Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 23, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Road to Double Weave

Weavers often classify themselves as being either Color and Texture people or Structure people. I know that I fit very well into the latter category. There might also be categories for those who are more motivated by Product or by Process. Again, I am all about the latter. The other thing that I love is imagery. I love to weave pictures.

I am in awe of the iridescent effects that floor loom weavers are achieving these days. The cloth is astoundingly beautiful. However, I don’t have any desire to create that kind of cloth myself even though I would be happy to wear it! These days, more and more, I find myself turning to pictures. And lately, it has become more about a desire to tell a story.

Standing outside my seasonal rented home in Vald’Isere. You can just make out the date in stone above the other door…1627.

When I was in my early twenties, my life revolved around mountains and skiing while I wandered back and forth between Thredbo in Australia and Val d’Isere in France. I worked three jobs in the Australian ski resort so that I could just ski without a care for the entire French season. I did eleven seasons back to back. One of the three jobs was making headbands and hats on a knitting machine and selling them in the ski shop that I worked in and eventually managed. I had a punch-card machine and wove pictures, hundreds of them! The fun part was coming up with patterns and designing the pictures.

On a visit to Australia many years ago, I was surprised to find one remaining item from those knitting machine days among the bits and pieces that were in storage. Anyone who knows me will know that I am not about color and so I suspect that the strange combination in this hat (there’s baby pink!) is the result of my just throwing together a bunch of odds and ends of left over yarn. I was happy to see that even back then I was attracted to the kinds of bird figures that are found in textiles of South and Central America.

Hummingbirds from the Within These Walls series.

Andean Pebble Weave is really nice for designing pictures and I have learned to work within its limitations figuring out how to tie down floats so that I can bend the rules a little and create shapes that would normally not be possible.

That allowed me to have a lot of fun with my pandemic story project ”Within These Walls” but there were really only a few times when I decided to bend rules.

But even without bending any rules, there are so many possibilities and I have filled two books with a wide variety of Andean Pebble Weave patterns. They include many original contributions from my students and friends who were thinking right outside the Andean box to come up with figures and patterns that had meaning in their every day lives and surroundings. In doing so, they encouraged me to do the same.

My instructional book includes 24 patterns. The follow-up pattern books contain over 200 more.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am once again weaving hummingbirds in a new piece. I guess that I am just telling a story of joyous freedom as they hover and turn and flit from flower to flower. It’s a nice change from all the walls I was erecting in my last project! And along the way, thanks to my online weaving friends who send me links and articles, I learn more about the role hummingbirds play in the lore and legends of indigenous groups here in South America.

One of my most recent discoveries was that the Yaghan people who live in the southern part of Chile where I used to live in the 1990s, tell the tale of a hummingbird called omora, which means “little spirit”. It battles and defeats a wily fox that has fenced off water during a drought allowing the Yaghan people to once again access water. I also read that the Mapuche people of central Chile and Argentina associate the hummingbird with life-giving water.

Another online weaving friend wrote and told me about having read an interpretation of a figure that is made up of two opposing hummingbirds in textiles of the community of Karhui in the Peruvian Andes. The two birds appear with their beaks touching. The use of these figures in this community demonstrates that the weaver has feelings of affection or love towards the textile’s recipient. And right on the tail of having received that information, my online weaving friend, Bonnie, sent me this extraordinary picture of two such hummingbirds that was taken by her photographer son, Darik Datta. I am showing it here with his kind permission….

I decided to use warp-faced double weave to design my little hummingbird figures in my latest work as this structure gives me the flexibility to design birds in all kinds of positions and stages of flight. I am weaving for the pure joy of it and for the fun of designing.

I learned to weave warp-faced double weave with two sisters in Potosí, Bolivia back in 1997 when I was still living in Chile. Since then, I have observed several other Bolivian and Peruvian weavers using this structure using a variety of set-ups. My favorite and simplest way will always be the way I was taught by Juliana and Hilda in 1997 although I choose the backstrap loom over the horizontal ground loom that they use.

