Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 26, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Creative outlets

It’s interesting to see what my online friends and acquaintances are doing with the time they have on their hands during these periods of lock-down and self isolation. I won’t call it “killing time” as who would want to kill a commodity that is so precious? Most are using the time, their hands and yarn from their stashes to weave, crochet, braid and knit. A couple of friends have been drawing. My friend Yonat just finished a spectacular tapestry piece and I have seen some amazing quilts developing.

It’s no secret what I have been doing with my time and it’s not really anything different to what I would be doing in a “normal” world. The only difference is that I am not organizing my time around the fact that I have a trip away coming up. The last few years gave me the opportunity to travel to Australia in the down-under winter months. We are still in strict lock-down here and for me the biggest difference is having to pick through my stash to plan my future projects rather than plan something and only then buy yarn specifically for those projects on a trip away. There’s something rather nice about that. So, it’s all about weaving for me and soon it will be about planning my next book.

Oh, and I have been juggling. That’s a new one. My nephew taught me to juggle many years ago when I was on a visit to Australia. You never forget but you do get rusty….in my case, very rusty. It’s a great way to warm up my arms and shoulders before I do other exercises, not to mention all the other parts of the body that are involved in retrieving dropped balls. Now I am thinking about how to make my own juggling balls. I don’t need another set but some custom-made ones would be fun. I have a “good” set and then a set of crocheted rice-filled ones that I bought from Guatemala. It’s amusing watching the grains of rice escape and fly about the room as I toss the balls in the air. Maybe I’ll learn something other than the basic three-ball toss.

I hand-sewed my face masks. They came out pretty well. I picked apart a disposable pleated surgical mask to use as the model, made it a bit wider to reach to my ears, and added a little tuck under the chin. I had some wire to use for the nose and used the elastic from some eye masks that I had. One mask is only a single layer of fabric and the other is doubled. I wear them both at the same time. They’ve been through the wash several times and survived. I guess my hand-sewing isn’t that bad after all. Wearing a mask is mandatory in all stores and businesses here. I have not heard a single peep of complaint from anyone here about that.

My sister-in-law, Debbie, is one of the people that I mentioned who took up drawing during some of her stay-safe-at-home time. She had never done any drawing at all in her life and she whipped up this sketch of me wearing a mask and surprised me with it. I love it….

I don’t sew and don’t have a stash of fabric. The masks were made from fabric that my friend Claudia had given me so that I could sew an edging on my ikat cowl. I guess I favor these autumn colors. They happen to be the kinds of colors that I have been using in my recent ikat experiments.

After having finished experiment #8, above, I calculated the amount of 60/2 un-dyed silk that I had left to play with and saw that I had enough to make a sash that could hang on the wall with the other two pieces. That would leave me with a tiny bit to make a wrist cuff. I always like to be able to wear cuffs when I teach. They serve as nice portable examples of the various techniques that I use in my work. After all this time spent on ikat, I felt I needed to add an ikat cuff to the collection. However, I wanted it also be an experiment and planned to make it a test of some of the dye colors that I would use in the larger sash project….autumn colors.

Here it is on my arm along with other cuffs and bracelets that I have woven in autumn colors. It is fresh off the loom here and so it looks dull and fluffy and you can still see the charcoal markings where I drew the pattern on the warp before tying the tape. Its look would change after a wash and press.

One of the tape ties came partly undone in the dye bath which spoiled the pattern a little. I guess I got distracted and didn’t complete the knot for that particular tie. This piece went through three dye baths. That’s a lot of fuss for such a small piece but I learn something every time. Figuring out the most efficient way to stage the steps for dyeing the three colors colors is something that I am learning. On this occasion, I dyed with the burnt orange first. Then I unwrapped the parts that would be yellow and dyed those. Then I unwrapped the border threads and covered the entire pattern section with tape and dyed brown. Other possible sequences come to mind and I guess it depends on the ratio of pattern area to negative space, the colors that are being used, and just how much wrapping, unwrapping and re-wrapping you want to do. I had been hoping that the border and the rest of the negative space would be significantly different tones of brown….a solid dark  brown on the borders and a reddish-brown in the other negative spaces. They are different but not so much as to be really noticeable.

I cut and hemmed the ends. The 60/2 silk is fine enough to allow me to hem without creating too much bulk. I’ll add some small snaps, two at each end. I usually add ribbon crimps to cuffs that are too bulky to hem. Jump rings and lobster-claw clasps finish them off nicely. As with any kind of bracelet, attaching the clasp with one hand can be tricky. I have done it often enough now to have a method that works well. That’s something that you might want to consider if you are planning a cuff of your own.

I hemmed and used snaps for these bands in 60/2 silk. There are some very low profile plastic snaps out there but I actually find them quite hard to do up and am sticking with metal ones for the time being.

I also like using a button along with a braided loop. The metal ribbon crimp has a built-in loop through which the braided cord can be passed and knotted to make a loop. The crimp covers and protects the cut raw edge of the band. The other ends of my bands are usually selvedges. Weaving bands like these on my backstrap loom allows me to start with a selvedge and so I can sew a button directly to that end. I don’t have to worry about a raw edge unraveling.

If a band has two raw edges and you want to use a button and loop, I think that adding a ribbon crimp to protect both ends would work well. The button could still be sewn to the band to overlap the crimp (and therefore hide the loop in the crimp.). I have since found out via a Facebook friend that you can buy ribbon crimps that don’t have the loop. One of these days, I’ll get some of those via an Etsy store called TwilightsFancy.

One of my favorite ways to finish a cuff is with a woven tubular band that is woven and sewn to the fabric at the same time. The weft becomes the sewing thread. The tube encloses and protects the edge of the band and really becomes part of the piece rather than just perching as an addition along the very edge. These kinds of tubular bands need to be used on fabric that is quite sturdy. In these two examples I used an eye-pattern tubular band.

I used the tubular band to cover and protect the raw edge of these wool bands. The band on the left is 20/2 worsted spun Mora yarn and the one on the right is my hand spun yarn made from from some particularly nasty llama fiber that I bought in the highlands way back in 2002 when I didn’t know any better. The center color comes from cochineal. The button is made from tagua nut from Ecuador. 

The use of magnets as closures for these kinds of cuffs has been discussed but I can’t say that I trust them unless they are lockable. I would hate to lose my hand spun cuff and the tagua nut button which is a souvenir of my travels in 2005. One Facebook friend laughed about the fact that she has walked away and left bracelets with magnet closures attached dangling to metal cabinets.. Maybe a magnet closure with a safety chain would work although I do remember one weaver whose safety chain was attracted to the magnet and was therefore always stuck to it in a crumpled mess!

I have set up what could be the last 60/2 ikat experiment for a while (I say “could be” because I do have colored 60/2 silk a-plenty and as long as I have dark colored dye, I can continue to create ikat patterns. In fact, I already have some ideas!). This latest project is for the sash wall hanging…a long-ish narrow warp which I am doubling so that I can wrap two layers at once and create a pattern repeat.

First some scratchings on paper….

That’s the basic pattern that will be repeated as a mirror reflection of itself length-wise. Other bits of pattern will be added later if all goes well. And here’s the warp extended on its frame and the start of the wrappings….so far, so good.

My plan to use autumn colors has changed. I would like to try two tones of blue. I love some of the Indonesian textiles I have seen where the ikat artisans tie a pattern and then dip the warp in indigo to create a pale shade of blue. Then they tie more patterns into the pale blue and dye the warp a much darker blue. The challenge is to see if I can adjust the blue dye I have with maybe some bits of black or grey to get the kind of blue I have in mind and then create a light and dark shade. Considering the fact that none of the colors I have used so far have turned out as I had envisioned, I am thinking that this plan is quite unlikely to succeed. I will have black dye on standby to cover up any mess! I haven’t had to resort to this Plan B yet. Fingers crossed.

And now I get to show you what my online weaving friends have been doing…

You may remember that last year I spent a weekend with some of my backstrap-loom-enthusiast friends during which we focused on preparing wide projects. Here is Ann last year making heddles after a day of planning and warping….

Aunt Lydia’s size 10 has some bold and beautiful colors and Ann combined them so nicely.

Ann has had time to finish this project during time spent at home. She noted that it took a year to get through the first half and only a week to finish the rest! She’ll be sewing the fabric into a bag.  I know that Ann is really skilled at the sewing machine and that this will be something awesome.

Sally Backes has more than one band project on the go. This one is on her Windhaven Fiddle loom and she is creating a pattern from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. If you have studied either the Andean Pebble Weave method or the complementary-warp pick-up methods that I teach in my books, you will be able to weave the patterns in this pattern book. I love the red and white border arrangement that Sally has chosen.

Karen Rein chose flower and leaf motifs to decorate her first warp-faced double weave band. These motifs form part of the 11/12-thread set which are designed to fit on the first learning band. There are also sets with 15/16 threads and 19/20 threads. This was woven on an inkle loom using the instructions from my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book.

In the double weave book I recommend using a loom that gives you, as an absolute minimum, five inches of working space. That is the distance from the weaving line to the heddles. However, where there is a will there’s a way. My weaving friend, Kate, had to run some errands which involved some sitting about and waiting. She took this tiny loom along with her as it is the most portable one she has. Another online weaving friend of mine owns one of these and says it fits in her purse! There isn’t what I would call a comfortable amount of working room for doing pick-up on this loom, particularly not for double weave, but Kate made it work and wove the little llama figure from my book while she was out. This wasn’t Kate’s first double weave band. She wove the first one on a much larger inkle loom that gave her a much more comfortable amount of space in which to work. The little loom is adorable!

I am so pleased to see that Susi Saparautzki has got to the stage where she is comfortable weaving warp-faced double weave and has moved on to designing her own patterns. One of the things I have emphasized in the book is just how easy it is to do this. Susi created a motif with dolphins and I love the splash of background on which she has placed them.

