaves.

It will be relatively easy going from here onward as I only have to pick up threads on the two edges. I LOVE sitting in a backstrap loom and using almost the full length of the loom bars. I love picking up those big swords and guiding them through the sheds. I love having to put a little ”oooomph” into opening sheds of fine sticky cotton and beating. I am having a really good time with this project!

As for the ikat circles project that I wrote about in my last post…well, I have created a very unusual looking laptop slip cover with the resulting fabric.

ikat circles backstrap weavingI have mentioned before the fact that when you do pick-up patterning within ikat shapes, you don’t get the delightful fuzzy outlines that are typical of ikat in plain weave. Because warp floats are involved, the outlines of the shapes are broken, disjointed and a little messy…not what I would call attractive. I got creative and decided to edge the shapes with tubular bands in order to cover the irregular outline.

Ikat in plain weave. The motif I created has fuzzy edges due to the shifting of the warp threads while the piece was being woven.

Ikat in plain weave. The motif I created has fuzzy, yet attractive, edges due to the shifting of the warp threads while the piece was being woven.

ikat circleThis is the second circle. Once I had decided that I would use the tubular band edging, I planned a pattern for the second circle that would match the pattern on the ñawi awapa tubular band. I wish I had thought about that for the first circle as well.

ikat circles with pick-up patteringI had to fold the cloth through one of the circles so that it would fit the laptop….let’s call that ”quirky”. Yep, it’s a pretty quirky computer sleeve. I wove and sewed another ñawi awapa tubular band to the sides and around the opening.

Lessons learned….

ikat circles1. I need to create elongated shapes when I apply the ikat tape if I am going to use a warp-float structure. That way, the shapes will contract while weaving to take on the correct proportions. You can see that the woven circles have come out flattened.

2. I should put a bit more thought into the construction of the final product before applying the ikat tape if I seriously want to use the fabric for something in particular rather than just have it as a sample. That way, the ikat shapes will appear in the right place on the fabric.

After all that black and white, let’s finish this post with a splash of color. I have pictures, courtesy of Dorinda and PAZA Bolivia, of my weaving teacher Maxima’s new aguayo. I showed you the ch’uspa she was weaving for her husband, the new Mayor of Huancarani in a previous post. Unfortunately, Dorinda hasn’t shown the finished ch’uspa on the website. That piece was woven in plain weave with embedded columns of figures in double weave.

The aguayo has columns of double weave as well as pebble weave.intenseconcentration

The aguayo is the large cloth which women drape over their shoulders and back and tie at their chest. It is used to wrap and carry their babies and any other bundle that needs to be transported. It is woven in two identical pieces which are usually joined together with decorative stitches. You can see the first finished piece on the ground next to Maxima while she busies herself with the second.

Dorinda writes on the PAZA blog that Maxima took 2 weeks to weave the first panel. Before the weaving could begin, she had to use her drop spindle to add twist to the store-bought yarn to make it strong and smooth enough for warp-faced weaving. She commented that the cheerful colors made the naturally-dyed handspun wool that she has been using in the cooperative look dull and boring. Then she took a break from the high concentration required for the double weave pick-up and wove a plain-weave poncho in only four days. I can understand that need for a break!

MaxThe weavers in this region of Bolivia use leaning vertical looms for large pieces. Narrow bands are typically woven on a body-tensioned loom sometimes using just an index finger and a toe as the warp beams!

aguayocompleteAfter the ”poncho break”, Maxima immediately warped up for the second aguayo panel. The two pieces have been joined with the colorful decorative stitches. It s not quite finished as Dorinda says that Maxima plans on adding a crocheted edging. Please do visit the PAZA blog to read more about Maxima and the spinners and weavers of the Cochabamba region of Boliva.

As I sit happily weaving what I hope will be a red square of a mere 16” x 16”, I have something to which I can aspire in Maxima’s incredible work. One day I would also like to weave two large identical panels and join them. New challenges. I somehow suspect that each one will take me longer than 2 weeks to complete.

Oh, and I am not done with the curved ikat shapes filled with pick-up patterns. I am just taking a break from it, as Maxima did with the poncho, to weave something completely different. :-)








Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 7, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Forehead Slaps

handspun llama fiberI have a small zip lock bag full of left overs of my handpun llama fiber.

There’s less yarn in those balls than you might think as I remember having wound the thread around clay beads. What to do with them?

For me, combining them all into one project won’t work as I don’t feel I have enough dark colored thread to create a decent amount of contrast. Maybe I could darken some of the colors by over-dyeing with tea, or I could come up with some small projects to weave using just two or three colors.

And then I remembered the beautiful handwoven cuffs I had seen on the Peruvian Connection website…

peruvian connections

Aren’t these gorgeous?! When I first saw these pictures I longed to try making a cuff with my own handpsun and edging it with a tubular band. Then I got distracted and carried away with other projects. I did make cuffs in the end…several of them, in fact…but in silk without tubular edgings.

Now I could finally get around to trying this with my handspun. The reason I was looking for small projects like these is that I really needed frequent breaks from tying plastic strips around warp threads for my latest ikat experiment. I like to be able to weave every day. Even taking a whole day off from warp tying was most welcome…talk about tedious! So, it was very nice to be able to take a break and pick up a small project and weave away.

cuff with handspun yarnHere’s the second cuff I made which is the one with which I am most pleased. I used the Tinkipaya star pattern that I recently used on a wool bag project.

handspun cuffs and wool bagThat’s the first one I made on the right. It’s a little rough and I wish I had put more thought into the layout. The pick-up pattern in the center would have looked better if it hadn’t been bordered by red, I think. I guess I wasn’t very confident about it being a success and was a little careless as a result. Both are edged with tubular bands. The red one has an X and O pattern that I saw being used for a tubular band by a weaver in Pitumarca, Peru. The other has the eye pattern that I learned in Chinchero, Peru.

I didn’t manage to make any sweet yarn buttons like the Peruvian weavers have in their beautiful cuffs. I used buttons made from tagua nut that I had bought in Ecuador many years ago.

tagua nut buttonsOne end of the cuffs that I wove is a selvedge and the other end is raw. I turned the raw edge over, sewed it down and then stiffened it with diluted white glue. This enabled me to then securely apply the tubular edging. I wove and sewed it to the edge at the same time.

The tubular band does a pretty good job of covering that turned edge. As always with these tubular bands, you can start with a selvedge but then have to get creative with the finish where you are left with a bunch of unwoven warp ends to somehow hide away. When edging a bag, this is easy. All sorts of things can be hidden on the inside of a bag. You can see the place where the end of the tubular band meets the beginning in the picture above. Like I said, you just have to get creative. If you can’t see it, that means that I did a pretty good job ;-).

Of course, I had already woven three cuffs before I realized that it would have been wise to position and hide the join in the tubular band under the button! Forehead Slap #1.

tinkipaya design cuffA braid at one end of the cuff loops over the button to secure it around my wrist.

