Posted by: lavernewaddington | December 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Limbo Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and stay safe, please.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | November 13, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Different Paths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture courtesy of Aude Rossignol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is on the hat….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then….stay safe and well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 30, 2020

Picking up Ikat AGAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so goes the process of learning on your own!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, stay safe, please!

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 16, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – A Bit of This and That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting the collection of sample bands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and stay safe, please.

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 2, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Flip Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and please stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 18, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Round and Round it Goes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorinda tells me that Zuni is now learning to weave…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Seed of an Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then came the bigger circles….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is one of Svetlana’s pieces….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and stay safe, please.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 21, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Third Drawer

You may recall from my last post that I have been allowing myself the luxury of taking the time to go through the four-drawer chest that holds my backstrap weaving tools and other weaving-related stuff. It’s not about organizing or down-sizing. It’s simply about enjoying touching and looking at the individual pieces and remembering how I had acquired them.

The top drawer with all the rods is the fullest and I had been congratulating myself on my brilliant idea of buying this chest of drawers and how well everything had fit inside when I suddenly remembered that I have at least seventeen more loom rods in the bag that I take traveling with me when I teach. If I have ever crossed paths with you in my travels, you may remember the big green monster of a wheely bag that I drag around with all my weaving stuff inside. Oh well, those rods can just stay where they are in the hope that it won’t be too, too long before that bag and I get to hit the road again. 

The third drawer in the chest ended up being almost as absorbing as the first two. That drawer is where all my samples and many of my finished pieces come to rest. Some of the samples are actually still on their little loom as there is always the vague idea that one day I’ll continue the piece and make it into something.

For example, there’s the sample of the paisley pattern that I designed in warp-faced double weave. I am certainly not going to toss that out! There’s enough unwoven warp to continue this and make some sort of little pouch. It’s woven in 60/2 silk. It is kind of a gift for those times when I am between projects and at the charting and planning stage but still would like to weave something. This warp is all set up and heddled and ready to go! 

I fished out some of my black wrist cuffs from the bags of finished objects. where they sit waiting for me to go out some place and wear them…

My left arm has a warp-faced double-weave piece in size 3 crochet cotton. If you like the look of that and the pattern, it is included in my book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. Next to it is an Andean Pebble Weave pattern in 60/2 silk. That pattern appears in my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. The one nearest my wrist on my right arm is a leaf pattern I designed and wove in DMC #12 thread (pattern from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book). It’s edged with an eye-pattern tubular band (from the book of the same name). Last of all is a cuff woven in Mora wool. It’s  20/2 worsted-spun yarn that is fabulous for bands (pattern from Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms). That cuff is also edged with an eye-pattern tubular band.

Sometimes, a piece that was meant purely as a sample will totally take hold of my imagination and be transformed into something truly useful. I remember taking some of my first timid steps in ikat about ten years ago. I had tried ikat some years before this on a larger scale and had not been too happy with the results. On this occasion I was not willing to invest a lot of time and materials in something that most likely wouldn’t work out and so I just tied a very simple ikat motif along the length of two narrow strips of warp to give me white on brick-red motifs. Then I included them in a wider warp.

I figured that the ikat might fail and that, in any case, the piece would be really plain and uninteresting and not worth keeping. For that reason, I planned to include some figures in supplementary weft. That would give me a chance to weave some motifs that I had photographed on a piece that a friend of mine had bought in Bhutan. The piece would have a dual purpose as a sample in that case. If the ikat failed, I would still have the information on the supplementary-weft motifs that I could use in a future project. I used a single-faced supplementary-weft technique as you can see above.

The ikat was just “okay” in my book. There was a bit too much of the “railroad track” shifting that I don’t much like. However, the large supplementary-weft motifs really shifted focus away from that and I was really happy with the silky smoothness of those. I was left wishing that I had woven something larger that could have been made into something. You could tell that I had had very little faith in this being successful as I had only wound a warp that gave me around 16′ of cloth. So, I wove another piece of similar length in all-black, a long narrow strap with more supplementary-weft motifs and yet another short piece that I was able to cut into a curve and edge with a tubular band. Pieced together by hand and with an added zip, all those pieces became a bag. I really don’t know much about sewing and just make it up as I go along. It worked.