My first lesson was on a narrow band. This was my first time using a horizontal ground loom set-up and I hadn’t quite figured out how to position myself to comfortably weave the narrow band. I soon learned that unless you were raised weaving on these looms and therefore developed the right amount of “bendability”, there is no comfortable way! At least back then I was able to tolerate being in bent over positions for hours but I certainly wouldn’t describe it as comfortable.

I learned to select colors using the tip of a bone tool called wichuña and manipulate the two basic sheds to form the lower layer of the double weave.

Dark and light threads are wound together as pairs when the warp is being created. By simply selecting one of the two dark and light threads in each warp pair, I was able to weave pictures of little birds in lovely solid colors…light figures on a dark background. If I had just left it at that and not taken any more steps, the colors that I discarded from each pair would have floated untidily on the back of the band as in this example on the left of the front and back of a band…

The beauty of warp-faced double weave is that all those unruly discarded threads can be woven into a second layer below the first with just a few clever manipulations of the two basic sheds. The upper and lower faces then look like two smooth-faced bands with no floats at all…example on the right.

From the simple band, I advanced to a much wider piece under Juliana and Hilda’s guidance. Juliana would keep scoffing and saying that I really needed to learn a warp-float technique and not this double weave which she considered child’s play. I am pretty sure that this was mostly said to tease Hilda who had not learned, or at least not fully mastered, the warp-float technique that Juliana had been taught to weave as a child! It is often the case where one sister had the opportunity to learn a technique from an elder that the other sister did not.

You can see the difference between warp-float patterning on the right and the smooth warp-faced double weave in these two examples of belts woven by the Mapuche people of central Chile and Argentina.

When weaving the wider piece, I was finally able to settle into a position doubled over on my knees. Unfolding myself at midday was a slow and painful task! My hands took some time to get used to gripping and beating hard with the bone tool. There were ruptured blisters to deal with.

You can see the simplicity of the set-up in this wider warp. It’s just two basic sheds of doubled threads, one of which is controlled by the metal rod that holds the blue string heddles. The other layer of threads lies on top of the long broom-handle stick that sits beyond the heddles. This simple set-up is what made it possible for me to write a book showing how weavers can also enjoy using this simple two-shed set-up on a standard inkle loom.

If you already know how to use an inkle loom and enjoy manipulating the threads by hand to create patterns, I know that you will enjoy my book….Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. I have tried to cater to several different learning styles by providing dozens of step-by-step pictures for those who like to see the process frozen in small steps. There are detailed descriptions of each step for those who like to use text to create their own visuals in their mind’s eye. And there are video clips for those who like to hear the steps described while watching them in action.

With Hilda and Juliana I got to weave a nice variety of the bird figures that are so typical of this region of Bolivia. When I was in Otavalo in Ecuador back in 2005, it was interesting to see that many of the younger women were opting to wear the typical belt of Potosí rather than the traditional belt that they would normally weave themselves. Goods are brought from Peru and Bolivia to be sold at the famous market of Otavalo and the Bolivian belts were one such item to end up in the stalls. It seemed to be a way for the young ladies to show that they were well-off enough to be able to afford to buy an exotic foreign item rather than weave their own belt. But that was many years ago. I wonder if these belts have since gone out of fashion and been replaced by something else.

Typical bird figures of Potosi, many of which I wove into my cloth.

Hilda was always checking on how hard I was beating the cloth. The quality of the textile in the eyes of these weavers has a lot to do with how firm it is.. They are looking for durable hard-wearing cloth that is wind proof and highly water resistant. This comes from a combination of the tightness of the twist in the warp threads and the heaviness of the beat. My desire to please Hilda is what led to my gripping the bone tool so hard and tearing up my hands. It was worth it because the finished cloth was admired by other highland weavers that I met in my travels. This was the only time that I was ever praised for my cloth because since then I haven’t generally aimed at creating the kind of hard-wearing textile that my weaving teachers favor.