Stacy Holder’s Andean Pebble Weave band is stunning. I often forget when I am planning my projects that one can use something other than white as the lighter of the two pattern colors. I love this combination. This pattern along with several other knot-work motifs is charted in the More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

Wendy has been out backstrap weaving again with her clever self-contained set-up. For this band she has been using beautiful reeled silk from Bhutan as warp and supplementary weft in jewel colors and plans to make a wrist cuff…..

Vonnie Galusha’s first Andean Pebble Weave band was used as inspiration for members of the Sacramento Weavers and Spinners Guild in their recent news letter. Vonnie worked with my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book.

And, finally, back to the backstrap loom. Here’s Jennifer Kwong’s set-up and first ever band in complementary-warp pick-up. It’s a beauty. We love her clever use of a crepe spatula as a sword. (Complementary-warp Pick-up book…also available in German).

That’s all for now. Mask up, if you can, and stay safe, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 12, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – How warp-faced are you?

I have to remind myself now and then that there are varying degrees of “warp-faced-ness’. Goodness knows that I have told my students this many a time when they have asked me to help them figure out the number of warp-ends they need to create a certain width. I can only give a ball-park figure because my warp-faced may be very different to theirs.

I often give the same warp (same material, same number of ends, same length) to a group of weavers and then have them compare their woven bands. All will turn out good warp-faced bands but the differences in width in the bands can sometimes be quite surprising. There isn’t a correct width as far as I am concerned, as long as it is indeed warp-faced. You just want to have a consistent width. If the band gets too wide, the weft will be exposed. If it’s too narrow, the weaver won’t be able to get a good straight beat as the threads will be crammed and may even be trying to climb one on top of the other. I encourage them to compare bands because in the early stages, before habits are formed, they can easily adjust their methods if they happen to prefer the way another weaver’s band looks.

Everyone eventually settles into their own version of warp-faced-ness. Mine tends to be on the more open side with perhaps a hair’s breadth space between the threads. I see these differences even among my indigenous weaving friends here in Bolivia. These ladies have been weaving most of their lives. I buy bands from the weaving co-op that my teacher Maxima runs in the central Bolivian highlands. Several of the bands woven by women in the same community will have the same motif but look different, even if ever so slightly. I can see each weaver’s version of warp-faced. Is the motif long and narrow or wider and more squat?

For me, the important task is knowing exactly how wide my project is going to be on the loom so that I can make sure that I get started on the right foot. While planning, I will use measurements from previous projects to figure this out. As my projects get wider and the thread I use gets finer, I find that there is another important task that sometimes gets overlooked. That is, making sure that the threads are equally spaced across the width of the warp. That’s a big task when you are working with 1600+ ends. I can measure my warp before starting to weave and see that the width is spot-on. However, I also need to check that the threads are evenly distributed across that width. They may be more spread in one part and much less so in another but still give me that perfect width. Believe me, when you have a bunch of brown or black threads spread before you, it is not that easy to tell!

Having stripes in the warp makes the task so much easier. My warping notes tell me the number of threads in each stripe. I can calculate how wide each stripe should be and move threads around until they are all sitting as they should. I can take an entire morning to do this! I sit there pushing threads around, measuring, pushing them around again until I finally feel ready to throw the first shot of weft. I’ll keep measuring and checking until I have at least an inch woven.

When there aren’t any stripes, you don’t have any kind of visual aid. Just eye-ball it? That’s not recommended in my case. I have no talent whatsoever for eye-balling things.

The first give-away of uneven spacing when using a warp with no stripes can come when you weave supplementary weft motifs that span the warp. The little leaves that run across the bottom of this solid red piece varied in girth and showed me clearly that the threads were pushed slightly closer together in some places than in others. I consoled myself with the fact that identical leaves are probably pretty hard to come by in nature! Another sign that would suggest a more serious difference in warp spacing would be if you were unable to achieve a straight weaving line. If one part of the cloth is advancing more rapidly than others, one possible reason is that the threads in that area are sitting closer together than they are in the rest of the warp. I have had that happen and I know just beating harder on that one spot doesn’t help!

Of course, there is a way to check in the absence of stripes. It’s just a little more fiddly.  Tie off the warp threads as you wind the warp in even sections. Figure out how wide those sections should be and then measure each section as you spread the threads out ready to weave. Easy!

The last ikat project I did had stripes. This had not been intentional but ended up coming in handy.

Once the plastic ties had been removed from the warp, I could use the thread-count in the stripes to help spread the warp out evenly across the beams of the loom. As a result, the repeated patterns in that project were evenly distributed across the width of the warp.In my excitement to get my very latest ikat experiment underway, I neglected to consider the way the threads had been distributed along the beam. Firstly, I had to recalculate the target width because you may remember my mentioning a certain mishap with scissors in which a chunk of ends got cut when the warp was on the ikat wrapping frame. I caught that error just in time because I had been busily spreading the threads out to the original width calculation. I guess I was too distracted with congratulating myself on picking that up to remember to check the distribution of the threads! It’s not disastrous. But you know how it is… you, the weaver, can see it when most likely no one else can. In any case, this gives me a chance to point out to you this idea of varying degrees of warp-faced-ness which might help you in your own projects.

Here’s what the warp looked like after it was dyed…

It’s back on the wrapping frame so that I can unwrap. You will see that there are more ties on the horizontal bar on the right than on the left. The left bar is at the starting end of the warp. I wrapped two layers together to create that bar. For the other bar, I wrapped the two layers separately so that I could open out the warp to its full width and leave those wraps in place while I wove.

In my happy place: weaving has commenced and I am part-way through the first row of supplementary-weft figures in the first un-dyed section. You can just see the very edge of some of the pink wrapping tape at the far end of the warp. I was over-frugal when I wound this warp because my silk is in short supply. It’s a short warp and I didn’t leave myself much working space at the end.

This is what the supplementary-weft motif looks like….

I particularly like the appearance of “reverse embossing” (my made-up term) that is created on the back of the piece when I use this particular supplementary-weft technique…

Here it is fresh off the loom. There’s lots of fluff to be picked out (this silk is surprisingly fluffy…not all slick and smooth as you might expect silk to be). I also broke two warp threads which I had to replace with a color that doesn’t quite match. Luckily this happened outside the ikat areas. Those ends need to be woven in. You can see them in the lower part of the picture. The cloth has a very matte appearance at this point and is somewhat stiff.

I washed and pressed it….maybe you can see how that brought out the sheen…

Then I decided to add a warp-faced band to one of the ends using the un-woven warp-ends as weft. This is the way that some ikat textiles from Sumba, Indonesia are finished. The bands are applied to both ends of the cloth. I have been told that these textiles were typically finished with striped warp-faced bands in plain weave. In the 1970s some weavers started using ikat-patterned bands on these edges and I have also seen examples of bands with pick-up patterns. In examples that I have seen, the bands sometimes turn out to be slightly shorter and in some cases quite a lot shorter than the width of the cloth and end up pulling in and puckering the cloth. On other examples, the length of the band perfectly matches the width so that the cloth lies flat. I don’t know whether these different ways of applying the band have been intentional.

What I can tell you is that in my experience of having woven only two of these kinds of bands, it is really hard to prevent the puckering!

I have seen a couple of videos of weavers in Indonesia weaving these bands (I embedded one video that had been made by the late Kay Faulkner in one of my recent ikat posts). Here’s another which was filmed by David and Sue Richardson in which the weaver twists the warp ends that have been pulled through the shed.

Her textile was going to be worn and washed and the fringe, therefore, needed to be tamed.  In the videos I have watched, I have not seen the weaver using an additional weft thread that moved back and forth through the sheds alongside the bundles of warp-ends. Strictly speaking, I have been using the un-woven warp ends as supplementary-weft because I do use an additional weft thread to hold the band together. In my examples, adding the bundles of warp threads to the shed is what attaches the band to the cloth but is not what is being used to actually weave the band. As my piece will be hanging on a wall and, most likely, won’t be washed again or be subject to wear and tear, I will leave the fringe in its original wild state.

Let me try attaching these bands fifty more times and I just might be able to conquer the puckering!

You will see that the two ikat motifs that are supposed to be identical in proportions are not. After all I told you at the start of this post, you will know why. 😉

I have lots of things to show you from my online weaving friends. I continue to get woven feedback on my latest book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms and was excited to receive a message from Susi in Germany showing the motifs she has designed in double weave on a band for her niece. Showing people how easy it is to design in this structure and encouraging them to do so was one of my goals in writing this book. I am going to save those pictures for the next post but would like to leave you with something bright and beautiful after all the dull brown I have been posting!

The backstrap loom is so versatile and this following project by Judy Kavanagh shows another exciting way of using these looms. This project is very different to mine in that it is not warp-faced, it is not woven using commercial yarn, it is not in muddy colors and it is practical rather than purely decorative….

Judy is using a rigid heddle and her own handspun wool and silk yarn to create a scarf. She uses a cardboard sleeve around the woven cloth to help her maintain a consistent width.

How gorgeous is that?! She used three strands of a 2/28 merino in dark fuschia as weft. I hope this has you all whipping out your rigid heddles.

And, here it is finished with twisted fringe. Thanks, Judy.

I am staying safe and well here. I sewed my masks and continue to build up my pantry in the hope of being able to spend even less time out of my home should things get worse here.

Take care, please.

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 29, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Stash-busting

I have never been one for building a stash of yarn and thread for weaving. I can completely understand weavers who buy up a whole lot of yarn, simply because it is just so irresistibly gorgeous, without having a project in mind. However, I can only think of a few occasions when I have done that. Thank goodness for those few occasions because now I have yarn from which to choose for my future projects during the current lock-down.

One of the occasions when I just picked up thread without any plan in mind was when I was shown yarn and supplies that were being given away to people in a weavers guild after the death of one of their members. Many things had been sold and everything had been well picked over when I was shown what was available and it seemed that no one wanted the tiny skeins of naturally dyed silk experiments that were lying in a basket to one side. This was understandable as they were too small for floor loom projects. I felt that they needed to be rescued from eventually being thrown away or left sitting at the bottom of someone’s closet. I thought that I could possibly weave some bands with these small amounts of thread.