So, I guess all the bits and pieces of sample cloth that I have stuffed into that drawer could very well become something if I put my mind to it. The failed samples were tossed out after I took notes on what had gone wrong. It seems to me that when one’s stash is dwindling, one needs to use some imagination in order to continue being creative. No need to worry yet….I do actually still have a lot of yarn to play with. By the time my supplies get really low, I am sure that my local yarn store will be open and operating again. 

Another example was the gorgeous hand-dyed reeled silk warp that Sara Lamb had given me to play with. I enjoyed weaving it. I loved seeing and feeling how it transformed after wet-finishing and I highly valued the fact that it had come to me from Sara……but, then what?

How could this just be left neglected at the bottom of the sample drawer? I cut into it, all the while with my heart in my mouth, and made a quirky yurt-shaped bag. The round base that I cut out is edged with a plain-weave tubular band.

I even wove some accessories using some 60/2 spun silk that I had in similar colors. It’s funny how a sample can just keep growing and growing into a much larger production.

So, let’s see now what that double-weave paisley piece that I showed earlier grows into.

So, if the wheely bag and I can’t leave and go visiting  weaving friends, it is probably time to take some steps to see if we can bring the weaving friends here via Zoom. And, I have been doing a fair bit of that lately. I am very grateful to the guilds that have allowed me to visit as a guest during some of my trips to the USA and who have been just as willing to give me a guest pass via Zoom. I also have a lovely group of volunteers who have been helping me test my efforts to teach via Zoom. Kinks are slowly getting ironed out and it has been a lot of fun. If you would like to know more about my Zoom programs, please leave a comment on this blog or PM me via Facebook or Instagram.

Here I am at my “Zoom station” using a tapestry that I wove way back in 1995 as my back-drop. Speaking of cutting into things with one’s heart in one’s mouth….after this Zoom meeting, I finally got out the scissors and chopped back my hair. The very last of the dyed dark brown is gone!

It is weird that I can Zoom with folks in the States and enjoy beautiful clear images of all them, while Zooming with my best friend who lives a mere fifteen blocks away from me here in Santa Cruz is a blurry, fuzzy experience. It is also interesting to note that my internet service here in Bolivia may actually be better than some of the services to which my friends in the States in more rural areas subscribe. I count my lucky stars.

Here’s some progress on my Finnweave piece. Finnweave is one kind of balanced double-weave pick-up technique. If I weave it without creating pick-up patterns, I would get a black upper layer of balanced plain-weave and a gold lower layer of balanced plain-weave (or vice versa). The two layers will not connect at all unless I intertwine the two colors of weft as they pass each other at the edges. I am in fact intertwining them so that the edges are not open. I can exchange colors between the two layers to create these patterns. When doing so, the layers connect at those points of exchange. I created a pattern of leaves (of course!)

Here’s a picture of the warp with its four sets of string heddles. Two heddles hold the two sets of black threads that form the upper layer and the other two hold the two sets of gold threads.

Something about the lines in these patterns kept taking my mind back to the beautiful wrought-iron work on the Victorian-era terraced houses that I saw when I was on teaching trips in Melbourne, Australia. I stayed with Ruth in North Carlton where these houses seem to be particularly numerous and well-preserved. There’s an example pictured below. It is odd because the wrought-iron patterns are mostly made up of curves whereas the Finnweave patterns are very angular so I am not sure why my mind keeps taking me there. I would still like to try to represent them in some way in Finnweave. When I have finished this piece, I’ll get out the charting paper and work on that. Right now I feel like I am still sampling and testing to see how my charted figures appear on the cloth.

I followed the motif of leaves that I created with some “flowers”….