Over the years I have found that the warp-faced double weave structure does not necessarily need to be reserved for stiff and durable cloth. I have made lovely flowing and flexible tapes with it as well as sturdier pieces that work beautifully as belts. I have designed both angular and curved shapes, animal figures, lettering and geometric patterns.

Which brings me to my current hummingbird piece. I filled all the space on my paisley sampling warp with frolicking hummingbirds and my experiments with foliage. I then made the necessary adjustments to my charts as I wasn’t entirely happy with some of the figures. However, I do I find that over time I become less and less critical. And so I am going to listen to others who tell me to stop calling this a sample band and see what I can do with it. Because it is so difficult to choose one face over the other, I hope to be able to weave several strips and place them side by side alternating dark and light faces to create some kind of useful “product”.

The combination of my arrangement of paisley shapes and the hummingbirds was purely accidental but I think that it somehow works. It adds just the right touch of magic.

I know that I have mentioned before that possibly the only disadvantage that I can think of when using this structure is the fact that the two layers of cloth do not connect in the areas of solid color between the pick-up patterns. This can create a sort of ballooning effect if the solid-color area is vey large. You you might just be able to make out a little of that on the light side of the fabric.

It’s one reason you find that a lot of the Bolivian pieces are very busy with pattern. Little squiggles and spots are often placed between and around the main figures which ensure that the layers connect as frequently as possible to create more stable cloth. I think I have come up with a clever way to create more frequent connection in my hummingbird piece without making the whole thing look too busy. I invented a fantasy plant that is losing its parachuting seeds. The seeds are floating around in some of the open spaces.

And so, it was time to think about the next strip of hummingbirds. I could use all that I had learned from this piece in the planning of the next. Time to piece together the next pattern chart. You know how I love that part!

Once I had drawn out enough pattern to keep me busy for a while, it was time to wind the warp and make all the heddles. As you can see I use a four-shed set-up when I am using threads as fine as this 60/2 silk. I only bother with the extra time and effort to set up this way if the threads are fine like these or if there are lots of them. This warp satisfies both criteria…there are 720 heddles there! The process wasn’t as straightforward as I would have liked. When I first sat down to make heddles, I realized that I had mixed up a ball of 140/2 silk with the 60/2s when I was warping and hadn’t noticed because I was winding two colors at once. The difference in weight of one of the strands just wasn’t apparent when I was holding two threads in my hand. Back to the warping board! Unwinding doubled strands of fine thread is not fun.

The different colors in the heddle string show that I am scraping the bottom of my supply of the fine thread that I like to use for these heddles. It makes for a colorful warp.

And this is where I am at so far in the weaving. No paisley this time. I have run out of charted figures and now need to take a break from the loom to continue creating my patterns. There is still plenty of band to be filled.

I hope that this post might motivate you to try warp-faced double weave. My book includes a tutorial on designing using a lovely leaf pattern as an example and of course there are plenty of charted patterns to keep you busy before you get to the designing stage. The book is available as a PDF or as a spiral-bound book at Taproot Video.

I just gave myself my fourth DIY pandemic haircut. I went pretty short this time and I am sure that I will appreciate this length this weekend as our Santa Cruz “winter” promises to bring us temperatures in the high 80s. Until next time…..

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 27, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – A Bit of the Blues

I don’t have the blues. In fact, the opposite is true. I have been getting such a lift from the various Zoom events that I have been attending lately and I try to focus on these rather than on the news.

One such Zoom event that I found very uplifting was the annual conference of WARP (Weave a Real Peace) that took place last weekend. My friend Dorinda had given me a one-year subscription to this organization which allowed me to take part in the Members Only social sessions over the course of the three-day gathering. The rest of the conference was free and open to the general public. The webinar style of the panel discussions did not give us the chance to see who else was attending and so the social sessions were particularly nice in that they enabled me to see and chat with many of my “old” weaving friends, some new friends that I have made during the pandemic and meet new-to-me textile enthusiasts via the break-out rooms.