3 cuffs from handspunI made three and each is edged with a different tubular band. The third has the Chauaytire style of tubular edging. The pattern does not show up so well due to the lack of strong contrast in the colors.

The third one has a pattern that I adapted from a belt made by the Tarahumara weavers of Mexico.

3 cuffs with handspun yarnSo, the cuff weaving was a welcome distraction that got me through the tiresome process of applying ikat ties on my larger project. I have seen pictures of young ladies in Uzbekistan seated around a horizontal frame and tying bundles of warp together for ikat. It could be fun as a group activity. It doesn’t really require concentration if the design has been already marked on the warp threads.

ikat circlesI had originally intended having four circles on this warp….two on the front of what will hopefully be a slip cover for my laptop and two on the back. But, after two, I was done! I am still in the experimental stage and I figured I could learn plenty from just two circles…and indeed, I did. I already have new strategies planned for the next attempt.

ikat circle filled with pick-up patternOne of the big lessons…Forehead Slap #2…is that the original tied shape will contract considerably lengthwise if it is being filled with patterning. So, I have a squat circle underway. You can see my original cardboard template on the floor nearby. I hadn’t even noticed this happening when I wove the block-like patterns in my Bird ikat project. However, I don’t mind this squat circle too much.

But, one of the best things I learned this week was the value of having time to let my mind wander freely. This is probably why I seem to solve all my weaving problems when in the shower! When traveling, I have plenty of time to do that…all the airport waiting time and bus trips give me lots of opportunities to let my mind wander and I get my best ideas that way. Once I am home, I spend all my time implementing those ideas, very focused and concentrating on pick-up patterns….a wandering mind leads to mistakes.  All the time I spent standing at the ikat frame and a few hours spent sitting at the doctor’s office this week (where I was surprised to find that I was the only one without an electronic device) have allowed my wandering mind to bring me a whole new set of fresh ideas.

I am going to leave you this week with a couple of videos. The first is a 14-year old Peruvian girl singing Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel in Quechua. I love it! This was produced as an effort to promote young people’s pride in their native Quechua language. A word of warning…I have had this song in my head for the last three days.

This second video was produced in Argentina and the song is about Doña Ubenza who, according to this web page, is a shepherdess who spins while she tends her grazing sheep. Inspired by the spinning and sheep, the producer applies the fiber theme to stop motion animation with felt figures to tell the story. It is adorable as is the song itself. Unfortunately, Doña Ubenza is not spinning in the video but you can see here there with her sheep.







Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 24, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Circles

circle 1I just learned how to cut out circles in my simple drawing program and have been messing around with that with some photos of my weaving.

The pattern at left is one I used for a new necklace idea. This time I wove the actual pendant rather than just the cord or band on which pendants hang. It’s 60/2 silk and the pattern is an adpatation of the one that appears on a scrap of belt fabric that I bought in Cusco in 1996.

I wove this and will weave others as something to give me a bit of a change of pace as I sit for hours and hours applying ikat tape for my latest big project. I am hoping to make this ikat project a ”two-fer” ….a chance to practice creating circles and, if it is successful, a piece of fabric that can be made into a travel cover for my new laptop.

Making the photo circles in the drawing program was easy enough. If only it were that easy to create smooth curves and circles in warp-faced weaving. Choosing the right structure and using fine enough yarn does play a large role.

silk cuffs front and backIn the band in the center, I was trying to replicate the pattern on a button I had bought. It took a few attempts before I could get the proportions right and create a somewhat circular motif.

Here are the necklaces that I have made so far. The latest one with the pattern I placed in the round photo above is in the middle…
woven necklaces backstrap weavingThe cord is a cotton 4-strand braid. It was challenging putting that bit of weft twining along the bottom of the pendant using the 60/2 silk. It came out very sweetly.

Before settling down to tearing strips of plastic and wrap, wrap, wrapping for the ikat project, I made a bag with the wool fabric I showed you last week.

backstrap weaving woolI wanted to decorate the sides of the bag with a tubular band and planned something that would complement the twill lines in the main motif.

tubular band on wool bagI am fond of cutting bag flaps into curves and edging them with tubular bands but I decided to leave this one uncut and edge it with coil stiches instead. They are little coil-wrapped circles, or rings, that extend from the upper surface of the flap over the edge and to the inside. These decorative stitches are sometimes used by weavers here in Bolivia along the bottom edges of their woven ch’uspas…the small pouches in which they carry coca leaves. It’s a bit of a fiddly business.

I wove a simple, brown strap and used orange weft to liven it up a little and better match the bag. And this is where circles came into play again. I planned a 75-inch warp to be on the safe side and, as I simply do not have the room to stretch out a 75-inch warp in my room and am not a fan of rolling up the far end of the warp, I wound a circular warp instead.

circular warpingI ended up with 67 inches of woven band and 3 1/2 inches of unwoven warp. I didn’t really have to change my sitting position to scoot closer and closer to the back beam as the weaving rapidly progressed. That is one of the nice things about the circular warp. The distance the weavers sits from the end beam barely changes at all and so, something against which to brace one’s feet can be easily set up. Being so very narrow and in plain weave, the band was very quick to weave. It was fun watching the band turning over the front beam and growing below, then stretching itself out toward the back of the loom, turning up over the back beam and then inching its way back towards me to make a full circle.

Here is the finished bag…

I really like the look of the tubular band along those edges. The pattern reminds me of the carved wooden columns that are used here in Santa Cruz in the centuries-old Jesuit mission churches. They have thick jungly vines encircling their length. The piece was an exercise in several things which included creating a new tubular band pattern and applying coils stitches with very fine wool

This can now join the rather small collection of items I have woven using industrially-spun wool. Each time I have used wool, it has been with more than one goal in mind. The two pieces below were woven with the same kind of wool. I wanted to see how it would stand up to string heddles and warp-faced weaving as well as practice the discontinuous-warp technique that I had studied in Peru.

wool backstrap weaving discontinuous warpThis next wool piece was a chance to practice creating a fourth selvedge and use wool supplementary weft with wool warp…

This last one is an old piece that I wove back in 1997 just after I came back to my home in Chile from Peru where I had studied a supplemental-warp technique for the second time as well as the creation of four selvedges. I had also recently visited a sheep station in southern Argentina where the owners showed me a belt that the Mapuche wife of one of their former farmhands had woven and this had inspired the patterns and colors…

mapuche-bag-front-and-backSo, I haven’t done a whole lot with store-bought wool. Living in the tropics where wool cannot be bought just might have something to do with it.

I have more pendants in mind to weave this week and, if things go well, I will get to dye the ikat project.