I got the idea for this flower motif from a piece of crochet that I saw on Instagram that had been created by a lady in Russia. I can only do the most elementary kind of crochet. I saw images of work that seemed to be done in a double crochet in that there were two layers which, in the same way as I described for the double-weave structure that I am using, only connect when colors are exchanged between the layers. The motifs in this particular crochet technique have the same kinds of lines that I create in Finnweave. The fact that the crochet piece had been done in black and gold was what had first attracted my attention. I adapted one of the motifs to Finnweave. The motif had to be changed quite a lot because an exact copy would result in a figure that was way too elongated and, I suspect, and not flower-like at all. 

The next motif is my invention of leaves lying on their sides and I am now in the midst of a flower-like motif of my own design. You know, pretty much everything you weave in this structure ends up looking quite good even if it doesn’t really look like what you originally intended. The so-called flower motif that I am currently weaving will most likely not look like a flower at all to anyone else but I think that it will still look nice. I am having fun with this. The patterns are very easy to read and producing them requires less counting and concentration than weaving pick-up patterns in other structures that I use. The fiddly part is managing the four sets of heddles and maintaining the sett.

I’ll finish here with a couple of blasts from the past. When the future is so uncertain and it is almost impossible to make plans, I guess we tend to spend more and more time thinking back and enjoying memories. Facebook took me back recently to 2009 which was the last of the eleven years that I had spent teaching English at the Centro Boliviano Americano here in Santa Cruz. The picture below shows one of the many groups that I worked with in that last year.

In this same week of August in 2009, I took a chance and handed in my resignation so that I could see what I could do with my passion….weaving on a backstrap loom…. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that teaching was actually another passion from which I couldn’t walk away. I found a way to combine the two through tutorials on this blog, through my books, through my participation in online forums such as Ravelry and by connecting in my travels with weavers around the world. I hope that Zoom will be able to add yet another possibility to my ability to combine these two passions.

Stay safe, please and see you next time…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 7, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – At the Bottom of the Tool Box

Last year I decided that something had to be done about my collection of backstrap weaving tools. This picture was taken back in 2016 and I can assure you that between then and 2019, the collection had grown with the bins being replaced by larger ones and the addition of yet another. My smaller tools were getting lost at the bottom, things I hadn’t used for a while were getting dusty and one of the bins was top heavy and inclined to topple over. It was time to make a change.

I bought a four-drawer chest. I won’t show it to you because it was kind of cheap and nasty. It did the trick. The top drawer holds all the beams…the round ones, the square ones, the split beams and all the shed rods and heddle rods in their various lengths and girths. Some of the beams have carved ends. Some don’t, and just have rubber bands at their ends to hold the backstrap in position. The beams that support the two ends of the warp are pretty much all around the same length. It’s the sticks that go between that vary greatly depending on the width of the piece I am weaving.

The second drawer that hold the swords and shuttles is my favorite and it’s in that drawer that I can often get lost in nostalgia. One of my favorite parts of the set-up process for a new project is selecting just the right swords for the job. Sometimes, I’ll need two or three. Sometimes they need to be hefty, other times slim. Sometimes I like to have them in two distinctly different colors of wood. It’s easier to select and pick up dark threads when they are sitting on top of a light sword and vice versa. I love projects that require multiple swords as I enjoy the clack-clack sound that they make as they bump against each other in the warp or when I remove them and place them in a pile by my side.

The red, black and white project at left, which I wove some years ago, was woven in a fairly dense structure in 8/2 cotton which meant that I got to use one of my heftier swords.

The teal silk project was the first I had woven in a width that was too great for my standard beams. I got to use an extra long rod that I happened to have for the near beam (it had been a particularly long shed rod in a Guatemalan loom that I had been given) and cut some dowel for the other end.

That long beam came in handy again when I wove these two wool panels that were sewn together to make a lap blanket. The structure was less dense which meant that I chose to use lighter swords. I needed several because I was working with multiple sets of heddles.