Zoom and loom…they are both still very much major parts of my life.

During the Sunday morning coffee social, Mari took a screen shot to show what we were all working on while chatting. It seems that I am not the only fiber person who finds it hard to sit still with hands unoccupied. I have been using Zoom time to spin on my drop spindle.

I chose to use the word “blues” in my title for this post because I have finally shifted away from the red and black that I have been using for the last seven months. I started sampling my new hummingbird figures in warp-faced double weave on a sample warp of black and gold 60/2 silk. Yes, black again, but I find that sampling in black is handy because I can adjust the patterns on the cloth with a black charcoal pencil before changing my chart. Most of the charcoal dusts off with some coaxing if I want to revert to the original. Now, a variety of blues are creeping into my work.

There is no lack of images of hummingbirds on the internet to help me chart my patterns. I think it must be quite a feat to be able to capture an image of one in flight with its wings showing sharply. I have read that they flap their wings up to eighty times per second. The giant varieties that are found in South America flap at more like ten to fifteen times per second. But even without internet access there was an image available to me right under my nose….

There it is, the picaflor gigante! This new Ten Boliviano bill has been around for a few years now and I can’t believe that I had never noticed this! I am not sure what made me stop and examine the bill just the other day and discover the hummingbird.

It didn’t take me long to fill my black sample band with figures, many of which were multiple re-workings of the same motif and I was still left dissatisfied. Some looked too chubby, some too pigeon-like. Back to the warping board. I could barely face the black thread again!

In the meantime, I found an article about the Guaraní people’s legend of the hummingbird. One of the regions that the Guaraní people inhabit is the part of Bolivia in which I live. I studied for a while with a Guaraní weaver here and while her textiles in the Moisy structure contain images of birds, they are not recognizable to me as hummingbirds. If I ever find my Guaraní teacher again, I hope to ask her about that.

Polytmus guainumbi (source watermarked)

The legend tells of the forbidden love between Poti, (flower in Guaraní), a princess belonging to one of the tribes, and Guanumby, a member of another rival tribe.

When the affair is discovered, it is forbidden and a marriage is arranged with a member within Poti’s own tribe. In her despair she begs the gods to kill her. Instead, they turn her into a flower. The moon tells Guanumby of this and he extends his arms to beg the heavens to help him find Poti. He is transformed into a hummingbird going from flower to flower trying to recognize the kiss of his beloved Poti.

Before I could make it to the warping board, I suddenly remembered a silk warp that has been lying dormant in one of the drawers for a few years. It was the warp that I used to sample my arrangement of paisley shapes before I moved on to the real project. It was all heddled up and ready to go. Brilliant. As much as I love making string heddles, being spared having to make the seven hundred and twenty that have already been made for this warp made me very happy. I loved being able to revive this warp. The rubber bands had rotted but the sticks had not jumped out of the cross. I don’t know if it was a conscious need to be color coordinated when I chose that pretty blue for the string heddles. That’s a DMC mercerized cotton thread in size 60, from memory.

Because the silk threads are so fine and because there are so many ends, I use four sets of string heddles to help me to do the double weave pick-up. Warp-faced double weave can also be done using just two basic sheds which is what enables us to do it on inkle looms. That is the method I teach in my book Warp-faced Double Weave on inkle Looms. It works beautifully when weaving narrower bands using thread of larger girth.

The pattern appears on both faces of the cloth with colors reversed. I find warp-faced double weave a very nice structure for designing and include a tutorial in my book with suggestions on how to go about it. There are no warp-floats to consider which means that anything that you draw on the chart will be structurally sound.

I used a metal rod in the warp ends which is then lashed to the warp beam. This enables me to create a third selvedge. You can see that in the center picture above. Using a metal rod is not traditional and is just one of my own quirky practices! It works for me and makes it easy to remove a partly-woven project from the beam and store it away. These soft colors are so nice to look at after all those months of black!

And so, I continue sampling my hummingbirds and can test my charts of bits of foliage in the process.