Oh, what fun things I have been able to do with that thread! A big part of the fun was being obliged to plan something around what I had available rather than planning first and then buying accordingly. I used that silk to weave several pieces of fabric which I used as book covers.

More recently, I have used that silk in my ikat experiments.

I still have some of it left and it will become part of the stash with which I will be making do for my weaving projects in the foreseeable future. Of course, stores here will eventually open and I will once again have access to cotton from Brazil. That is, after all, the material with which I had been happily weaving all those years before I started traveling and, as a result, got thoroughly spoiled by having access to all kinds of lovely yarn in the USA….not to mention all the materials that friends in the USA kindly gave me. 

Way back in 2012, I made a purchase of several little spools of 60/2 silk when I was taken to visit the Handweavers Studio and Gallery in London. I must have picked up at least 25 of those little spools. I had no idea what I would do with them but saw it as an opportunity to have lots of colors in silk without having to buy massive cones of the stuff. I was not sure at the time if I would even be able to handle such fine material on my backstrap loom.

I still have lots of it left. I started out rather timidly using it as supplementary weft. That was successful but hardly made a dent in the supply.

It will be fun to see if I can somehow combine the colors to put together interesting projects now that I am no longer timid about using silk in this weight as warp.

I can think of another time when I excitedly gathered up yarn with no plan at all in mind. That was when I was at Vavstuga something like five years ago. There I found a 20/2 worsted-spun wool that seemed like it would be perfect for the kind of warp-faced weaving that I do. I placed an armful of skeins on the counter not having any idea at all about whether it would work in my backstrap weaving or not. However, I was determined to make it work after having spent all that money!

I still have a tub of this wool which is giving me something with which to plan my next project. 

Temperatures are slowly dropping here in Bolivia and it might be quite nice to work with wool for a while. We had a whole two days of low temperatures earlier this week which gave me a chance to get out the two wool lap blankets that I had woven some years ago using this very same wool. I also got to enjoy the lovely hand-knit socks that a student in Australia had given me.

This was the first of the lap blankets that I wove with patterns in the Andean Pebble Weave structure. It is made up of two panels joined together. A second one with patterns in supplementary warp followed shortly after…

Back in 2013, Cindy and I split and shared two bags of Mayan Hands cotton that was being sold at the ANWG Conference. It is too easy to get swept up in all the excitement of shopping at those events.

That cotton sat around for quite some time before I came up with a plan for its use. I used it to weave journal covers and still have quite a lot of it left.

So, I have to be thankful that there were a few times when I lost my head and brought a bunch of yarn and thread back with me to Bolivia with no plan at all in mind. These materials will be part of my projects until I can buy cotton here once again or until I get to travel. There’s plenty to keep me busy and it will be a different kind of challenge trying to see what I can plan based purely on what I have available. I feel good about this. 

The same goes for stashing food! I have never ever had a pantry. I would be quite proud every week on shopping day to find my fridge and shelves completely empty (except for a half bottle of maple syrup and a bag of sugar, which was hidden in the fridge away from the ants, and just enough milk for one morning’s breakfast). I didn’t want to clutter up my limited storage spaces with food. I knew how to shop perfectly for a week. However, in the current situation I can see the importance of building up a stash of food. I learned my lesson last November when we were locked down in a 21-day strike. One needs to have an emergency supply.  I am slowly building up my “pantry” so that I can avoid having to go out at all for at least two months, if necessary, as this current situation develops.

I am now working my way through my supply of un-dyed 60/2 silk in my latest ikat experiment. I’ll show you some of the steps that I have been through since I last posted. In my last post I showed you the partly tied pattern. There are some charcoal scratchings on the warp for some extra parts of pattern that I thought I might add but then decided against. I used my photo editor to place the two halves of the pattern side by side so that I could see how the warp would look once opened out to its full width…

I used a dye color called Chestnut. It is a slightly reddish-brown. Neither of the following two pictures show the true color but the one on the left is closest.

Here it is opened out and on my backstrap loom…

I plan to weave some figures using supplementary weft on the broad white horizontal bar.

You can see that I left a bar of the pink ikat tape in place and will leave it there for as long a possible as I weave. I feel more secure leaving the tape there to help hold the threads in position. Eventually, I will need to cut the tape and remove it so that I can continue weaving. An online friend, Lynelle Barrett, who lives in Singapore and who has studied the ikat practices of Iban weavers, told me about a stick that the weavers lash to the threads to serve this same purpose. I was almost going to install one on this warp but decided that I would leave that for my next ikat experiment when I can use it on its own without any wrappings in place. That way I can judge which of the two systems works better for me.

Corresponding about this with Lynelle reminded me of a post I made many years ago when a friend in the USA showed me the textiles that she has purchased on a trip to Indonesia. Among Judith’s purchases was a sweet miniature loom with a tiny ikat textile in progress. On that tiny loom there was a stick lashed to the bundles that had been separated and wrapped with tape. Now, thanks to Lynelle, I understand more of what that is all about. On my next ikat project, when I actually (hopefully successfully) use one of these sticks, I will tell you more about what Lynelle shared with me.

Lynelle also showed me what she has been weaving on her inkle loom. She has been using my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book and a pattern that is included as one of two bonus patterns at the end of the book. It is one of my favorites. I just love how the two pelicans, joined at their beaks, effortlessly meander from dark to light along the length of the warp. On a visit to the Mannings many years ago, Tom Knisely showed me a pre-columbian textile fragment that he had been given with this pattern. I have never seen it on another textile since and was so happy for this opportunity to study and chart the pattern and weave it.

I also received some woven feedback from Susi Saparautzki in Germany who has been using my Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms book to practice some of the 11/12-thread patterns on her learner band. Using a small mirror can help to catch errors on the lower layer of the double-weave band that is out of view. 

I think we can all agree that 2020 is marking a turning point in all our lives. As a distraction,  I am going to use this year as a celebration of the ten years that I have been connecting with weavers around the world via my books and blog. My first publication came out in April 2010 and I started writing this blog at the very end of 2009. So much has happened since then. There’s been so much travel during which I got to meet and weave with hundreds of people. This can be a year to sit back and reflect and appreciate all that they and these years have brought to my life.

Here’s a picture from way back in 2010 on my very first trip to see some of the weavers I had been meeting online. This is at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (which, sadly, is among so many fiber events that have had to be canceled this year) at a Weavolution meet-up. 

I will leave you with an opportunity to buy some of the beautiful lengths of handwoven cloth and purses made by my teacher Maxima and the other weavers in her co-operative here in Bolivia. Dorinda Dutcher, who spent years living and working with theses ladies, now lives in the USA where she has a supply of these pieces which can be sold to continue supporting them in these difficult times. Please visit the blog that Dorinda writes, PAZA Bolivia, to read her latest post about the kinds of rustic leaning vertical looms that the weavers use to create these pieces. Via the blog, you can contact Dorinda to ask about purchasing the lengths of cloth or purses. Or, if you prefer, you can leave a comment here and I will put you in touch with her.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 15, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Looking Forward, Looking Back

These days I get a little taken aback when an email arrives asking me if I am able to attend an event in July 2021 or consider contributing a piece of writing with an October 2020 deadline. Who are these people who are able to think so far in the future? I am glad that someone can, because I most certainly can’t. I am sure that it is those who are determined to keep looking forward who will come out of this whole thing hitting the ground running. I need to make that effort. It seems everything I do these days takes my mind back to the past. I am finding it hard to think beyond the next date when the current lock down situation is assessed. That will be May 17. I am sure that many of you feel the same way.

Meanwhile, the days march onward, the seasons change and the glorious toborochi tress here in Santa Cruz break into full bloom.

From Bolivia 360 Facebook page

I have been working on my next ikat experiment. I think this is number eight and might be the last in 60/2 silk as my supply of un-dyed 60/2 is running low. I didn’t want to start a new experiment unless it involved a new challenge and something new to be learned. So, I decided to try a motif with finer lines than I have been using until now and with lines that lie at different angles. I have to say that I have been dithering and dithering over this. First of all because I think I needed a break after having finished my latest book on Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. I goofed off for about 5 days, I think. But, mixed in with the need for a break was the uneasy feeling that I had bitten off more than I could chew for my next planned ikat project and that disaster was looming. Some of this had to do with the fact that I might be wasting the last of my un-dyed 60/2 silk and couldn’t have a do-over if things didn’t work out. I wasn’t entering into it with a great deal of enthusiasm.

This is the leaf-like motif that I came up with. It was easy enough to sketch on paper but would I be able to tie those lines? I wanted to place two identical motifs side by side with some other kind of motif between them, possibly also in ikat, but maybe in supplementary weft. You can see the sketch for my last ikat project in the background. For that one, all the steps in the diagonal lines were equal in width and length which made them relatively easy to measure and tie onto the warp.

I am so used to winding these silk warps now. That process is hazard-free. I wound 1640 ends in 100-end sections. I never completely trust my warping stakes not to lean and so I wind small sections low on the stakes and then remove them and place them on beams that are waiting on the floor. What I love about warping for backstrap weaving this way is that it feels like a full body work out…..standing, swaying, stretching, bending. I do it in silence and find it very relaxing.

Then came the task of dividing the warp into the sections that would be wrapped in ikat tape. This is the part where I can listen to music and even sing. I chose Even in the Quietest Moments by Supertramp because the most wonderful thing about this lock down has been the absence of sound. That music sent my mind back to 1998, the year I arrived in Bolivia from Chile. Roger Hodgson, the lead singer of Supertramp, had brought a band and played an evening outdoor concert at the football stadium a few weeks after my arrival. The ticket was $9! It was a gorgeous balmy tropical evening. After five years of living in howling winds in Punta Arenas in Chile, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It is a sweet memory.

I divided the warp into 10-end sections and chained a thread around them. In my experience with ikat so far, I have found slim bundles harder to wrap than thick ones. My plan was to fold the warp in half, halving its width, and wrap around two layers at once. That meant that I would be wrapping around bundles of 20-ends which would be much easier to handle.