Let me leave you here with some projects from students and online weaving friends. Cheryl, Jan and Jane are three of the weavers who are taking part in a guild group project to create a bag for their county fair. Each weaver is to create a band of specified dimensions in red, black and white which will be put together to make a bag.  Jan’s (on the left) and Jane’s (on the right) bands were woven using backstrap looms and the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The patterns are in my books. Cheryl’s tablet-woven piece, with her own pattern, was created using a loom with weighted warps.

jan jane cherylHere’s the finished bag which, after the fair, will be raffled off amongst the contributing weavers. It was really hard for me to imagine how this bag was going to turn out. I think it’s amazing!11742664_10206985393054367_1959968408212876236_n

pick-up within an ikat circleAnd so, for me, it’s back to the ikat frame and those circles. I successfully created a nice small circle in ikat in my very first attempt some time ago. However, I am not entirely convinced that this was not just a fluke.  I’ll let you know how it goes.







Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 17, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – ”Unnatural” Beauty

columnweftthreadsI always try to read my latest blog post the morning after having posted it. More often that not there is a typo or two that needs fixing and I seem to catch those more easily when fresh in the morning rather than at 10pm when I generally hit the ”publish” button.

What I noticed more than anything else when I did the morning-after review of last week’s post, was the way that the picture of Maxima’s ch’uspa gleefully jumped off the page. Those festive reds, oranges and pinks and joyful greens rang out as I scrolled down the page. It is not hard to understand why Maxima should want to use the synthetic thread in these bright colors for her husband’s outfit as Mayor of Huancarani as her aim is to create something festive. In the same way, she and other weavers in her co-operative have started working on their llicllas for Carnival next year and are using acrylic yarn in bright colors bought in the market. There is still work involved before the pieces can be warped as the bought yarn needs to have more twist added so that it will stand up to the abrasion of warp-faced weaving.

natural dye colors independencia Bolivia
While the weavers are able to obtain beautiful deep shades of red using natural substances like cochineal, most colors they get from natural sources tend to be much more muted. Natural whites are not as brilliantly white as the synthetic whites either and these weavers are not using indigo to obtain blues. The hairiness of the handspun wool creates slightly more ”subdued” motifs next to the sharp, crisp ones woven with synthetic yarn. However, we, in the western world, love those natural dye colors and the way they so perfectly blend and work together and we tend to choose handspun wool textiles from indigenous weavers over synthetics.

reversingfor2ndhalfIn the above picture, Maxima has just repositioned her ch’uspa piece on the loom so that she can start weaving from the other end. This will enable her to create a piece with four selvedges. (Picture courtesy of PAZA Bolivia.)

It is even easier to understand the weavers’ leanings towards these bright colors when you see the rather bleak and colorless landscapes at some of the higher altitudes of Bolivia.

When I studied with weavers in Potosi, Bolivia, I shopped with one of my teachers for the yarn that we would use. I had her make the color choices as I wanted something that represented her taste. Her sister, however, turned up her nose when we had finished warping! She might have liked the colors but she definitely didn’t like the way in which we had arranged them. You can see how the woven piece is a spot of cheery brightness against the hard baked dry earth and stone walls of the patio. Of course, there is lots of pink.

learning double weave potosiI remember the first time I visited Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca in Peru in 1996. I wanted to buy a textile from the market in the plaza and kept turning down pieces that were synthetic. Yet, these were the pieces that had the most beautiful work of all. The synthetic thread was extremely fine and allowed the weavers to create double weave motifs with an incredible amount of detail. The motifs in brilliant white stood out boldly and crisply against backgrounds of ruby red and green.

I absolutely love this Bolivian poncho made with exceptionally fine synthetic thread that a friend of mine bought in a textile store in California. The amount of design detail that has been packed into the narrow bands of color is extraordinary. The weaver has used some of the typical strong pinks and yellows alongside much softer tones in the columns of double weave.Bolivian poncho synthetic thread double weave

Sometimes, synthetic colors are used alongside undyed handspun wool such as in this piece from Peru….

tantaSynthetic dyes are sold in the highland street markets. It is lovely to see the mounds of colored powders in rows on the tables next to old weighing scales and sheets of paper for wrapping the purchases. Handspun wool can then be easily dyed for colorful woven bankets and carrying cloths….

synthetic dyes peruBolivian hatbands, decorated with colorful acrylic supplementary weft threads, are woven with warp thread that is finer than sewing thread. This fineness allows the weavers a lot of flexibility in their motifs with weft floats that can span up to 20 warp threads without being too long and cumbersome. I doubt that anyone is taking the trouble to spin yarn that fine anymore. The bright colors, tassels and pom poms give these bands a very festive look.

hatbands-aPebble Weave hatbands in Oruro and belts in Ayacucho are bright and eye catching…

oruro hatband

ayacucho beltWhen I am presenting at guild meetings I place this next piece of cloth on the display table along with samples of handpsun wool, wool weavings of Peru and Bolivia and my own weavings. Many people are immediately attracted to this piece. It is, in fact, a machine-made acrylic version of traditional weaving patterns of Chinchero, Peru. The weavers of Chinchero, of course, weave with their handspun and naturally dyed wool yarn. I don’t know where this piece was made, having bought it in Santa Cruz airport.Craylic knock off chinchero patternYou all must know by now that I adore the use of red, black and white in textiles. For me it has a sort of ”tribal” flavor.  The inclusion of bright acrylic supplemental weft in this red, black and white saddle bag from northern Peru gives it a completely different flavor, I think.

As for me, I remain conservative in my color choices. I took a slight detour this week by using orange. I found a nice burnt orange wool on my last trip away and I wanted to try out this new wool yarn to see how it performed in the grip of string heddles and  warp-faced weaving. I used it, along with the other colors, straight off the skein.

It is wool. Therefore, it was hairy and gnarly in the heddles and sticky. That’s its nature. There are ways to deal with that. Each type of yarn calls on a different strategy for opening clean sheds and avoiding excess abrasion and breakages. I had to be careful to advance the warp often so that the heddles were not sitting too long on one spot and causing a lot of friction on that one part of the warp. No threads broke and the resulting cloth is gorgeously soft!

backstrap weaving woolI am currently planning and sampling a tubular band pattern that will suit the motif. The purpose of this weaving was to test the wool. It was a success and so, I shall make something with the cloth and, at the same time, try out my own tubular band pattern. Ths is the first time I have used the motif you see above besides the tiny sample I wove for my second book.

wool backstrap weaving tinkipaya motifWhen I look at all the colorful weavings in this post, I am reminded of the machine-knitting business I used to have in my skiing days. In Australia, for every colorful patterned wool ear-warmer band that I sold, I would sell ten plain navy blue ones! It was a totally different when I spent the other half of the year in Europe. The Swedes in particular would wear wildly colorful hats with pom-poms that erupted from the top and cascaded down the sides like fireworks! The more colorful, the better and they were a blast of color in the snow. It’s interesting to note the different attitudes to color. And my ski suit? Well, there were a few but my favorite was, of course, black (with some neon pink bands). This was back in the 1980s.