Here are some swords in vastly different sizes for different kinds of projects…Above, you can see two swords that are the biggest and smallest in a collection of six that make up the standard set used by my weaving teachers in Salasaca, Ecuador. Below, you can see one of the big boys alongside the very first band-weaving sword that I was given to me to use by one of my teachers in Peru. That sword has become bent out of shape with use over the twenty-four years that I have owned it.

While selecting tools for my current project, I found myself sitting on the floor surrounded by swords and shuttles enjoying trips down many memory lanes as I recalled the places I had been when I had acquired a certain piece, the people I had been with, or the person who had made the tool or given it to me. If there is anything good to be said about the times in which we are currently living, it is that I allow myself the time to do things like this.

I laid out just some of the pieces for a photograph before they got returned to the pile in the drawer.

There are swords that I have bought from, or have been given by, my weaving teachers. Others were given to me by my weaving students. There’s a lovely collection of five band-weaving swords on the left that came to me via two of my Australian students and which are made from different woods that are native to Australia. The tool with its label still attached is some kind of spatula made from sassafras wood from Tasmania. One of these days I will bevel the edge and use it as a sword.

The sword with the pretty carved pattern was made by Allen Berry and given to me by my students. You will see a shawl pin (another gift) and a hair stick that are being repurposed as pick-up sticks along with others in wood and bone. Some of these came from trades that I made with my indigenous teachers in the highlands and lowlands. A lovely fine sword in olive wood sits above the hefty one and was made and given to me by a student. There’s one very fine sword in that lot that came with a Guatemalan loom I was given. I treasure that one when I am weaving a piece with four selvedges.

I love my ice cream-stick shuttles and there’s a quirky little shuttle-like thing near the spatula which is actually supposed to hold fishing line. I found it in an antique store while on a road trip in Australia with a weaving friend.

This is just a basic outline of the “wheres” and the “whos” behind those pieces.. Of course, all the pieces hold stories and fond memories that go much deeper than these brief descriptions.

This piece sitting on top of one of my ikat experiments from years back, is the one that started the whole nostalgia trip! It was well and truly lost at the bottom of the drawer. This is my oldest home-made tool. It is ugly, grubby and unimpressive, right? It started its life at three times this length as my attempt to make a shuttle for the Navajo-style tapestry pieces that I was weaving back in 1995. Once I discovered backstrap weaving, I knew that I was unlikely to continue making tapestries. The shuttle got cut down and roughly beveled and started its new life as a sword and beater. I love it. You can see the darkened ends where my hands have grasped it to beat the weft into place. I wish it were long enough to use in my latest project. It’s been hidden away for far too long.

The third drawer in the chest holds many of my weaving samples and some of the finished pieces. The last one is full of all those odd bits and pieces….cable ties, turn buckles, cord, backstraps, reeds, rigid heddles, band clamps, umbrella ribs, bicycle spokes, rubber bands, dpns….you get the idea.  I can reach over and open it while still seated at my backstrap loom and dig out just the right little piece of equipment that I need.

As for progress on my latest project, I washed the finnweave sample that I showed you last week and was happy with the way it looked and felt. I figured that the sett I had used had been good. I have two pre-colombian balanced-double-weave textile fragments and it’s amazing how these two pieces that both have exactly the same pattern are so different in appearance. It’s almost like one got washed and the other never did…

Cloth that is woven using the finnweave structure has a very distinctive look on the back. A comparison of the back of the sample that I wove a few years ago as a replica of these fragments and the backs of these very fragments confirmed that I was using the same balanced-double-weave structure that the weavers who produced this cloth had been using in pre-colombian times.

Here’s my washed and pressed sample alongside the new finnweave warp and my selection of tools. I later added a light-colored sword to that set when I realized that picking-up black threads on a dark background wasn’t going to work for me.