Once the warp was divided into sections, I was ready to remove it from the frame so that I could fold it in half. It would then be placed back on the frame. The next step was to align the bundles from the top layer with the bottom layer and create new bundles. With that all taken care of, it was time to start wrapping. However, suddenly, there was a multitude of other things that needed doing. Yes, I was dithering again! (procrastinating, is probably the more appropriate word for it.) This was the point of no return. I could modify my motif to something easier or dive in and risk making a mess.

Then came what I am going to call the game-changer.

I usually use plastic zip-ties to hold the warp under tension on my wooden frame. They are okay except that sometimes I would pull one too tightly and it would be a nuisance trying to loosen it off without bending the plastic too much and destroying it. This time, I happened to remember the turn buckles that I had bought last year and decided to try them out as a new way to hold the warp under tension. Oh my gosh, they are awesome! I cranked up the tension and was able to make fine adjustments so easily. In the picture, I have yet to get the set-up squared off. I also added a third turn buckle to the center. I managed to get an amount of tension that I haven’t been able to in the past and suddenly this project seemed all the more doable.

With this amount of tension, I can actually draw very fine and precise lines onto the warp with my charcoal pencil. I have been using charcoal all along to mark my patterns, but every time I would touch the tip of the pencil to the warp, the threads would fan out and slightly sag and the best I could achieve was a smudge. That worked well enough as a guide because I could also rely on a ruler to show me where the next step in the stepped diagonal needed to be.  I can’t trust my eyes to judge the spacing accurately. That’s never been a talent of mine.

I can look at dozens of photos online of ikat warps stretched on their frames but until I actually get to touch one, I can never know just how tightly the have been stretched. I had always marveled at videos showing ikat artisans drawing entire fine and detailed patterns onto warps using pencils of different colors. There was a limit to the amount I could tighten the plastic zip-ties when I used them on their own. I can go beyond that limit now with the turn buckles.

The artisans that I have seen working with ikat don’t use turn buckles. Sometimes the warp is secured to a frame with nothing more than torn strips of cloth. I don’t have their skill or expertise! The first time I saw turn buckles in use in weaving was on the Navajo reservation back in 1995. The weavers were using them on their metal looms to tension the warp instead of using rope.

I once read about a gentleman who was studying knotted pile weaving with a Master from Afghanistan. He said that he knew that his warp had enough tension on it, when he was at home weaving and away from his teacher, by the sound the threads would make when he plucked them. Imagine trying to gain that kind of knowledge from an image on the computer screen!

And what about the actual wrapping? Well, I just wrap. If there  is some special way of doing it, I haven’t yet found it. I did see a video where the bundles were somehow twirled very quickly with the aid of what I am guessing was a kind of electric drill. The artisan simply stood there holding a piece of black rubber wrapping material and the spinning warp wrapped itself! These were very long warps that were destined for floor looms. Even if I had a way of doing that, I wouldn’t. I’ll go as far as turn buckles, but not electric drills!

This is all I do…

I start at the center and wrap to one end, turn back, go past the center to the other end, return to the center and tie. I like tying off in the center rather than at the end. I find that I am less likely to accidentally snip the warp threads when I later come to cut off the ties if I am cutting at the center of the wrap.

This is where I am at…The warp looks narrower here because it is folded in half. But it also looks narrower because there was an unfortunate incident in which I accidentally cut about 50 ends at one edge! That’s all I want to say about that! It could have been worse. I hadn’t started wrapping the pattern yet and it hasn’t meant having to modify the motif. Once I am done getting this sort of leaf motif done, I’ll decided on the motif I want to use between the two.

So….I have to tell you how grateful and excited I am about the response that I have had to my latest book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. This is the first time I have released a book on a new technique where both PDF and spiral-bound book have been available at the same time. Being part of Taproot Video allows this to be so. Patternfish only dealt with digital products. It was exciting and just a touch stressful to find that the books sold out very quickly. I think they were only out-of-stock for 24 hours, though. The printing service was again very quick to get production underway and we were back in business quickly.

I have had a lot of really nice feedback. People are very sweet to write and tell me that they bought the PDF or have received the book and are pleased with what they see.

Of course, the most exciting feedback of all comes in the form of woven work. And that has started to trickle in…

 

This is Joan Near’s learning band. I have provided several patterns in the book that fit on the 11/12-thread learning band. Joan has taken the little alpaca figure and used it to practice color changes.

Barbara Hoffman’s learning band shows examples of both angular and curve-like patterns. The interlocking diamonds were contributed by an Australian student of mine, Patrick Castle. The leaf is a smaller version of the “signature” leaf pattern that I like to use. The large version is also charted in the book. You can see it on the left of the cover image above.

I have also seen some first attempts at designing…a little animal figure has been woven by one lady and I’ll show you that in my next post. A nice way to ease yourself into designing is to take one of the charted patterns in the book and perhaps tweak it a little to give it your own personal touch. As I say in the book, I find this structure one of the easiest ones for designing and I hope that the shapes and figures that I have provided in the book can be used as stepping stones to the creation of your own unique patterns.

And while there has been a lot of focus on my latest book, those who bought some of my other publications some time ago have been fishing them out to use while following advice to stay at home.

Susan, who has woven with me before on my visits to the States, shared her hatband project with me with a picture that was taken  on a gorgeous Californian spring day. She uses a backstrap loom to weave her Andean Pebble Weave bands.

Carlos Vargas in France had been away from the loom for a while and is also taking advantage of time at home to get back into it. He uses a backstrap loom. If you own my Complementary-warp Pattern Book you will know that Carlos contributed a beautiful bee pattern of his own design to that book. In this piece he is weaving a bee pattern that was contributed by Julia Toft in the same book.

Stacy Holder is using her inkle loom and working with some of my original books on Andean Pebble Weave from 8-10 years ago. Those first books did not include specific instructions for setting up on an inkle loom but Stacy has been able to adapt my instructions and get to work on the several models of inkle loom that she likes to use. I love her band with its S-hook pattern in which she has used variegated thread as the background color. The other face is just as stunning with a colorful S-hook shape on a black background. My 2019 publication Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms is aimed at the standard inkle loom and includes video clips.

Wendy Garrity lives in Western Australia where movement away from one’s home is not as restricted as in many other places. She has come up with a clever way to be able to use a backstrap loom anywhere. She is working on a Andean Pebble Weave pattern while on a camping trip.

Erika in Michigan isn’t enjoying that much freedom of movement yet, but is still able to enjoy the outdoors with a view of her garden while she sets up her backstrap loom for a new project.

I have become fully absorbed in my ikat now that I feel more confident about my ability to tie my latest pattern. However, I do have a couple of unfinished projects lying about. The flower band below needs finishing. This pattern was designed and contributed to the double weave book by Gerbelien Cocx-Wilschut.

I have also been planning a new double-wave strap for my camera bag for the next time I go traveling…There! I have caught myself thinking about the future!

Another little experiment that is awaiting completion is my dabble in double width. It seemed to be a natural thing to do after having worked so long on double weave on my little Inklette. I was curious to see how much width I could crank out this small loom. I have started with only a very narrow warp just to get the moves down and to see if it really is something worth bothering with. It was fun. Now I would like to try for maximum width. I don’t believe I can get double the loom’s capacity…perhaps one-and-a-half times that or a little bit more.

In the pictures below, you can see the warp on the loom. Then I have taken the band off the loom and am unfolding it. Finally, you see it opened to its full width and lying flat. Of course, I can always go to my backstrap loom for wider bands but I thought that this would be a interesting experiment while I was still in “double” mode.

And, finally, a grey-hair update…THE LAST! I said farewell to my Grey Hair group on Facebook with this collage (yes, grey-hair groups are a thing and the one I joined was fun and helpful):

Some group members asked me to stay and give advice to others but, to be honest, the only advice I have is to be be patient and put on your thick skin! I would like to acknowledge those who truly went grey gracefully by never dyeing their hair in the first place. They have no need to make all this fuss about it!

I think I only have one more cut to be rid of the last of the dark tips. I figured that would take place this month….ain’t gonna happen, but that’s fine. I quite like those dark tips!

Here’s a throwback to 2009 during the time of the N1H1 virus.

I was teaching English at that time at the Centro Boliviano Americano and teachers had to wear masks at all times while in the classroom. Every twenty minutes or so we had to squirt disinfectant gel onto all the students’ hands. The gels were colored and our hands would be stained either bright orange or blue by the end of the day! We got shut down three times because teachers were caught not wearing masks. No one objected to my home-made one.

When the first case of corona virus was confirmed here in Bolivia on March 10, I posted this photo on Facebook as a memory. I removed it a couple of hours later as I thought that it might be irresponsible to show people that wearing inferior home-made cloth masks was acceptable. Well, as we all know now, it turns out that it is in fact acceptable to wear one. I’ll be downloading a pattern so that I can hand-sew a couple for myself this weekend. It had better be an easy pattern!

Stay safe all of you, please.

 

 

Some very kind people took some time and put some extra effort into helping me bring my new book to you in just a matter of days after I sent off the files. The place that prints my spiral-bound books worked extraordinarily quickly but I don’t think that was a personal favor!  I just hope that doesn’t mean that they are experiencing a serious slump in business. It was the folks at Taproot Video who were kind enough to re-arrange priorities for me so that my finished work could be brought to you as quickly as possible. Thank you Marilyn and Rainer at Taproot Video!

So, here it is...Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms…an advanced-level technique that is aimed at band-weavers who love to do pick-up. Yes, you do have to love it! because it is one of the slower techniques that I have encountered here in the highlands and lowlands of South America. The book is aimed at those who use the standard inkle loom. By that, I mean the kind of inkle loom that uses individual string heddles and where the weaver raises and lowers one layer of threads in order to create the two basic sheds. I used my Ashford Inklette for the tutorials in the book and I just use the loom’s two basic sheds.

Okay, it might be a slow technique that requires some extra work to set up and some extra care and attention while weaving (hence the advanced-level rating), but it is by far the easiest technique for designing. Some of the 45 patterns in the book were contributed by my students and weaving friends and many of them were created right there in the workshop as they were learning the technique. You could take a blank chart from the book and fill in cells in a completely random fashion, doodle away filling cells with your mind on something else, and still be able to weave the “pattern” you have created. It will be structurally sound!   