See you next week. I will leave you here with one more piece of bright jolliness….belts from Ayacucho…







Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 10, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Braiding and Thinking

llama fiber and charque

spinning alpacaNo,  haven’t been spinning. I have been braiding and thinking about projects new and old. I am aware from my visits to Ravelry that the great annual Tour de Fleece is underway and, while I am not participating, I was motivated by all the excitement connected with the event to dig through the cupboard and pull out some old handspun projects which I have woven with the alpaca and llama fiber you can see above. If you are wondering what’s in that bowl, it’s llama jerky.

anna-spinningI had bought that llama fiber while wandering around a tiny country settlement in Uyuni, Bolivia back in 2002. It was coarse, dry and brittle but I knew no better.  I was thrilled just to have it as it is impossible to obtain down in the jungly lowlands where I live.

I had already learned to spin but I think that spinning that rough llama fiber was the best spinning training I could have had. It was awful to card. I had a wheezing attack each time I pulled the dusty stuff out of a bag and the memory of the smell of that dust still turns my stomach. The first things I wove with that spun llama fiber still sit framed on my wall. It had been such a business that I never thought I would do it again!

Later, when my friend Janet in the U.S gave me some prepared alpaca fiber, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to spin. It felt like cheating. Here’s one of the alpaca projects on the loom…


natural_dyes_medium2I dyed some of my yarn made from the llama fiber with cochineal and plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI ended up making quite a few pieces of coth which I sewed into shoulder bags and pouches. These are the things that I have been pulling out of my closet. They were obviously made in the days before I started weaving tubular bands and embellishing my pieces …there is not a single tubular band or tassel to be seen!
chahuaytire tubular bandThe long pouch had some forgotten tools in them. It was nice to unzip it and discover those. I decided that this whole lot needed some sprucing up. The black bag will get a new strap and have its flap edged with something decorative. The brown bag could also do with a more interesting strap.

I decided to edge the long zippered pouch with a tubular band. This would be my chance to apply the band that is used to edge cloth in the community of Chahuaytire. Although I have sewn this kind of tubular band to pieces of cloth in samples as you can see above, I had never used it in a real project and I had not woven it with wool.

Cloth from Chahuaytire, Peru edged with a tubular band in beautiful natural dye colors

Cloth from Chahuaytire, Peru edged with a tubular band in beautiful natural dye colors.

When I visited Marijke van Epen in The Netherlands in 2012,  I worked with her on figuring out this band from a picture. Almost immediately after that visit, I went to Peru and was lucky to be able to watch one being woven and buy a warp in progress to see how it was set up.

chahuaytire and chichero bandsWhile I have seen the patterned tubular band on the right, which I learned in Chinchero Peru, also woven here in Bolivia, I have never seen what I will call the ”Chahuaytire style’,’ on the left, here in Bolivia at all.

Maxima at the Tinkuy in by Dorinda Dutcher

Maxima at the Tinkuy in 2913…photo by Dorinda Dutcher

One of my weaving teachers in Bolivia, Maxima, has an older sister, Narciza, who knows how to weave the Chinchero style of tubular band and frequently attaches it to the edge of her woven coca-leaf bags.

Dorinda, who works with Maxima, recounted one of Maxima stories in which she told of how her mother did not know the figure on the tubular band to teach them and so bartered corn to have a neighbor teach her oldest daughter, Narciza. The neighbor had recently moved to the area from Oruro (also in Bolivia).

Maxima was not interested in asking her older sister to then teach her the pattern as Narciza was in the habit of giving her a smack when she made a mistake. I always wondered if my weaving teachers sometimes had the urge to give me a wee slap when I was learning! I can remember their frustration with me back in 1996 when I broke my warp threads while trying to operate the heddles.

Maxma is currently weaving items for her husband in his new role as Mayor of Hucarani. There are several items that he and Maxima, as the Mayor;s wife, are required to have. Here Maxima is weaving a ch'uspa with columns of figures in double weave. The woven pieces need to be bright and festive and so she is using store bought acrylic rather than her own handpsun and naturally dyed wool.

Maxma is currently weaving items for her husband in his new role as Mayor of Huancarani. There are several woven items that he and Maxima, as wife of the Mayor, are required to have. Here Maxima is weaving a ch’uspa for her husband with columns of figures in double weave. The woven pieces need to be bright and festive and so she is using store bought acrylic rather than her own handpsun and naturally dyed wool.

And so, it was only in 2013 when Maxima had the chance to attend the Tinkuy de Tejedores in Cusco, Peru, that she had the opportunity to learn to weave the ñawi awapa pattern in much the same way I had in 2010.

However, Dorinda has since told me that Maxima seems to have forgotten how to weave the ñawi awapa band since returning to Bolivia.  She sends her weavings to her sister if she wants them to be edged with a ñawi awapa.

As with everything new like this, if it is not immediately put into practice, it can easily be forgotten. Ask any of my students!

One day I hope I can go out to Independencia and help refresh her memory.

I have had so much fun with the ñawi awapa since learning it, attaching it to so many things and, most recently, using it for jewelry.

nawi awapa jewelryBut, back to the ”Chahuaytire style”. I enjoyed weaving and sewing it to the edge of the pouch. It came out beautifully in wool.

pouch edged with chahuaytire tubular bandI added a braid to the zipper and I think the bag looks a lot more interesting now. There you can see all the swords and shuttles that I will be storing in it.

Not all tubular bands need to have pick-up patterns. I have often woven and attached them in just one solid color and have also used ”threaded-in” patterns, that is, ones that are created by the order of the colored threads in the warp rather than with pick-up.

These two pouches have solid color plain-weave tubular edgings.

These two pouches have solid color plain-weave tubular edgings.

The blue and green piece has a tubular edging with a simple thread-in pattern.

The blue and green piece has a tubular edging with a simple thread-in pattern. The pattern was warped off center to appear on the upper face of the fabric and show as solid green on the reverse.

Maxima often uses simple Andean Pebble Weave patterns in her tubular edgings using two sets of heddles and I have also seen weavers in Pitumarca weave tubular bands with the pattern set up in multiple heddles.

A weaver from Pitumarca weaving and sewing a tubular band edging

A weaver from Pitumarca weaving and sewing a tubular band edging.

Having learned the discontinuous-warp, or ticlla, technique with weavers from Pitumarca, I used the particular tubular band pattern used by weavers  in their community to edge my workshop piece when I got home and finished it. You can see how the edges of my cloth rolled when I took it off the loom. This was due to the high amount of twist in the handspun alpaca yarn that we were given to use. The cloth lay flat once the tubular band was applied.

discontinuous warp with tubular bandOf course, I didn’t spend my entire week on this one tubular band. As the title of this post implies, I was braiding and thinking…..braiding the enormous number of ends on my wall hangings at four minutes per braid. There are still plenty more to go.