Backstrap loom warps are often left just lying on the ground while the weaver is off doing something else. In their limp state they can often look like a freaky mess…

Place the backstrap around the hips, place tension on the threads and everything immediately looks friendlier!

And friendlier still once the heddles are in place…

I often read comments in online groups from people who wonder what happens to the warp on a backstrap loom if you have to get up and do something. They think that surely all the sticks must fall out once you relax tension. No, they don’t. The kinds of heddles that I make grip the sticks to which they are attached. I can tilt and shake that warp about knowing that those sticks are going nowhere. Nor is my shed rod which is tied to a second cross stick. My far beam is lashed to the bottom of my bed and the near end of the warp is safely lashed to its beam. It might look like an ugly mess on the floor but it’s all under control!

Probably the worst that can happen is tripping on the weft as you walk away. That’s like pulling on a drawstring which totally rumples up the fabric.

For that reason. I am now in the habit of parking my shuttles, in this case two, on top of the fabric at the base of the warp before I remove my backstrap and place the near beam gently down on the floor. You can see the nice light-colored sword that is sitting under my black threads. And, there nestled between the two swords is the sweetest little tool that I am using to help pick-up the threads. My student, Claire, made that and gave it to me when I was visiting in Tasmania. It was cut from a stick from an apple tree. You might know that Tasmania is often referred to as the “Apple Isle”. 

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You will notice that I have managed to get through this post so far without any reference to my books! Until now!! Those who have been following my blog over the years will realize that my travel-to-teach lifestyle can no longer be. Fortunately, I can continue teaching and showing you things through my blog posts. I try to illustrate with as many pictures as possible. I know that not everyone wants to read all the text and that just being able to scroll through some eye-candy is also nice.

And, there’s also teaching via my books which gives me an income. So, I will leave you here with a little bit about my latest books and hope that you may feel inspired to make a purchase. And to all those who already have….THANK YOU!

 

One of the features of my most recent publications is the inclusion of supplemental instructional video clips.

I know that some people like to have movements and steps frozen in images. Others like to have detailed written instructions that help them to visualize the process. And others like to hear the instructions while watching the movements on video. Some people tell me that they hear my voice in their heads as they weave.

I like to include all three options so that I can satisfy a variety of learning styles. Apart from the instructional video clips, I include some “just weaving” clips so that you can also watch the movements in silence without interruption.

All my books are available at Taproot Video as PDFs. The titles in English are also available as spiral-bound books.

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 24, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Staying Balanced

One part of me is crying out for more ikat while another part is telling me to take a break, process what I have learned so far, and then head back in. I am really pleased with my latest ikat piece, mainly because I don’t have to add the familiar footnote: ”The colors didn’t turn out anything like I had expected them to”. This time I mixed my dyes…two kinds of blue with a blue-grey…and got very close to what I had in mind. Can I replicate it? Probably not. I am using such small quantities and don’t have the equipment with which to measure them. All I have is the tiny spoon that comes with the Stevia. 

In my last post, I showed you the warp extended on my backstrap loom. I told you how I was getting “railroad tracks” and had unwoven to see if I could do anything about it. No, there wasn’t a fix that I could see so off I went again with the weaving satisfied that I had at least tried.

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe the “railroad track” effect is due to the two layers of warp threads being slightly misaligned. I think that they got misaligned when I folded the warp in half to set it up on the frame where I wrap it with plastic. This is only the second time that I have folded the warp to halve its length. Other times I have either folded it in half to halve its width or not folded it at all.

This is the other project where I folded the warp in half. You can just see the two horizontal bars of white on either side of the center. That’s where I tied tape to secure the layers before I folded it. I think that’s the key and not doing that might be where I went wrong in this latest piece. I’ll just have to do another and test this theory! 

I was pleased that the pattern in my latest piece came out balanced, that is, my warp threads were quite evenly spaced across the width of the piece. Many things about this piece make me very happy! 

I say that the threads were “quite” evenly spaced because there is some tell-tale exposure of the supplementary weft in some parts where I added a motif in the center of the piece. 