In the real project, whatever that might turn out to be, I won’t be leaving all that open space. That will be mostly filled with foliage. It will be quite a busy scene.

This is one thing about warp-faced double weave that should be kept in mind. In places where there is no pick-up pattern, the two layers of double weave do not connect. The two layers of double weave in this piece are bound at their edges by the green strips of plain weave. Wherever there is pattern, the layers are connected. The fabric can feel unstable or even experience a sort of ballooning effect if there are large plain solid-color areas between the figures.

I think that I am pretty happy with these two figures but there’s still some work to be done on the others. I also want to experiment with weaving the hummingbirds as solid shapes rather than as outlined figures. I think that it is fun seeing the birds emerging from the splash of paisley shapes. I enjoy using my ice cream-stick shuttles which are just the right size for this piece

This will keep me busy for a while and in the meantime, I will think of what exactly I want to weave once I am happy with the designs. If you know me at all, you will know that I am really all about the process. The idea for the product may only come once the fabric is off the loom. I agree that it’s a strange way to operate.

And here’s some more gorgeous blue. Lately, I have been creating to-do piles instead of to-do lists and so my bedroom floor is an obstacle course of little piles of yarn, woven samples and scribbled notes to remind me of my intentions. Among the piles is some beautiful indigo-dyed 30/2 (or perhaps it’s 20/2s?…I don’t remember now) cotton from Guatemala that I bought at an ANWG conference way back in 2013, I think. I don’t think that it is possible to buy more and so I must choose its project very carefully. I used some of it to weave a couple of journal covers as gifts. You can see my friend Claudia’s initials in this piece that I wove some years ago which lay along the spine of the book….

At the moment the thread sits in a pile next to my weaving spot simply because I like looking at it. I haven’t yet come up with the idea of what I would like to do with it. Actually, just pausing to stare at this picture on the screen is starting to give me ideas. Maybe it is in fact 20/2s. Hmmm….I have some white 20/2s but do I have dye for cotton?

But then there are all the other piles to consider. There is certainly no shortage of projects to keep me busy for the rest of the year. I know that I won’t be traveling anywhere this year no matter how optimistic some people seem to be in other parts of the world.

I know that one day my life might be very different and I will be wishing that I had more time to weave and so I plan to make the most of the rest of this enforced time at home. What about you?

Until next time…..

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 4, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Between Science and Magic

Between Science and Magic….I have copied the title of this week’s blog post from the title of an article by Maria Popova that my friend Susan sent me on a new publication about the amazing and magical hummingbird…a subject which has been dear to my heart as I weave my way through my series of panels called Within These Walls. The article is accompanied by beautiful pieces of artwork such as this one created by John Gould in 1861 and states that…

There is, indeed, something almost magical to the creaturely reality of the hummingbird — something not supernatural but supranatural, hovering above the ordinary limits of what biology and physics conspire to render possible.

The magically larger-than-life hummingbirds that I created for my first three panels played a fantasy role as messengers, friends, guardians and helpers as I wove my way through pandemic maze and, while poking around online, I found that it is not unusual to assign magical qualities to these little creatures.

I found an article which described the role of a single hummingbird in Andean textiles as being a messenger between the three levels of Andean existence…..the underworld, the heavens, and all that lies between. Hummingbirds are often depicted in pairs in highland textiles with their beaks connected and are said in this case to represent nurturing and new life.

Which makes me even happier when I think back to 1996 and the fact that the very first motif I was shown by my backstrap weaving teachers was a hummingbird….although I had not recognized it as such at the time. It also amazes me that I first came to see it as a individual figure flying straight towards me in its role as messenger and that only years later I was able to also recognize it as two mirror-image figures with beaks connected. I find it magical that this one figure can, at least to my eyes, be seen in both these ways.

In 1997, I returned to Peru where I learned to make sling braids with a gentleman in Yanque in the Colca Canyon. He later introduced me to a weaver friend of his in Cabanaconde. She taught this bird figure to me along with others in a supplementary-warp structure. This is the actual band that I wove with her. I wonder if this too is meant to be a hummingbird.