This double-weave technique does not use warp-floats. The surface of the band is not pebbled or spotted or speckled in appearance or texture. It is perfectly smooth in texture. Both faces carry the same motif with colors reversed. Bolivian weavers often flip the colors so that both possible faces can be seen at once.

A Bolivian belt in warp-faced double weave.

One of my students went home after Day One of a workshop and showed her beginner band to her 13-year old daughter. Thirteen-year old Emma then sat down with the charting paper and created a rabbit pattern and it was shared with all of us the next day. She has kindly contributed it to the book. I showed you Marilyn’s little llama in my last post which is made up of very few warp threads and weft picks. She used to keep llamas. Often the figures my students create have a personal meaning to them.  Jen keeps rabbits and created one of her own. Ruth drew the perfect figure for our narrow 12-thread learning band… an elegant long-legged, long-necked flamingo. But it’s not all about animals. All kinds of curved, angular, solid and delicately outlined figures can be created. Karen conjured up a grinning pumpkin during one gathering we had close to Halloween.

Some patterns were inspired by traditional patterns that I have seen in Mapuche and Bedouin textiles. While researching, I enjoyed learning more about the double-weave animal pack-bands that are woven by Qashqai nomads. Pictures of their bands are included as well as information on informative and inspiring magazine articles and websites.

And then there’s flora….my leaf pattern and Gerbelien’s Flower Love pattern, for example…

Forty-five pattern charts will keep you busy while your mind turns over ideas for designing one of your own. A section in the book is devoted to designing. Another shows you how easy it is to chart a figure from an image of a woven textile. There are charting challenges with an Answer Key in the Appendix.

One of the hardest things when I was putting this book together was how to come up with a limited set of patterns. I tried to provide examples of angular shapes, curve-like shapes, lines branching off at varying angles, thin lines, heavy lines, vertical and horizontal bars, curls and swirls so that you would have examples of the various elements that could be used to create your own patterns. The charts are there for you to enjoy straight from the book to your bands but also there to inspire you to create your own patterns.

The step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions and descriptions are supplemented by video clips. Both the PDF and printed formats allow you access to the clips.

As you can see in this picture, the tools you need to use are simple. I use two “tongue-depressor” craft sticks which do just fine as you learn. If you plan on doing a lot of double weave, you might think about investing in some heavier smoother swords which are more comfortable in the hands. 

There is a series of instructional clips that supplement various sections in the book as you set up the loom , start weaving, learn about color changes and how to pick up threads to form patterns. 

Two additional clips were filmed in silence so that you can watch the process in an uninterrupted flow.

One of my favorite sections is the one on how to finish a band. I was pleased about being able to teach one of my favorite braids as well as weft twining which you will find useful and decorative not only for double weave, but for all your bands. There is also instruction on a special way to finish double-weave bands which makes them easier to attach to buckles and clips for creating straps.

 

I hope that you enjoy my latest addition to my collection of technique and pattern books. Maybe I will follow it up with a pattern book but, in a way, I would be happy if that proves to be unnecessary because you are all busy creating your own beautiful patterns! That would mark the achievement of one of my goals in writing this book. 

Happy weaving! Here is the link once more so that you don’t have to scroll back up and look for it :-). Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms.  

As always, thank you for your support and thanks to everyone who has bought the book since I posted about it on Facebook. (and also to those who discovered the book on Taproot Video before I could even announce it!)

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 25, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The View from my Window

 

My makeshift photo/video studio at my living room window.

For those who visit my blog to see weaving, there is some in this post, but there’s also a bit of rambling. Forgive me. These are strange times! If you just want to see weaving, and there’s some great eye candy to be enjoyed, you should scroll on for a little bit.

Since I set up my little “video studio”  to shoot the clips for my book on double weave, I have become much more aware of the view I have from my windows. I usually have blinds on these windows and they are always drawn in an attempt to keep out the heat and dust. Now, with everything wide open I see that a good quarantine activity might be washing windows! While hunched over the camera, I feel a little like James Stewart in the Hitchcock movie “Rear Window”. I see little slices of  life through the various windows in the condo. Then again, I wonder who in turn might be observing me and wondering “What is the gringa up to now?”

Filming has been interesting. I have to straddle the tripod, sort of semi-squat, lean to one side to see, and reach around and weave all while trying to keep my head near the camera and in good range of the microphone. My leg muscles start to scream! So, when you buy my book and watch the videos, you will see that one of the clips has an ant merrily making its way in and out of shot. I did many, many takes for many reasons but I decided that the ant could stay. It amused me. I can say that no ants were disturbed or harmed in the making of my movies! 😉

I now know that  one of the neighbors on the second floor in the next building has a Tonkinese cat. Mine now lives with a friend. I had to re-home her because I was traveling so much. She turned 17 on April 1st! I usually visit her twice a week but visits are off for now. Now my friend sweetly sends me videos of her. I see the neighbor’s cat sitting on the window ledge. Like many of us, I suppose it’s wishing it could go out and wander around. I see other neighbors sweeping, cleaning, shaking their table cloths out the window and putting me to shame. I have been wholly devoted to the book these last weeks…heck, months! Everything could do with a good cleaning.

In my last post I remarked on the absence of familiar sounds during the current lock-down. Now there is a new sound of which I had not previously been aware…the rustling of fallen leaves. I live in the tropics. There is no apparent change from summer to fall. We have a sort of winter with slightly milder temperatures but that is all. We have a wet season. All remains lush and green. Today we sit at 93 degrees. However, now I am aware that there are some trees that actually lose their leaves in what is our fall season. The cleaners aren’t coming in every day to sweep up the leaves and they blow about and rustle along the cobbles.

Certain smells are absent too…the “interesting” aromas from the big street market down the road that the wind sometimes blows over is happily missing. The market has been shut down. And that most typical Santa Cruz fragrance…the churrasco! (barbecue) which seemed to be in the air at almost any time, even at 11pm when I would go out sometimes to enjoy the cool air, is no longer around. However, a new aroma is in the air. I noticed talk in one of the Santa Cruz Facebook groups of the disinfecting effect of burning eucalyptus leaves. Someone here burns them every afternoon. I can close my eyes and imagine I am back in Australia on cool autumn evening when people in the neighborhood would rake eucalyptus leaves into piles and burn them.

Because this is what I actually see from my bedroom window, I often play a little mind game when I am seated at my loom. I sit on a firm foam cushion on the floor with my loom attached to the base of my bed. From there I can’t see out my window.

While sitting there, I imagine that I could be anywhere in the world. It wouldn’t matter where I was, because at that moment I have chosen to sit on the floor and be completely focused on my weaving. The foothills of the Himalayas could be outside my window. The Mediterranean Sea could be out there sparkling in the sun. Or it could be the Straits of Magellan stretching away to Tierra del Fuego in the magical low, soft light that is so peculiar to that far end of the world… or any number of fantastic scenes that I have been lucky enough to experience in the places I have chosen to live and travel. I once woke up to this magical scene of snow on a train trip from San Jose to Seattle. I was lucky to be in the last carriage to get this view. It’s a bit harder imagining this to be outside my bedroom window because it is so darn hot!

Depending on the time of year, the evening golden moment has the light of the setting sun bouncing off one of the building’s terracotta walls and filling my room with a warm glow as I weave. In winter when the sun is in a certain position, soft late afternoon rays skim the surface of the fabric on my loom.

I have been missing my backstrap loom and my little spot on my bedroom floor! Yes, I have been weaving, but on an inkle loom because the title of my new book is Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. The book is finished! But there is still work to be done. One file has gone to the printer for the making of the spiral-bound books. The other has gone to Taproot Video so that it can be uploaded to the website. All that takes time and I will let you all know as soon as the book is ready for purchase. As usual, it will be offered as a PDF as well as a book.

I am now ready to return to what might be an over-ambitious plan for my next ikat experiment. I have to put the cochineal aside for another day as I was never able to get hold of the alum. I still have synthetic dyes that I can use with my silk but that part of the process is still a long way off. I now have to figure out how to go about tying the pattern that I have sketched into a silk warp.

I have been weaving a lot of double-weave samples lately. Here’s one of the double-weave patterns from the new book which was created by Marilyn Romatka in one of my workshops. It’s amazing how this figure which is undeniably a llama, and a very elegant one at that, has been designed with so few threads. It is stunning in its simplicity and I am so happy that Marilyn allowed me to include it in the book…

I am left with a large box full of the woven samples for the book. I often just wove one figure, photographed it for the book and moved on. This means I have a lot of small pieces that could be used as key fobs and bracelets. The llama band will be a key fob.

Here’s another example of a very simple pattern. Both bands were woven using the same thread for warp. The one on the right uses a finer material for weft and I wove it with a much heavier beat. There is also quite a difference in feel and visible texture between the two. The one on the left has been washed and pressed while the one on the right is fresh off the loom. Both will become bracelets. There is a nice section in my book on different ways to finish double-weave bands depending on their intended use.

There is one thing to be said for deadlines…they force you to come to a halt! Although there is no real deadline in self-publishing, I would always have the trips away from home in the spring and the fall… the trips I called my “weaving safaris”… that would bring my weaving and writing projects to a necessary halt. This year has been different…no travel… and I have had to really force myself to stop the book project! How many times can I fiddle and adjust and enhance?! When do the changes I make stop being improvements and actually start to muddy things up? So, yes, it’s done…the files are in other hands and I am beyond the point of no return! Phew!

I will finish by showing you what my weaving friends around the word have been creating. I don’t step out to see the world. The world comes to me 🙂 These projects bring me so much joy!

My friend Emerald in Sydney has had her job put on hold and has not wasted any time getting back into her backstrap weaving. She has woven one of the two weaving figures from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. The figure was first designed by Maja Bürger in Germany and she allowed me to make some changes so that I could have two versions in the book. This is how Emerald has her backstrap loom set up at home… When I stayed and wove with her in Australia, she was a sit-on-the-floor weaver but has now created a different set-up sitting in a chair.