I created a little motif in supplementary weft that would suit the ikat shapes. The hardest part of this was creating and placing a motif that would fit exactly in the available space. So, I had to start weaving the motif at just the right moment, make sure that I got to the center of the motif when I had reached the center of the warp and make sure that I maintained an even beat so that the two halves of the motif were balanced. The horizontal center line is created by wrapping the supplementary weft around equally spaced warp threads….it looks like chain stitch and is a method I learned from my teachers in Guatemala. I couldn’t use the usual inlay technique for an uninterrupted line like that because the resulting float would be way too long.

The Guatemalan weavers use this chain-like “stitch” in their figures to form things like the brim of a hat, a bird’s beak, the base of a skirt, a wing, or a plant and feet. You can see some examples below in the piece I wove with my teacher in Guatemala. 

Weavers in Bhutan also use it although they execute it in a slightly different way. My friend Wendy Garrity uses it in her work.

Here I am nearing the end. You can see the railroad tracks. I am thinking that in certain motifs, this effect could actually enhance a pattern but using it in that way would require being in control of when and where it occurs. I can’t see myself being able to do that!

Here it is fresh off the loom before being washed and pressed good and hard. It’s just the right size to hang on the narrow bit of dividing wall between my living/dining room and kitchen. However, I think I’ll be saving all my wall hangings for the time in some distant future when I am able to move back to Australia.

So, that marks the end of the experiments with un-dyed 60/2 silk for the time being. I’ve run out of thread. I’ll be spending some time now looking at my stash of colored 60/2 silk and the remains of my un-dyed 30/2 silk to see what kind of ikat project comes next.

As I said earlier, part of me is saying that I should take a break and do something else. I saw some work in striking black and gold by a Russian artist online that, at first glance, looked like Finnweave. When I read her descriptions, I saw that it was in fact crochet! It seemed to me that the motifs could be quite easily replicated in Finnweave. That is, if I could remember how to do Finnweave! I don’t weave this structure very much and have to go back to my notes each and every time I want to try it. My notes are scribblings of information taken from various sources including the Baizerman and Cahlander book on double weave structures and an article by David Xenakis in an old Prairie Wool Companion. 

This is the last thing I wove in Finnweave….It’s in 8/2 cotton and has motifs that I saw on belts made by Otomi weavers in Mexico.

I set up the warp with multiple heddles. It’s the only one of the balanced structures that I have tried that I am able to successfully weave without using a reed to maintain sett.

It’s a double weave. Two balanced plain-weave layers are being woven…one dark and one light. They are connected when there is an exchange of colors between the two layers, that is, when you create a pick-up pattern. You can see the dark and light layers separated in this picture….

For all other work in balanced structures, I use one of the lovely bamboo reeds that I have. I have two wide ones and one small one. The small one is the finest.

Recently, I used the small one with my 30/2 silk as I test to see if perhaps one day I could dabble in weft ikat.

A couple of years ago I was using the larger reeds for my experiments with cotton sheer cloth and weft inlay…

This is what the cloth looked like after being washed….

I experimented with weaving a small piece without a reed (because the reed was too cumbersome for this width) and using a flea comb to beat!…It was somewhat successful but there’s no need to mess around with this on wider pieces when you have a reed, is there?

I think the first piece I ever wove using one of the bamboo reeds was this shadow weave piece from many years ago…

It’s fiddly reaching and working with multiple heddle rods behind the reed and I am grateful that Finnweave, with its need for multiple heddle rods, works for me without the need for a reed. 

When I saw the black and gold crocheted piece that I mentioned earlier, I was reminded that my friend Betty had given me two cones of 20/2 cotton…one black and one gold. Perfect! So, I set out to weave a width sample.

The finest thread I have used for Finnweave so far has been 8/2. I needed a new sample in 20/2.