Here’s another excerpt from Maria Popova’s article…

Essential as pollinators and essential as muses to poets, hummingbirds animate every indigenous spiritual mythology of their native habitats and are sold as wearable trinkets on Etsy, to be worn as symbols — of joy, of levity, of magic — by modern secular humans across every imaginable habitat on our improbable planet.

In the first panel in my Within These Walls series the magical hummers are valiantly fighting their way through the chaos to bring me (caught in a window between worlds….do I try to get back to Australia or stay here in Bolivia?) messages of comfort and solidarity as well as practical items….yarn and sticks for my loom.

In the second, they help me build the walls of my safe space and create a new normal within, planting saplings as a way of bringing pieces of the natural world inside. They even warp my loom for me.

In the third, while I remain safe within the walls, they stand as guardians hard at work trying to maintain some kind of a connection between the four disjointed pieces.

Which brings me to the fourth and final panel in the series which the drawing at bottom right in the image represents.

This one is my vision of a post-pandemic world and one in which the hummingbirds’ work is done. I figured that they should shrink back to what could be called a “scientifically acceptable” size in this final panel.

I got out my sampling band to see if I could create a tiny, yet still recognizable, hummingbird figure. The tiniest that I could create was still the length of the little weaver figure’s face and that was okay because I read that the largest species of hummingbird, the Patagona gigas, grows to eight inches (in some reports 9.1″) in length and is native to western South America. Perfect!

In the fourth panel all the pieces are connected into one smooth shape. This shape, which I create using ikat techniques, is filled with a tree around which three tranquil backstrap weavers sit at their looms.

In my last post, I showed you the root system of the tree. It is unusual for me to weave a newly-created pattern without first having sampled it. I paid the price by having to un-weave and make several adjustments to those roots. I didn’t sample the foliage either but got luckier this time and only unwove to fix mistakes.

A big part of the challenge is fitting all the pattern into the ikat-created shape, not allowing any parts to overflow and disappear into the solid black areas. I wanted the shape of the foliage and the roots to still give the impression of the stair-stepped figures that I used in the other three panels without having them look like hard-edged confining walls.

I enjoyed designing a baby and placing it on the back of one of the backstrap weavers. The hummingbirds are yet to be seen in this image. They are flying high being normal hummingbirds doing hummingbird stuff.

I love how the sheen of the unwoven warp has been captured in this picture. I am again using doubled 140/2 silk for this one. Three threads broke this time…one mysteriously and the other two through my own carelessness. I am impressed by the way this fine silk stands up to this warp-faced structure on my backstrap loom.

Here’s the finished tree. You can see the hummingbirds in this one. I had been wondering just how high hummingbirds fly off the ground in their search for nourishment and read that they have been known to fly as high as the balcony of a 14th-floor apartment to sip at a feeder.

Pale-bellied Hermit Hummingbird. John Gould 1861.

This fourth panel is still on the loom as I have yet to weave the horizontal band of pattern across the top. Of course this leaves me wondering what comes next. First of all, I will get out the good camera and see what I can do to get better photos of these pieces. So far, I have been using my tiny iPod. My good camera has never much liked red so we’ll see how that goes.

My internet wanderings in search of information on hummingbirds have taken me to unexpected places. In one such place I found inspiration for a possible future project in three-color Andean Pebble Weave. If that materializes, I’ll tell you more. One of my online weaving contacts suggested I weave a wrist cuff with my hummingbird figures and the new backstrap weaver. That might happen too. Perhaps the hummingbird is becoming another signature pattern for me. It might be fun to combine my favorite leaf pattern (another I consider a signature pattern) and the hummingbird in one piece.