And I was thinking about the shapes I want to weave on my next ikat ”sample”. Yes, I don’t feel ready yet to dive into the real project. I think that just one more sample with curved shapes needs to be done.

I also thought about the new slip cover I need to for my new laptop. This new one is slightly bigger than the notebook I have been using these last five years and so a new cover is needed.

Here’s the one I have been using so far with its pattern taken from Central Asian textiles…

central asoan design backstrap weaving

notebook-coverIt has been on many trips with me.

And, while I think, I pull out books, look online and make sketches. While going through the cupboard, I also pulled out a lot of fiber crying out to be spun. Maybe I will also set myself a wee spinning goal for the next months.

I will leave you for this week with this final picture of an event which is creating a lot of excitement here in Santa Cruz.

11698916_10153439643714530_8322870495067486430_nWe are on holiday today as the Pope is in Santa Cruz where he is celebrating his only Mass during his Bolivian visit. BoA, the Bolivian airline that transported him, has been posting pictures of the visit on Facebook and kindly gave me permission to show one here. Pope Francisco was presented with a handwoven souvenir of his visit when he landed and walks hand in hand with a boy who is dressed in the typical green and white outfit of Santa Cruz with his sombrero de sao.

See you next week…..





Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 3, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Cuffs and Stuff

silk cuff on loom backstrap weavingI left you last week with this silk cuff in Andean Pebble Weave still on the loom. I had wound a long enough warp to also be able to weave a few intermesh experiments. I was curious having never before used silk for this structure. And then, I was supposed to go on to my big ikat projects. Wrong.. I got stuck on silk and adornments…cuffs and other stuff… and have been fiddling around with those all week.

Coul stitches adorn the edges of a tiny case for the ipod that weaving friend, Gwen, gave me.

Coil stitches adorn the edges of a tiny case for the iPod that weaving friend, Gwen, gave me.

It is no secret that I like dressing up my weavings once they are off the loom. I like nothing better than to add tubular edgings, braids, pom-poms, decorative stitches and tassels to my little bags and pouches….no matter how tiny they are.

However, when it comes to dressing up myself, I have absolutely no interest at all. Clothes shopping is torture and I long ago gave up on wearing jewelry after having had several sentimental items yanked off my wrists and neck while walking down the streets of my home here in Bolivia. It’s funny that when I am traveling in South America, I am very careful not to display any ”riches”. Everything I have lost was taken when I was at home, feeling relatively secure, and with my guard down.

Nevertheless, I have decided that it would be nice to have some woven jewelry to wear while I am teaching and demonstrating and all eyes are on my hands. That is what I worked on this week….cuffs, a couple of necklaces and a bracelet.

silk cuffs front and backHere are the two faces of the 60/2 silk piece. The pattern on the right is one I adapted to the Andean Pebble Weave structure from a piece of Kuba cloth. The other two are in the intermesh technique and I love the way intermesh looks in silk. The strip in the center was really only a sampler as I tried to get the proportions right to match the design on a button that I had bought. The other strip has a motif from Mexican tapestry. It is always hard to decide which face I prefer.

silk cuff backstrap weaving Andean Pebble WeaveThen I started on a silk ribbon to match the cuff I had made some time ago using a pattern of the Guaraní Isoseño weavers here in Santa Cruz. I wanted to use the ribbon as a necklace.

According to the legend told to me by my teacher, it was a snake that appeared in a dream and taught weaving patterns to the first Guaraní weaver.

While the Guarani weavers’ Moisy weavings depict colorful large trees, plants, butterflies, birds and flowers, the motifs on their Kara Pepo weavings are limited to snake skin patterns and stars. The weavers also think of the snake pattern as representing the life-giving Isoso river along which they have settled.

Although this piece is so very narrow and the pattern so very repetitive, it took longer to weave than you might expect…all those tiny silk threads to pick up. I have volunteered to weave some lanyards for the Braids 2016 conference. They will need to be much longer than this necklace piece..hmmm, I should perhaps get started on those soon!

silk cuff and necklace backstrap weavingThe pendant is one that I had bought, with this very project in mind, at the Northwest Folklife Festival while in Seattle last spring. In fact, I had bought two, and so I also wove a wool ñawi awapa band for the other. While visiting with Karen Huntoon in her kumihimo studio and store last year in Truckee, I got some small magnetic jewelry clasps. I suppose these kinds of projects have been on my mind for some time as Karen’s kumihimo necklaces were very inspiring.

nawi awapa necklace and pendant backstrap weavingWell, after that, I got a little ñawi awapa crazy and decided that a bracelet in this technique would be fun. I used fine wool to weave four of these patterned tubular bands and combined them. These are the tiniest ones I have made so far and I think they are really cute.

nawi awapa bracelet backstrap weavingFun!

So that was my week in weaving and playing. I still have more of the magnetic clasps. I wonder what else I will come up with. Maybe I will just get down to drawing my large ikat cartoons instead…but, wait a minute…I don’t have an ikat cuff, do I? or an ikat necklace…..

silk cuffs and necklaces backstrap weaving


Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 26, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Small and Silky

A small post for a few small fun projects.

backstrap weaving toolsIt is nice being back home and in my spot on the floor with the full range of my backstrap weaving tools on hand.

I did some twining and got the three Bird hangings off their looms at last. Then, I rounded up all the sticks and bits and pieces that had been lying about in my ”studio” and put them back into their bins…loom bars, cable ties, heddle sticks, cross sticks, coil rods, metal selvedge rods, beaters, swords, spacers, needles, pick-up sticks, warping stakes and shuttles.

I photographed and made notes on the tiny samples that were too small to be made into anything and then threw them away, and got my notebook up to date. That all felt great. Now I can confidently say that I can put my hand on just the right stick when needed and I am ready for a new session of sampling and weaving.

Those big ikat projects are on my mind and I will soon be tackling those…getting out the frame, the ikat tape and dye, ready for days and days of tying little strips of plastic around warp threads.

But, for now, it is nice to have a variety of small pieces to work on.

silk bookmark and cuffs

wrist cuff in silk backstrap weavingI finished the bookmark in 60/2 spun silk that I had promised a friend and, finding that I had plenty of warp left over, I made another wrist cuff for myself.

I really enjoyed wearing the little cuffs I had made before I left for  my US trip earlier this year. I used an Andean Pebble Weave motif that I charted for my second book.

It is so much more comfortable doing pick-up with this 60/2 silk in this cooler weather. Working with silk with sweaty hands is quite horrible. It is amazing how much the black-and-white one has softened with wear.