My first sample was cute but way too small to really give me a reliable measurement. I will probably return to it some time and weave a wrist cuff so that I have another structure to add to my wrist cuff collection.  I used it to also test the proportions of some shapes I was panning to use in a bigger project.

I then created a wider warp.

There was a bit of a wobbly start as I got back into the rhythm of the moves and working out how best to interlock the weft threads when working with two shuttles. The lower pattern is from bags that are woven by Otomi weavers in Mexico. The pattern that I am starting is part of a motif from a piece I photographed in the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C way back in 2007, also from a textile woven in Mexico. I have doubled it and added a motif in between.

Although I am able to stop the warp threads from drifting together and making the piece warp-faced, you can see that the sett is not equal. The motif on the right is wider than the one on the left….something to work on. The motifs at the weaving line that I am just starting to weave are some basic leaves that I created. Of course, there had to be leaves! I am pleased with the way this is turning out. I am anxious to see how it all comes together after wet-finishing and am hoping that the black is color-fast. I am so used to the what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of warp-faced weaving, that it is hard to wait until the wet-finish to discover how this will really look and feel. The 20/2 thread is not hard to work with . It is helpful that the threads are paired in Finnweave and so the units that I need to pick up for the pattern are easy to see. 

Doramay Keasby wrote a nice article in Handwoven Jan/Feb 2011 in which she compared five types of double weave pick-up structures. She noted that Finnweave gave the smoothest pattern (that is, no feathering along horizontal or vertical lines. Feathering along horizontal lines look like icicles hanging off the end of a roof and can be a pretty effect) but is not double faced. So, you wouldn’t want to use it for something in which you would like both faces of the cloth to be admired. There is pattern on the reverse but it is rather odd looking.

So, that’s what has kept me busy and sane these last couple of weeks. That, and another Zoom meeting with some weavers along with my attempts to learn some new juggling tricks. I confess that I didn’t get too far with my spinning in the Tour de Fleece. I plied one lot of the green I was spinning and got through the purple. But, I am motivated to do some three-color pebble with this yarn and just need to keep that goal in sight. I am not adding extra twist as some people do for wool that is destined for warp-faced weaving. I just don’t like the way the “tight” thread feels and I would rather just adjust the technique I use to operate the loom to account for a softer yarn.

The messages that I get from online friends are a big help in these unsettled times too! Keep them coming. Please never feel shy about contacting me with questions. I include an email address in all my publications for that very reason. Or, you can write to me via a comment on this blog. The comments go into moderation before they are approved for publication so you can ask me not to publish, if you like. 

Here are some projects from my online weaving friends….

Annette Giles has created a nice set of wrist cuffs using the warp-faced double weave structure that she learned in my book. I see that she added a touch or two of her own to some of the patterns. That’s a good first step toward designing one’s own motifs.

Judy Lepthien has also been using my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book and has already started creating some patterns of her own.

Wendy sent me a picture of the piece that she wove on a backstrap loom and sewed into a pillow. She tells me that she had some trouble handling the wider warp with the multi-sword pick-up technique that I teach in my Complementary-warp Pick-up book and so she went back to a narrower band to practice it some more. Then she was able to better handle this wider piece. The pattern is one used by weavers in the community of Chinchero, Peru.

Josefin Waltin has been using her own hand spun and hand dyed yarn to weave fabric on a backstrap loom. She used this fabric to make a sweet bag….

Carlos Vargas has been working with un-mercerized cotton on his backstrap loom to make some beautiful fabric too.. He said that he worked out a way to operate the loom so that there was not too much abrasion of the un-mercerized cotton. If not handled well, un-mercerized cotton can create a mess of fluff in the heddles and make it impossible to create clear sheds. Backstrap weavers need to have different strategies up their sleeves to allow them to work with a variety of materials. It would be a shame to have to be limited to only the smoothest and friendliest of materials…only mercerized cotton and only very tightly spun wool, for example.

It’s nice to finish this post admiring Josefin and Carlos’ soothing colors.

Take care, please and I’ll see you again soon.

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