Thank you for following the progress of this project. I hope that you have enjoyed the developing story. I’ve been working on it for several months now and it is not something I would have considered taking on if I had still been traveling three times a year.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with this beautiful image by Australian-born photographer and filmmaker, Christian Spencer. You can see a whole ballet of his hummingbird photos if you chase him up online.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 21, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Unraveling

No, I am not the one who is unraveling. I am still riding the pandemic roller coaster with all of you and my grip is still good and firm. In the title of this post I am referring to the unraveling of parts of the chaos and uncertainty that these last eighteen months have brought to our lives. This is something that I wanted to represent in the second of my four-part series of panels called Within These Walls in which the hummingbirds are busy unraveling the chaos lines that I had woven into Panel 1.

This Unraveling image showed up in my Facebook feed recently. It had been shared and shared again and although I followed it back for some way, I was unable to find the original source of the image, a title or even the slightest hint as to what its creator might have been trying to convey. (Edit: Pamela in New Zealand wrote tell me that she has tracked down the image to Rebecka Carléns. She has a Pinterest board that she has named Surreal Photography and an Instagram account. Thanks, Pamela!)

It shows lines being unraveled and wound into a ball of yarn carried by birds…the similarities to some of the activity in my second panel made me smile. I guess we can interpret it any way we please. Which reminds me of the little hummingbird motif that I included in one of my posts a while back. I posted a picture of it on Facebook recently without revealing what my teachers called it and asked people to comment on what they saw. Here are some of the answers…..

a devil with horns, a dog, a fox, a bat, an alien being, a folding chair, a butterfly, a spider, a mouse, an angel, a bird (only one person said it!), a bear, a jedi master with a double light saber, Princess Leia with puffy sleeves, a six-legged insect, a person in ceremonial dress, pizza, a hyena, a chalice on a stand.

I mentioned in my last post that I had decided to add a fourth panel to the series. Panel 3 shows me settled within my walls and making what I can of this new normal. All the while I am able to think about how we are all in this together and imagine other weavers seated at their looms in the very same way within their own walls in other parts of the world.

But I didn’t want to leave things there. I wanted to show that I believed that there will be a way out eventually.

I got my first dose of vaccine yesterday. It’s the Chinese Sinopharm one. It’s not the most effective one but it is the one that Bolivia has been able to acquire and that’s the end of that. It helps me feel that a few more strands of suffocating uncertainty have been unraveled. I have not experienced any side effects. The jab site is not even sore. Members of an ex-pat group that I am in will tell me, in their typical cynical and joking style, that this means that what I got was probably a fake! The markets here are full of cheap big-brand rip-offs of all kinds of products. I remember getting someone to try and fix my Toshiba air conditioner. He looked at it and said “Wow, it’s an original. Okay, this is worth trying to fix”.

So, I added the layout of Panel 4 to the drawing that I had initially put together to roughly plan out the Within These Walls series….

In Panel 4 the pieces of the main shape are no longer disconnected. Disconnection is certainly something that we have all felt during the pandemic. The shape is now connected and extended. The central bar is the trunk of a tree. The lower shape will contain the root system of the tree and the upper one the crown. And there will be three backstrap weavers sitting around the tree at their looms.

I went one step further in designing one of the three backstrap weaving figures. In my last post I showed you version 4. I decided to beef up her arms a little. I have been working out during the pandemic and am up to forty-five full body pushups now. I think I deserve those sturdier arms! Version 5 is the one on the right. It requires a tiny bit of tweaking.

Here’s the root system taking shape….

I am actually beyond this point and have added the backstrap weavers. They look very sweet sitting around the tree. The one on the left has a baby on her back. I’ll show them to you next time when I have finished the tree. In the meantime, here’s a picture to celebrate backstrap weavers gathering to weave together on the island of Flores in Indonesia…

This was another picture that was shared on Facebook with absolutely no information to give it context. Fortunately, Sue Richardson, who is an expert in Indonesian textiles, was able to help out. Sue knew that this picture had been taken at a special event in 2015 when over 1000 backstrap weavers gathered to celebrate the textile traditions of the Sikka Regency and attempt to create a record. This is the translated information from an article that Sue found:

“Due to its high historical and selling value, the Sikka Regency Government is very supportive of all its development and preservation efforts. One proof of this government’s support is by holding a national event of the 2015 Ikat Weaving Muri Arts Record and winning because it can be represented by a thousand Sikka district female weavers. This victory was announced and the certificate was handed over by Mrs. Mufidah Yusuf Kalla on November 11, 2015 in Sikka Regency.” Although, according to another source that Sue also provided there were 1057 weavers.