Having my basket of silk out of the cupboard with all those lovely little skeins at my fingertips, I got on a bit of a cuff-making roll. I had bought some buttons while in the US and decided to weave another cuff or two using the patterns on the buttons as guides. I want to sew the buttons to the cuffs purely as decoration. One button had a knot pattern and I decided to use a design that I had charted for my second book which was based on motifs found in Kuba cloth.

silk cuff on loom backstrap weavingThat one is still on the loom and there will be plenty of warp left over to try another using the second button. I will use the intermesh structure for that one.

And, while all that was going on, I summoned up the courage to cut into that reeled silk piece that I showed you last week. This is the warp that Sara Lamb let me have to weave…her hand dyed and hand painted colors and her fabulous color arrangement. I figured that I could get two pouches out of that piece. I had measured my friend Betty’s cell phone while I was staying with her and so I was ready to cut the first piece to suit. It wasn’t easy to take the scissors to this piece! It was so lusciously smooth and slinky. I had been enjoying just holding it and letting it slip from one hand to the other.

So, here is the first of the two pouches finished…

reeled silk pouch backstrap weavingI wove and sewed a plain-weave tubular band to the edge and also used that edging to stabilize the cut and shaped flap. One of the buttons I had bought found its place. I am really happy with this little pouch and only slightly disappointed that a lot of the ”slinkiness” has been lost within the confines of the quite rigid tubular band. It does, however, feel lovely to stroke!

I made the second pouch much simpler…a squared off flap and no edging. This one retains its liquid-like characteristics and is free to slink about as it pleases. Sara had given me a small ball of the reeled silk and I was able to make a four-strand braid with it for a strap.

two reeled silk pouches backstrap weaving

So, that’s all from me for this week. I will be setting up to sample some more curved ikat shapes soon. And when I am not doing that, or weaving silk cuffs, or planning maybe something bigger, like a silk scarf, I will be braiding and braiding and braiding. There are several hundred braids to be made on the ends of the three Bird hangings….plenty to keep me out of trouble.

Until next time….




Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 15, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Folk

It’s been a while! Here I am back in Bolivia with stuff that I brought back from this latest trip. Not much to show for two and half months away, is it?

weaving stuffIn fact, the silk warp that you see there was made from silk I took away with me. I wound a warp with it early on in the trip so that I could make a bookmark for a friend. And that was as far as I got. I was just way too busy on this trip to make a start on it. I made those heddles just last night.

ikat bird shapes filled with pebble weave backstrap weavingI brought back loads of black dye so that I can continue my ikat projects. There are three pieces I want to make for my next set of wall hangings, all with curved shapes. I have found curved motifs that I like from cultures around the world that represent the north, south and center. I bought a used book on ikat which I hope will give some tips to add to the body of experience I have collected so far in my own experiments.

But first, I have to get those three bird pieces off the loom. I need to add some red weft twining to finish them and thus create another common thread to connect the set.

I bought the charcoal pencils that you can see in the first picture…at last! Now I have a better way to mark the motifs on the warp threads before placing the ikat ties. Marker pen, in one of my experiments, bled yellow into the white spaces after dyeing and regular pencil just doesn’t do the trick. I saw, via video, that some of the design masters in Uzbekistan use charcoal to draw the patterns onto the warp before handing it over to those who specialize in the tying process.

valdani cottonI got some Valdani cotton at the Northwest Folklife Festival. I don’t know yet what makes this thread from Romania so special (I’ll let you know once I have used it) but I liked the ladies who owned the stall and the thread is one of my festival souvenirs. I will weave a ”folky” wrist cuff with it in memory of the three fun days spent at the festival with Marilyn.

And then, there are the hairsticks. You can see just one of them in the picture. There seems to be an endless supply of these at all kinds of folk art and ethnic textile and craft stores. I go over each and every one to find the ones with nice points so I can use them as pick- up sticks when I work with supplementary weft.

peggy's backstrap warpI bought the three skeins of wool from a small yarn store in Skagit Valley.

I decided that I need a wool backstrap to add to my collection and the colors were totally inspired by Peggy’s beautiful project that she brought to my ”Thinking Big” workshop….indigo, purple and apple green.

I wonder where Peggy is with that project. I can’t wait to see it finished.

The Valdani cotton that I bought is a selection of variegated and solid colors. I love the look of variegated yarn and thread but have never used it myself in a project. I have never really been sure what to do with it! After seeing Peggy’s project and getting to weave Sara Lamb’s beautiful reeled silk warp, I feel more inclined to start using strips of color that are not solid.

You may remember this next shot from a previous post…that’s me all excited about getting to play with Sara’s dyed and hand painted reeled silk warp. Sara, in what I have come to learn is her typical generous way, gave me her warp. There are two of her narrow hand painted strips amongst the solid colors. I would never in a million years think of putting these colors together. The warp contains, fuschia, copper, blue, orange, yellow and purple. Could this experience launch me into a whole new color palette? Well…maybe after I have finished all the red-black-and-white wall hangings for which I have ideas that will keep me busy for several more years.

Laverne2I used deep red tencel (another choice of Sara’s) as a supplemental weft to weave a hook pattern I designed in the central copper strip. (lower photo by Rainer Romatka)

reeled silk warpThe transformation after washing and pressing was very exciting. I picked it up off the ironing board and it turned into liquid color that simply slipped through my fingers….luscious! Sara has used this reeled silk in a reeled silk with supplemental weft backstrap weavingbalanced weave project having made fabric for a bag and commented on the fact that the reeled silk tends not to ”bed”, that is, warp and weft do not entirely bond to make cloth after the wet-finishing process. Even with a cotton weft and a warp-faced structure I can feel what she means in this band.

Nevertheless, I love this piece and really enjoyed weaving it in the brief moments I had available during this trip. Thank you, Sara! I have enough length to make two cell phone pouches and have already promised one to my friend Betty.

Other things I bought to add to the tool box….extra skinny cable ties, long tatting needles which I will use for weaving, not tatting, and music wire for creating third selvedges in wide pieces….all things about which I got extremely excited. Imagine me skipping around Michael’s triumphantly waving those skinny cable ties.

But, as always, the best things I bring back from these trips are intangible…such as:

Inspiration… in the form of the colors used by Peggy and Sara as well as this Andean Pebble Weave band woven by another Sara who took a class with me in Seattle last Spring…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASara used some of the original patterns that I created for my first book, Andean Pebble Weave. These are colors that I would never have thought to use together and I love the way this has come out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore Inspiration…this time, in the form of patterns. Meg brought an embroidered pouch from Mongolia and I can see an adaptation of the lovely curved shapes being included in my ikat project.

Knowledge…for example, I now know and have experienced the difference between reeled and spun silk having made a cuff in spun silk and a band from Sara’s reeled silk warp.

And, I know a little more about the takadai having spent a few days backstrap weaving with the talented John Whitley during which I had the chance to see some of his takadai creations.

He cleverly edged his beautiful scarf with finger-weaving.

john whitley takadaiSkills...I tried ice dyeing for the first time, thanks to Elinor, and now have a ”new” ice-dyed shirt, plus I know another way to use a shuttle to tatt, thanks to Tracy in Ohio.