Nora Dereli is welcoming spring with my Garden set of patterns from the same book linked above. This set includes, birds, blooms and butterflies and there’s another set which has bee patterns. Nora uses the Windhaven Accordion loom.

And, here’s yet another Andean Pebble Weave/ complementary-warp project and a different kind of loom with patterns from the same book, Complementary-warp Pattern Book….Gonit Porat teaches weaving in her studio in Israel. This is the work of one of her students, Michal. The warp is tensioned on the frame of a rigid heddle loom. There are four lovely horse figures in the Animals set which were designed and contributed by my friend Deanna Johnson.

This band is from Linda who is enjoying using 5/2 cotton on her inkle loom. The pattern is from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book.

Maria Leticia Galve in Buenos Aires, Argentina sent me this picture of her work. I am particularly happy to see the patterns on the left which are from my very first book, Andean Pebble Weave, that I published ten years ago! The other beautiful knot-work pattern is in More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns. That book has several knot-work patterns, some of which I adapted from Louise Ström’s tablet-woven designs.Deanna, who designed the horses that you see in Michal’s work, has been test-driving a new band loom and wove this beautiful piece using a pattern from my Complementary-warp Pick-up book. This book has instructions as well as 42 pattern charts.

Facebook keeps reminding me of where I was and what I was doing at this time last year. Here I am at Deanna’s with Yan having so much fun with both of them as I sit at Yan’s foot-tensioned loom. My grey-hair transformation was in full swing and I was getting used to the odd looks people were giving me.

And here we are in April 2020. I have a lot of awesome places, people and experiences to ponder as I gaze out of my bedroom window (and get some Vitamin D at the same time!). News of the book release will be coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 3, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – A Post with No Name

It’s been a while since I last posted. Usually these disappearances are due to the fact that I am away from home, busily traveling and weaving with my friends. Not so this time. I am here in Bolivia and, like so many of you, am in lock-down. Every time I came to my blog thinking about writing a post, I would look back in wonder at my last post where my biggest “dilemma” was the fact that I couldn’t get alum….imagine! How could things have changed so much in that relatively short time?… and that would leave me with nothing to say and I would have to go away and think. 

Physical distancing is not a hardship for me. I have always called my home in Bolivia my “Fortress of Solitude”.

So, I decided to take some time to let ideas for my next ikat project percolate even deeper and further. I picked up my inkle loom and started weaving the pattern samples for my next book on DOUBLE WEAVE ON INKLE LOOMS. And once I got started on that, I was on a roll and I have been working away at writing, weaving, photographing and shooting videos.

Shooting videos is usually a bit of a frustrating business. I live in a five-block multi-story condo which is usually bursting with life and sounds.., salsa and cumbia music blasting, children playing and rattling their wheeled toys over the cobbles in the courtyard, car alarms going off, planes flying into the nearby military airport, the honking horns of traffic around the nearby street market, shrieking pet parrots and barking dogs, high energy, high-volume conversations between neighbors (sometimes you would swear that they are arguing, but no, that’s just a normal conversation)! The last time I shot videos for my books was on a Christmas Day and a New Year’s Day a year ago…the only two days with guaranteed quiet as folks slept off the revelry of the previous evenings.

My makeshift photo/video studio at my living room window.

Now, it’s quiet…eerily quiet, every day. It’s so un-Bolivian. I am used to everything being done here at twice the volume that one would experience in other parts of the world. So, apart from interruptions from the parrot shrieking “Bonito!” every now and then, shooting videos in these last days has been a breeze! Even the dogs are quiet. They would erupt into a frenzy when their owners came home but I guess the owners are not going out any more. At midday the sirens sound to announce that curfew has begun but I’ve been able to work around that.

A double-weave key fob with an original pattern designed by one of my students.

Finally, I can see far enough ahead to the end of this writing project. I am hoping that my DOUBLE WEAVE ON INKLE LOOMS book will be available in the next few weeks.

It has dozens of step-by-step photos, detailed instructions and video clips to guide you through this versatile structure.

I liken weaving patterns in this structure to doodling in plain weave. There is a detailed section in the book on designing your own patterns. You could color the cells in any old fashion on the blank pattern charts that are provided without putting any thought into it at all and still be able to weave your “pattern” in warp-faced double weave. It’s that simple. This structure does not use warp-floats. Therefore, you do not have to consider the limitations of float length and alignment when you are designing.

For those who don’t wish to design their own patterns, the book includes at least 45 charts with patterns suitable for bands (I can’t help adding more and more so that number will, most likely, increase!).

The book is aimed at those who use the standard inkle loom. It does need to be a sturdy loom, though. I use the Ashford Inklette and it does the job very well. Some of those teeny tiny tinkle-type looms would probably not stand up to it.

Various finishing techniques are covered too! My bedroom floor is snake pit of woven sample bands!

I hope at a later date to follow up this book with one on wider patterns and some more advanced variations of the method.

Here’s a double-weave band of Joy and Hope for all of us that I wove some time ago in 60/2 silk using the more advanced method for fine threads and for projects that are far too wide for most inkle looms.

Click on this 12-second video if you would like to hear the melody….

In my next posts I will show you pictures of more of the smaller patterns that appear in the new book 🙂

When taking breaks from working at my laptop, I have been re-visiting some of my smaller projects and planning things so I can keep weaving even though I am so involved with writing right now. I made these lanyards for a conference several years ago. The widest one is 1/2”. Bands like these would make great ribbons on which to hang pendants.

The other small items that I love making are wrist cuffs….

I can’t have enough cuffs!

But, the moment that I am well and truly done with the book, I’ll be back tying strips of plastic for another ikat project . I am happy to be spending all this time thinking about it as my silk supply has become even more precious now and I don’t want to waste it on anything hastily put together. Who knows when we will be able to travel again? I had become used to going to the States and bringing back silk and other fancy stuff for my weaving. Mail? Forget it! I sent an envelope of documents by Certified Mail to Australia last October. It still hasn’t arrived!

It’s been heart-warming seeing my online friends finding the time before and during periods of isolation to weave projects using my books. Susan Bratt made another beautiful guitar strap using a pattern from More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns.

Sally Backes is using one of the sweet Windhaven looms to weave a band with a pattern from Complementary-warp Pattern Book.

Linda confesses to being hooked on Andean Pebble Weave and the use of 5/2 perle cotton. I can understand that. The 5/2 size is one of my favorites too. These patterns are from More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns.

Leslie Clark’s band is destined to be a guitar strap. She has combined the S hook pattern from my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book is different ways along the edges and central panel of her band.

Marsha Kimball has woven some of the figures from the Rivers and Oceans-themed set into one of her latest bands. This set of patterns appears in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. along with Christmas, Garden, Animal, Geometric, South American and Spinners and Weavers sets.

Let me leave you all with an image from the shoulder-bag fabric that I wove some time ago….Maja in Germany designed a weaver at her loom in Andean Pebble Weave and allowed me to adapt the pattern in a few ways so that I could chart her version and my adapted one for my pattern book.

I placed two of the ladies weaving together and designed a nice shady tree for them…an idyllic scene…two backstrap weavers sitting peacefully beneath a tree practicing physical distancing.  Take care everyone and stay well.

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 28, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Percolating

Ikat! I have been giving myself time to allow the abundance of images and information that I keep finding on ikat to slowly filter so that I can focus on the next project. Without this filtering, there is the tendency to want to try everything in the one project. Another thing that is driving that tendency is the fact that my supply of natural-color 60/2 silk is coming to an end. I had used much more than originally planned in the last ikat project. This project was supposed to be a “sample” which for me is typically pretty small. The project turned into something else all together and will end up hanging on a wall.

Here it is after having been pressed good and hard. That always brings out the sheen of the silk but it has been hard to capture it in a photo.

In a way I am being forced to stop and ponder and allow the ideas to percolate because I was surprised to find that the suppliers of alum that I have always used here in Santa Cruz suddenly don’t carry it any more. I had been planning to dye my next ikat project with cochineal and was depending on being able to find alum. I have yet to find a substitute for alum as the mordant. That brought the plans for the next project to a halt.

Getting cochineal here in the lowlands is usually the tricky bit, not the alum. Cochineal is not used for dyeing here but is sold instead by the ladies in the street markets who carry home remedies. They tell me that it is to be taken as a remedy for susto which I can only understand to mean “fright” or perhaps that could be stretched to mean “anxiety”? Finding cochineal was even trickier this time. The massive street market that lies just two blocks from my home was recently “cleaned up”. All the vendors who normally wander the streets or sit on the sidewalk were ordered to move on. This must have included some of the home remedy vendors.

Asking the wrong vendor brought on a cranky almost offended response. It seems to me that this attitude is somehow part of the Highland-versus-Lowland vibe that is quite strong here in lowland Santa Cruz where certain things associated with the highlands, such as the chewing of coca leaves, are rejected as inferior and “indio”. It appeared that only the vendors from the highlands would have cochineal in their home remedy stalls. In any case, you can see that I was successful in finding someone from whom to buy the little dried beetles.

One down, one to go – alum. I was told that the Mennonites use alum when canning their produce so I will be off to the Mennonite market to see if I can find it there. I have not been to that market before and look forward to it. I am told that it is a market of farming implements and supplies for raising livestock etc.

With those two items in hand, I can start to make some experiments. I wonder what kind of red I will get? I will be happy with pretty much anything except  pink. Here’s the color I got with cochineal on my hand spun llama fiber many years ago using an alum pre-mordant. I used it in small double weave, tubular band and complementary-warp pick-up projects.

My challenges for this next ikat project include using a natural dye and tying a much finer pattern. I was lucky to be shown a detailed image of a small section of an ikat textile from Indonesia in which I could actually count the warp threads. I could see that the weaver had tied around groups of six ends to create such a fine and detailed pattern. I could clearly see the three white  warp threads in the woven cloth against the morinda-dyed background. WOW.