I am currently back to paper and pencil, charting the crown of the tree. I charted but didn’t sample the tree roots and so there was a certain amount of unweaving that had to be done while I adjusted the chart. I always unweave and then walk away from the loom to engage in a completely different activity. That way, I can return and pretend that the unweaving never happened! It somehow helps. Hopefully the crown of the tree won’t involve that many adjustments.

I am happy that weaving friends and guilds, while getting more confident and occasionally meeting face-to-face, are continuing to offer opportunities to meet via Zoom. Zoom time has become my time for spinning and plying while watching and/or listening to programs on topics such as the ikat textiles of Borneo, textile travels through Indonesia, mathematics and sacred geometry in weaving, and warp-faced bands of Iran.

While enjoying these programs I have a produced a nice bowl of singles which will be plied. I still have a lot more spinning to do. The wrist cuff on the right was a sample I wove with this plied yarn to see how well it stands up to warp-faced weaving on my backstrap loom. Even though this was just a short sample, I could tell that the yarn would do well in larger projects. The annual Tour de Fleece spinning event has been creating chatter on Ravelry. I might have a project that will allow me to participate this year although I usually get tired of it after a week.

And so, with the topic of trees on my mind as I once again get down to the enormous sheet of charting paper, I will leave you with some tree-related images.

It’s fall here in Bolivia but in the tropical lowland part of Bolivia in which I live, the change of season is barely noticeable. Today’s temperature is 29 degrees Celsius/ 84 degrees F and the Toborochi trees are in full bloom across the city….not the kind of thing that immediately springs to mind when one thinks about fall or autumn. Last weekend I took a picture of this gorgeous Toborochi which is just a half block from my home…

One thing that happens in the fall that distinguishes this season from summer is that every now and then we get a wave of cooler dry air that comes up from the south. With that, the normally humidity-hazed sky turns a deeper blue. This shot comes from my rooftop on one such day. I love the sharpness of the lines of the buildings against the sky. On this day I was in the sun getting some Ds because the cooler temperatures made that possible. This rooftop is my nightly star-gazing spot (cue The Drifters and James Taylor). There’s a ladder that allows me to sit up even higher on top of a water tank.

And finally, I’d like to share with you another fabulous bag project by Allyne Holz. This one is tree-themed. She creates her bags using a tapestry crochet technique and has used leaf patterns to decorate it. She then weaves a strap on an inkle loom with a similarly-themed pattern for the strap. This time she has used one of the patterns that is charted in my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book and it makes me so happy to see the book being enjoyed and used this way. I also love Allyne’s use of a Dorset button on the end of the drawstring.

Here’s hoping that some of the uncertainty is also unraveling in your world. I am resolved not to get carried away by over-confidence. Santa Cruz is actually in a third wave right now. I guess that means that the Chinese vaccine will be put to the test.

Take care and continue to stay safe, please.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 19, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Come Fly With Me

Let’s do a little armchair traveling.

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

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

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

Tent panels of woven yak yarn. Photo: Daniel Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From visityap.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…..

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 2, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Story of the Hummingbird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next came her first faja

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

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

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

Take care everyone and stay safe, please.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 7, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – That Inevitable Question

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A weaving party at Janie’s!

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

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

Here are two of the three panels….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 14, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Mayhem

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

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

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

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

Carnival Santa Cruz style. Photo by Steven Sheehy stevensheehy.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy weaving and stay safe.

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 22, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Within These Walls Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care everyone and please continue to stay safe.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 2, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Within These Walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and stay safe, please.

 

 

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