Dye covered ice blocks are ready to melt and seep into my shirt.

Experience…the thrill of actually touching, examining and operating an Atayal loom from Taiwan about which I had enthusiastically written in a blog post some time ago. I also got to see some hard-to-get books on Taiwanese weaving that Marilyn has in her textile library.

Marilyn sat and tensioned the warp while I got to use the ''twisty'' stick to open the heddle shed.

We didn’t have a backtrap on hand and so Marilyn sat and tensioned the warp so that I could to use the very cool ”twisty” stick to open the heddle shed. You can see a coil rod has been placed toward the back of the warp.

Marilyn's feet are braced agaisnst the ''box'' around which the circular warp is positioned. Relaxing tension on the warp in order to open the heddle shed is a simple matter of turning the feet to allow the box to roll forward.

Here’s a closer look at the ”twisty” stick that I so love. One prong acts as the shed rod while the other allows the weaver to apply tension to one layer of warp ends while raising the other. Marilyn’s feet are braced agaisnst the ”box” around which the circular warp is positioned. Relaxing tension on the warp in order to open the heddle shed is a simple matter of turning the feet to allow the box to roll forward.

And, I got to experience the Northwest Folklife Festival, once again, after having attended it way back in 1992 while on a backpacking trip through the U.S. I fell in love with Seattle back then and abandoned my planned trip to Canada to stay three weeks in Seattle instead. Many thanks to Marilyn who took me along on three days to enjoy the art, crafts, music, dance and food. On the second day we were part of a Fiber Arts Flash Mob on the green. We also spent some time demonstrating fiber arts in one of the booths along with spinners, embroiderers, knitters, quilters, braiders and basket makers. Marilyn demonstrated one of the many things she teaches, Viking Knitting.

Bcakstrap weaving on the green at Northwest Folklife.

Backstrap weaving on the green at Northwest Folklife.

From Bulgarian folk song and dance on stage in spectacular costumes, to teens in tshirts banging away at marimbas on the grass…

bulgarian choir northwest folklifeThe Bulgarian singing was certainly not like anything I heard before…strong, throaty, earthy voices in harmony presenting songs from various Eastern European countries. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, speaking of traditional folk costume, my hosts Elinor and Einar in Skagit Valley showed me theirs. Einar is Sami from Finland and Elinor has both Swedish and Norwegian background. Here is Elinor’s black Norwegian costume from Gudbrandsdalen…

swedish costumeEinar has examples of ”every day” wear for a Sami man (on the left) as well as an outfit from the Trondheim area of Norway. I was also treated to his playing folk music on his accordion in the evenings…

sami man everyday and formal wear

Trying to drive one of the barn looms. My feet could barely touch the pedals.

Trying to drive one of the barn looms. My feet could barely touch the treadles.

Yes, it has been a busy time since the last blog post a whole month ago from Santa Cruz, California.

From there I headed down to San Luis Obispo (to those stunning impossibly round hills!) where, amongst other things, I was taken to visit guild members Kay and Rosemary’s amazing barn weaving studio.

The upper floor is full of magnificent big ol’ barn looms and the entire place is decorated with textile treasures that Kay and Rosemary have picked up in their travels.

I hope I get to weave there some day and listen to more of Kay and Rosemary’s stories over a cup of tea. There is certainly no lack of heavy things in the barn to which backstrap warps can be anchored.

I got yet another glimpse of Eastern European folk costume in this tapestry that Kay and Rosemary have decorating the barn studio that was woven in Transylvania.

I got yet another glimpse of Eastern European folk costume in this tapestry that Kay and Rosemary have hanging in the barn studio. It was woven in Transylvania.

I then took the train, which slowly wound its way back north up the escarpment, through the drought-ravaged hills, and onward to Oregon and Washington. The forests of Oregon, which had been heavy with snow the last time I took this train, were a vibrant green. The tracks were lined with brilliant yellow Scotch broom.

train north I spent the weekend with my friend, Betty, who had a group in to weave in her studio. It is such an inspiring environment crammed as it is with Andean textiles she has collected in her travels.

As I headed north to Seattle and then beyond to Skagit Valley to finish my trip, I liked to think that I was leaving behind a trail of eager backstrap weavers….

Fourteen-year old Dana in Seattle was so eager, she went home on the very first day of class and wove a wrist band for herself while showing her family what she had learned….

dana and stacy Stacy was already designing her own Andean Pebble Weave motifs by the final day and Susan (below left) also went home to design a pretty one that she calls ”River of Love”.

susan amy marilynSusan had come down from Canada to join us in Seattle and is now happily backstrap weaving in her garden at home. Amy is finishing her supplementary weft piece using a borrowed backstrap that is too big for her (she  added a pillow to make it fit!). Hopefully her next project will be to weave one of her own. Marilyn took off to teach at a spinning seminar in Tacoma and still managed to find some time to weave in her dorm room!

Here’s progress from Jan and Jane further south in Grass Valley…

jan and janeThe first two pieces are Jan’s. She wove with the Beginner and ”Thinking Big” groups in Grass Valley, has finished her backstrap and has moved on to Andean Pebble Weave. We can see Jane’s ”Thinking Big” piece moving along at a get together of the ”String Sistahs”.


Marilyn and Terri with some Andean Pebble Weave warps.

It was a very ”folky” trip!

As always, it is the people…the folks… who make each trip so special…all those who open their homes to me, come to weave with me, bring textiles to share, take me to see places and meet people and do so many little things to make my travels easier and more comfortable.

I am sending you all big hugs. Keep in touch, keep weaving. I hope we can get together again soon.


















Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 13, 2015

Backstrap Weaving – Thinking Big

Big trees, Big Hill and a couple of workshops entitled Thinking Big. That’s what’s been going on here in the gold country of California. I passed through a town which holds an annual frog-jumping contest which attracts international competitors, enjoyed the sunsets from the summit of Big Hill where I wove with a group of ladies from Sonora, and walked amongst the big trees that line the historic gold mining ditches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Thinking Big, or the ”Go Wide or Go Home!” gatherings, as Jane liked to call them, were about creating a project using techniques that had already been studied in other get-togethers. The challenge was to take those skills and go bigger in terms of width, length or warp ends. Not everyone chose to weave a product. Some people used the class as a chance to sample or refresh their memories of techniques they had studied long ago.

Here are some of the things that were on the looms at Diane’s place in Grass Valley…

Jan and Shan ,easure their warps for backstrap projects.

Jan and Shan measure their warps for backstrap projects. Jan’s is complete and Shan is securing the cross on hers.

Diane got a head start by warping while I wa staying with her prioir to the class. Here isher warp, heddled for Andean Pebble Weave, and ready to go

Diane got a head start by warping while I was staying with her prior to the class. Here is her warp, heddled for Andean Pebble Weave, and ready to go.  Her project is inspired by the natural dye colors on the Bolivian pieces I had brought to show and will be a pouch for her long swords.