I know that the hand spun cotton that weaver was using is most likely thicker than the 60/2 silk I have been using. That makes it hard to make a comparison. In my last piece I tied around sections of fourteen ends in the pattern area and around twenty eight ends where I had created broad bands of resist. I would love to know generally how fine the hand spun cotton used in the Indonesian ikat pieces is in terms of wpi.

The other challenge is creating a new pattern to use with the finer tying. That hasn’t been easy….I have been looking around a lot for ideas and there’s just way too much input!

I have sketched out something very loosely based on leaves. Leaves have become one of my signature patterns and so I figured it would be appropriate to do something with stylized leaves. What I have drawn has ended up being so stylized that it may not be recognizable as leaves, but that’s okay. Whether I can transfer my sketch to the warp remains to be seen.

So far, I have worked with steps of fixed height and width to form the diagonal lines in the patterns, all carefully plotted and measured out. All the angles have been the same. The pattern I have sketched will involve a lot more free-form tying. Oh my goodness, what have I done?! I can often get very carried away creating these challenges right up until the moment I see the warp stretched out before me. Then some hasty adjustments are made. I remind myself every time I think I have become ridiculously over ambitious with this new pattern I have sketched that I did, after all, manage to tie a a couple of fairly nice circles some years ago. Let’s wait and see what happens.

The other benefit of taking time-out is that I have had much more time to spend on the book. I still can’t quite see the end in sight but I have made really good progress. 

Now, I have something wonderful to show from a weaving friend, Emily Robison. I can’t remember exactly how Emily and I connected but she contacted me online and we were able to meet up on one of my trips away and weave double weave bands together. You can see her already weaving a pattern of her own creation at left.

I asked Emily if she would like to write a couple of paragraphs to share with you about her woven work and her experience learning to weave on a backstrap loom in Micronesia  and I will leave the rest of the story for you in her own words….

To my knowledge, the type of weaving that I do is found only in the outer islands of Yap state, in the Federated States of Micronesia — migratory origins unknown. They are a collection of about 16 tiny inhabited low-lying coral islands (possibly all less than one square mile). The culture practiced in the outer islands is very distinct from the main island of Yap — the two cultures have languages of unrelated origins — but they are very intertwined. The islands practice a caste system, and the main island considers outer island people and culture to be either very low caste or other caste, meaning that a main islander wouldn’t go to the homes or eat the food of an outer islander, and main islanders do not weave lava lava.

Photo supplied by Emily Robison of her own non-traditional use of some of the patterning elements she learned with the weavers of the outer islands.

The backstrap woven fabric called lava lava is used in certain patterns as the only form of outer island female dress — a type of wraparound skirt — and in other patterns it is used as part of the traditional male main island dress. It is also used in main islander funeral ceremonies. Therefore it’s an important trade item from the outer islands to the main islands, but main islanders consider it taboo to participate in any part of the manufacture.

Photo supplied by Emily Robison of her current work which she says is a reproduction of one of her teacher’s pieces except for the supplementary-weft pattern.

Traditionally, lava lavas were woven of banana and hibiscus bark fibers and naturally dyed in reds and blacks (maybe other colors, but I haven’t seen them), but this practice has shifted in favor of commercially available thread from China. This transition is less than 50 years old. The traditional fabrics weren’t warp-faced, I don’t think — at least the few I’ve seen weren’t — but today’s lava lavas are.

Silk is too expensive, wool too hot, and cotton doesn’t hold up to the production, so they exclusively used polyester (but I’ve heard rumors of people incorporating more cotton in the past 10 years). Their patterns are pretty distinct and uniform. People can use many colors (reds are off limits unless used as an accent color or on the edges), but the two types of patterns are the lava lavas with large fields of solid color and accents on the edges and in the middle. These are the ones that have a supplemental weft, and an example is the one that I am currently weaving. (Emily tells me that the supplementary-weft patterning technique shows pattern on both faces of the cloth. Here is a view of the back of the cloth of her current piece showing the black supplementary-weft pattern.)

Another example is the style with 6 or 7 contrasting stripes (I don’t know when one would be chosen over the other — 6 is more common) on a colorful background. The stripes are made of two complementary colors and some patterning. 

The ones for men are just black and white, 6 or 7 striped. 

Image of a Yapese man’s lava lava taken by Laverne from the website of worthpoint.com

Single-thread floats in the green section on the upper face of the cloth.

Much to the chagrin of my Yapese host family, I studied with outer islanders and wove in secret for about 18 months. It was a real taboo thing to do and it didn’t make me any friends… so I don’t know as much as I could have learned if I’d been living with an outer island family.

The patterns are made with two sticks that control the floats — one for the right face, and one for the reverse face. The warp is always continuous, and the tension rod loop, string heddles, and pattern floats are all created in the warping process.

(Note from Laverne: I just love that extra heddle peg sitting there so neatly like that. If you are curious about how heddles are made during the warping process, I can show you how my Montagnard (Vietnames hilltribe) backstrap weaving teachers do it. It’s probably not exactly the same way as the Yapese weavers do it but it will give you an idea for now. There’s a video showing how Ju Nie does it embedded in this blog post  followed by a video I made slowing the process down so that you can more easily see how it works.)

Lava lavas must be long enough to cover a woman from upper hips to knees (it is taboo to show off any thigh). and so they are usually about 26 inches wide and 60 inches long. Once cut, the strings of the fringe are kept long to create a kind of modesty curtain between the legs. They’re worn by wrapping them in half around the body, and then pinching the two sides together at the right hip and folding the fringe inward to sit between the legs. They’re usually tied on with a belt, but some ladies just tuck them in.

Emily wearing a lava lava.

You can follow Emily’s work via her Instagram account: @thewovenworld. She is hoping to create a website soon too.

To finish, I have a few things to show you from my online weaving friends….

Kathleen Frtiz recently received a Guatemalan backstrap loom and has taken off on her backstrap weaving adventure as if she had been born for it. This is only her third piece as far as I can tell. It is woven in fine cotton and she is pleased with how surprisingly pliant it is even before it has been wet finished. She used this piece to experiment with patterning with supplementary weft using the patterning sticks and techniques that I describe in this tutorial.

Nancy Ayton made sweet hanging ornaments from her Andean Pebble Weave bands. The deer head motif is her own creation. I love it when people start designing their own patterns. The owl and bird motif is from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book and the knot-work pattern is from More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns.

Nora Dereli is using her inkle loom to weave one of several knot-work patterns that are charted in More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns. This is a motif that  Louise Ström weaves in one of the structures that are woven using tablets. I translated the motif to the Andean Pebble Weave structure.

Susan Bratt finished weaving a guitar strap on her backstrap loom using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The pattern is from the Complementary-warp Pattern Book.

Wendy Garrity completed what she tells me is her first silk-on-silk wrist band using the supplementary-weft patterning technique known as sampa in Bhutan. The multi-color spots of color that appear between the floats of supplementary weft are so pretty. Wendy studied weaving on a backstrap loom and various traditional patterning techniques while living and working in Bhutan and leads textile tours there every year. Her website is Textile Trails.

Gregory W and I wove double weave bands together and she came up with this lovely band with her own original design shortly after. Her guild had challenged members to use these colors in a project and this was Gregory’s contribution.

 

Marilyn Albright and I have never met but I feel that we are bound to one of these days in her movements between Alaska and Mexico. She has been experimenting with Bedouin al’ouerjan patterns using my tutorials here on this blog and adding her own twist to the traditional pattern .

And here’s one more from Priscilla Bradburn who wove this band after learning Andean Pebble Weave from my book Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms. She has taken flat-top S hooks, hearts, diamonds and other basic shapes and combined them in her own unique way to create a new pattern of her own. This and her creative use of color has produced a beautiful band! 

Let’s hope my hunt for alum is successful otherwise it will be back to the synthetic dyes for me. I wonder what other interesting things I will see at the Mennonite farmers’ market.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | February 6, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Color Challenges

I have finished another ikat project/experiment. This one will be a wall hanging for, most likely, some future home as there isn’t a good space to hang it here. As with most of my weaving projects, I didn’t start out wanting to weave a wall hanging. I simply wanted to continue my experiments in ikat. The experiment was largely successful and so I now get to give the product a name….in this case, a wall hanging.

My goals for this one were to…

…try tying patterns into 60/2 silk. I hadn’t used 60/2 silk for ikat before.

…place one layer of warp threads on top of the other, so that the warp was half its original intended width, and tie the pattern onto both layers at once.

…dye with multiple colors.

…include patterns woven with supplementary weft.

…weave a band along the end of the piece using the fringe of the finished piece as the weft.

The dyeing itself was successful in that there weren’t any leaks or other mishaps. However, none of colors turned out the way I had expected! The first green was way brighter than expected. I thought that it would turn out a lot “dirtier” because I wasn’t dyeing over white. I had hoped that it would look like the typical “swampy” greens that one gets from using plants. Later, I remembered having received some good advice about these particular dyes when I was buying them. I was told that the colors were bright and that it was a good idea to add a tiny bit of slate-color dye to dull them a bit. I even bought a pot of the slate dye so I could do just that and then completely forgot to follow the advice. But, there were some things about the dyeing process that pleased me: as I was dyeing one color on top of another, then on top of yet another, I managed to create an unexpected reddish-brown that I loved. The thing is, I know I will never be able to replicate it!

I thought that I would end up with a black or almost-black background color after all the layering of colors. But, as you can see, it’s a very dark green with interesting shimmers of reddish-brown and teal that appear when light hits it a certain way.

This is a view looking down from my bed first thing in the morning. The warp in this picture has been set up for weaving on a backstrap loom with heddles in place and some weaving started. My bed base is the anchor point for the far end of my loom. I have to be careful if I get up in the darkness not to stumble and get myself entangled in warp!

As weaving progressed and the warp threads jiggled about with the movement of opening and closing sheds, they began to loosen their grip on each other and fan out. The ikat patterns slowly took on a more solid appearance. At this point, I paused to choose a color in my stash of 120/2 silk so that I could weave some motifs into the broad band of reddish-brown. I had a kind of wheat color that I thought would be a good match. Out came the charting paper and I drew a pattern with hooks and arrow-head shapes that would go well with the main ikat pattern. You can also see a thin horizontal stripe of teal lying on top of the one of the wooden rods which I had decided that I hated! So, I designed another fairly solid pattern for continuous supplementary weft to weave over and hopefully conceal it.