Jean makes heddles for her red-and-black backstrap project. She wove the band in plain weave and decorated it with a supplemental weft.

Jean makes heddles for her red-and-black backstrap project. She wove the band in plain weave and decorated it with a supplemental weft.

Thse who were weaving plain-weave pieces, like Sara, here, inserted a coil rod to prevent corregation. Sara is ising reeld silk that she dyed herself and inserted two hand-painted sections.

Those who were weaving plain-weave pieces, like Sara in this picture, inserted a coil rod to prevent corregation. Sara is using reeled silk that she dyed herself and inserted two hand-painted sections.

Kathy used wool from a natural dye workshop she took in Cusco, Peru. The wool was handspun by ladies in Chinchero. Asshe had not woven a sample with the wool, we had to wildly guess at how many ends to wind for her project. We measured a pouch she had bought fromthe weavers in Peru which I now suspect was made with much finer yarn. Kathy's project is coming out way wider than we had expected!

Kathy used wool from a natural dye workshop she took in Cusco, Peru. The wool was handspun by ladies in Chinchero. As she had not woven a sample with the wool, we had to guess at how many ends to wind for her project. We measured a pouch she had bought from the weavers in Peru which I now suspect was made with much finer yarn. Kathy’s project is coming out way wider than we had expected! Here I am giving her some tips on how to clear sheds with  this rather sticky wool warp.

This isStephanie's Andean Pebble Weave piece which is flanked by plain weave.

This is Stephanie’s Andean Pebble Weave piece which is flanked by plain weave.

Janet is weaving an Adnean Pebble Weave piece with thick borders.

Janet is weaving an Andean Pebble Weave piece with thick borders.

Jan wove a complementary-warp pick-up technique which required her to pick up the patern in every single shed. Nevertheless, she zoomed along!

Jan wove a complementary-warp pick-up technique which required her to pick up the pattern in every single shed. Nevertheless, she zoomed along!

I gave Diane some tips on how to open the sheds on a wide two-heddle piece.

I gave Diane some tips on how to open the sheds on a wide two-heddle piece.

Here is Sahn's piece with its Anden Pebble Weave pattern in progress. This is a knotwork motif which i charted for the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

Here is Shan’s piece with its Anden Pebble Weave pattern in progress. This is a knotwork motif which I charted for the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

Further progress…


Jean’s supplementary weft pattern, which she adapted from a pebble weave motif in my second book, is progressing beautifully. Kathy’s Andean Pebble Weave motif is emerging while she learns to work with the wool. Diane is operating her two sets of heddles smoothly. Jan shows her progress on her pick-up patterned band and Sara’s reeled silk look luscious with its stranded silk supplementary-weft pattern.

I stayed on longer in Diane’s home and got to watch her progress…

diane progressBefore all this, I had ventured even deeper into gold country and and found myself at the summit of Big Hill with its glorious views and sunsets. My hosts, Anne and Gary, had a group of beginner backstrap weavers in their home from the Sonora area. The evenings brought visits from flying squirrels and a bear while wild turkeys strutted about with their chicks during the day. While the ladies sat and wove, I got to gaze at the view out over the deck.

Sunset view from the deck on Big Hill.

Sunset view from the deck on Big Hill.

The Sonora group...hooray, I will be back next spring.

The Sonora group…hooray, I will be back with them next spring.

And then it was onward to the place I have visited most on these weaving safaris over the years…Santa Cruz, California, and another Thinking Big session. Some people went big while others did some guided study of techniques we had studied in previous years or used my books and online tutorials to study something new.

The new venue was fun. We had our warps tied to handrails. Here are five of the eight people in the group. Jane came over from Grass Valley and Marya came up from San Luis Obispo.


Yonat, Peggy and Anne.

Yonat, Peggy and Anne working on a variety of techniques…Yonat chose to study Guatemalan supplementary-weft with patterning sicks, using a tuorial on my blog. Peggy created a stunning warp with some ikat-dyed sections flanked by Andean Pebble Weave. Anne wove what would make a fabulous hat band using the intermesh structure in 10/2 and 20/2 cotton with an adpated Mexican motif.

Yonat's Guatemalan patern stick supplementary-weft sampler. Jane making heddles for her wide piece afer having completed her sample. Ingrid brushed up on the intermeshstructures from a previous class. Peggy's beautiful ikat and Andean Pebble Weave piece...couldn't take my eyes off it!

Yonat’s Guatemalan pattern stick supplementary-weft sampler. Jane making heddles for her wide piece after having completed her sample. Ingrid brushed up on the intermesh structure from a previous class. Peggy’s beautiful ikat and Andean Pebble Weave piece…couldn’t take my eyes off it!

Dorothy wove a bird motif to practice the Andean Pebble Weave structure. She has a warp prepared with three columns of birds flanked by plain weave which is gorgeous. You can see Anne';s green and white intermesh band . The white is 20/2 cotton and the green 10/2 which gives the piece a lot of texture.On the back of the band the green motif rises above the white background. Marya took her first stepsin Andean Pebble Weave  while Barbara chse fine thread to weave a series of viscacha motifs and refresh her memory on the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

Dorothy wove a bird motif to practice the Andean Pebble Weave structure. She has a warp prepared with three columns of birds flanked by plain weave which is gorgeous. You can see Anne’;s green and white intermesh band . The white is 20/2 cotton and the green 10/2 which gives the piece a lot of texture.On the back of the band the green motif rises above the white background. Marya took her first steps in Andean Pebble Weave while Barbara chose fine thread to weave a series of viscacha motifs and refresh her memory on the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

Peggy's hands at work picking up threads for her pebble weave pattern.

Peggy’s hands at work picking up threads for her pebble weave pattern.

Did I mention that Jane had woven a sample in preparation for this class? Here it is! This sample showed her the width she could expect from this weight of thread and also helped her decide the arrangement of colors and width of stripes for her wider piece.

Did I mention that Jane had woven a sample in preparation for this class? Here it is! This sample showed her the width she could expect from a number of ends in this weight of thread and also helped her decide the arrangement of colors and width of stripes for her wider piece.

This is where Jane was at with her wide piece after having finished her sample and planned and warped and made heddles for the ''real''piece.

This is where Jane was at with her wide piece after having finished her sample and planned, warped and made heddles for the ”real”project.

It’s been a very rewarding couple of weeks!

And here I am saying goodbye until the next post, happy as can be, as Sara gave me one of her reeled silk warps with some of her own hand-painted sections to play with….

Laverne2Many thanks to Diane Christ for sharing this and some of the other pictures that appear in this post.

I did walk along the cliffs this morning to enjoy the big trees and ocean before sitting inside on this pretty day to edit pictures and write all of this!



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