Discontinuous and continuous supplementary weft patterns.

This discontinuous pattern was fun to weave. I love this technique where two strands of patterning weft are passed at once. My little cardboard bobbins kept everything orderly. In the lower left part of  the picture with the bobbins, you can just make out the one and only warp thread that broke. I had nicked and weakened it with the tip of my scissors when I was cutting out the ikat tape. It didn’t take long for it to break once I started weaving. Replacing a section of broken thread that has been dyed multiple colors along its length can be a problem. I had some green 60/2 silk that wasn’t a bad match for the dark green but some of it had to creep into the brown section where the warp thread had torn.

The second continuous supplementary-weft pattern that I had designed to cover the teal stripe wasn’t so much fun to weave…at least not to get started. There were 882 warp ends to count in the shed to lay in the first shot of supplementary weft and I had to count it six times before I got it right! I kept ending up with one extra thread. Was I miscounting or had I actually wound 1766 ends of 60/2 silk instead of 1764? It was maddening! Conclusion…I was miscounting. Once the first row was in, it was pretty smooth sailing. I think the pattern does a pretty good job of hiding the stripe.

The threads in the main ikat section behaved pretty well. There wasn’t a great deal of shift except for the very center. I think that had something to do with the way I had lashed the warp to the frame for tying the ikat tape. It has the typical out-of-focus look of ikat.

After that, I had to go through laying in the pattern again for the strip of supplementary weft over the second teal stripe. It was slightly less painful the second time around. And how is this for crazy? I got about 20 rows in on the set of supplementary-weft motifs on the second brown section before I realized I was weaving the wrong pattern! I had designed two patterns. The first had been too fine for this weight of silk but worth keeping for perhaps another project in heavier thread. That was the chart I had grabbed. Grrr! Un-weaving this silk is no fun at all. There is a surprising amount of fluff build-up that binds the threads and means that the sheds don’t want to pop open cleanly to release the weft that you need to remove.. I literally had to tear the threads apart.And here it is finished and still on the loom. I tried to squeeze as much dark green out of it as I could at the end but warp tension was starting to get a bit wonky at that point and it was time to stop.

Once off the loom and after the usual finishing process, I wove a band along the bottom edge of the fabric using groups of warp threads from the fringe as the weft. I designed a double-faced pebble weave pattern that would suit the motifs on the cloth….hooks, diamonds, arrow heads. The piece certainly did not need any more added pattern but weaving a band like this is something I have been wanting to try and this was a good opportunity.

I suppose I shouldn’t have used this piece for my first attempt at this technique but I am quite pleased with the result nevertheless. It takes a while to figure out the number of threads to include in each warp bundle and how hard to beat. If either one of those two factors is not quite right, the fabric will pucker. And mine did a little. My first motif is more elongated than the other two. This is the result of having to adjust my beat as I went along.

I had been admiring ikat fabric from Sumba and had noticed that the weavers there join two panels of ikat cloth together side by side and then weave a band along the two ends of the joined panels using the threads in the fringe as the weft. The vast majority of examples that I have seen so far have been warp-faced plain-weave bands with some warp stripes. It makes me wonder if the weavers recognize that there is already enough pattern in the cloth itself and that the bands, therefore, should be quite plain. This is where I got the idea to weave such a band…but I wanted pattern in mine!

One of the many gifts that Kay Faulkner left to the weaving world was a set of video clips that she had taken while traveling in Indonesia. This will show you the process of weaving one of these bands in Sumba if you are curious….

My Montagnard (Vietnamese hilltribe) weaving teachers taught me to create a twined finish on unwoven warp ends. Like the Sumba weavers, they also join panels together to make their clothing.  A pattern is then twined around the unwoven warp threads on the edge of the combined panels. You can see this at the two ends of a piece I made after studying with these teachers. The Montagnard kteh edging is twined and highly patterned while the Sumba edging is woven and is normally quite plain, as far as I have seen so far. Sometimes a Montagnard weaver will hand over her cloth to a kteh expert who will finish off her woven work with the twined patterns.  Here is a video (unfortunately shot by me in quite low light conditions) of one of my Montagnard teachers twining part of a row with two colors. You can appreciate that it is quite a slow process compared to weaving a band along the edge. I find the movements very calming and graceful. I like the smooth, solid colors this technique produces. The twined band has only one “good” face.

Some day, my latest ikat experiment will find its place on a wall.  This experiment is over, notes have been taken, and it’s time to start thinking about the next project.  I am thinking about using cochineal to dye my next ikat attempt. I have only ever used it to dye llama fiber so far. It will be interesting to see how it goes on silk. Perhaps I’ll make some dye samples this time before I go and dive into the deep end. In the meantime, the unexpected colors that I created in this latest piece have grown on me…good and earthy….as the colors I had expected to get fade from my memory.

And, I continue the challenge of removing all color from my hair.  Let me sneak in an update here of my color-free challenge…18 months in and probably only two more trims to go to be rid of all the old dyed hair!

Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 17, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Into the Deep End

When I sit here deciding on the title of my blog post, it’s amazing the number of times that the title “Lessons Learned” immediately comes to mind. But then I think…Nope, I’ve used that one before. It’s lovely to weave structures and follow methods that I have used dozens and dozens of times over. The lessons have been learned from multiple mishaps. There’s no risk. It’s all fun. The results are guaranteed.

My current project doesn’t fall into that category. I broke my rules about sampling which left me with a large-ish project with a number of firsts and, therefore, many risks. And, I am still not done, so who knows whether this will a mess or success? Many lessons are being learned along the way while I splash around in the deep end.

I am still in ikat mode. You might be thoroughly bored with this topic by now. I certainly am not! There has been plenty to keep me on my toes. 

It was time to move on from 30/2 silk to the finer 60/2 silk. If I had been sensible, I would have woven a small sample to see how well I could handle keeping the pattern aligned in 60/2 silk, test the new methods that I have been hoping to use, as well as sample the dye colors.

Problem number 1: I decided that I should re-use the pattern that I had created some years ago in an ikat project in black-and-white in 20/2 cotton. I felt that I could double the pattern and still not end up with anything too wide in the finer silk. Well, it turns out that 60/2 silk is not all that much finer than 20/2 cotton. I drew out my pattern and calculated the number of threads I would need without fully realizing just how wide the project would end up being. Once I realized how wide it would be, there was the opportunity to scrap it and start over with something smaller but I was too carried away by the pattern at that point! I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out.

 

Problem number 2: I didn’t check my calculations and, therefore, didn’t dye enough thread in the base “rye” color that I like. I prefer the more subdued rye color over white. Once I had measured out the rye-color dye, there was only a tiny bit left in the jar. I thought ….What the heck…and threw it all in. Then I discovered the mistake in my calculations. So, I was short on yarn, with no dye left. I was in a position where I could have changed my pattern to a smaller one in order to suit the amount of thread that I had dyed. But no, I had my heart set on that pattern and wasn’t giving up. I dyed more thread in a color called “wheat” and figured out a way to work it in so that it looked like it had been planned.

Problem number 3: While I had placed the wheat-colored thread in the warp in what seemed like a nicely balanced way, I forgot to take into account the distribution of the threads into the bundles that would be tied with ikat tape and the placement of the wheat color in the pattern itself. It turns out the the wheat color wasn’t so well positioned after all. But…..I was beyond caring at that point!

Problem number 4: This wasn’t so much of a problem as a challenge. I wanted to divide the warp in two so that I could tie my pattern onto two layers of thread at once and create an instant mirror reflection. I divided it so that it was half its width, placing one half on top of the other, and checked countless times that I had the two layers aligned correctly so that I could start tying the pattern. This was my first time doing this and I dithered over it for a long time! I did something similar in another ikat project. That time I halved the warp so that it was half its length and, for some reason, it was easier.

Problem number 5: After all that dithering, I measured incorrectly and started tying the pattern in the wrong position. Never mind, I had only just started, I cut out the ties and happily started again, very pleased with myself for having done so. Then, when I was well into it, I discovered that I had made another mistake and was off in the pattern by one bundle. Urgh. I wasn’t going to start over. I adjusted the pattern and I think I can get away with it!

Here’s most of the main pattern tied…

I am usually very particular about sampling before I launch into a large project. It never occurred to me to sample the dye colors. In terms of color, this project has not turned out ANYTHING like I what I had originally envisioned! Fortunately, I still love it! Of course the colors in the paper chart that I have are based on dyeing over white. I had to expect that dyeing over rye and wheat would produce tones that did not match the chart. In fact, I was hoping that they would be duller colors. I dyed several layers of color in this project and now I know that I really can’t expect any color, no matter how strong it is, to completely cover and cancel out the underlying color. I was just lucky that I didn’t end up with a muddy mess! 

A discussion online had me thinking about weavers that work with natural dyes from plants that they grow themselves.. I am sure that they often get unexpected variations in the colors as rainfall and other conditions vary from year to year and must affect the quality, strength and tone of the colors that the plants produce.

This is the first color I dyed. It wasn’t what I had been expecting. I then tied some more sections on the green, adding some small motifs like the three you see here, to preserve this first color.

Below, you can see the result of the second layer of color. If I had been wanting teal, this would have been perfect. However, I had been expecting something VERY different. I tied off a few sections to preserve this color and unwrapped others ready for the third dyeing. Goodness knows what the third color will look like! At this point I was already contemplating Plan B:  if this project was a disaster, I would take off all the ikat tape and dye the whole thing black. Then I would be able to save it by weaving some colorful patterns into it in supplementary weft. It would still be a nice “something”…just not an ikat “something”.

Deep breath….here comes color number three…again, not what I was expecting!

Above, you can see it with all the ikat tape removed from the two combined layers. The two remaining strips of tape are preserving the teal color and are tied to the two layers separately. This means that I can now open the warp to its full width and leave those strips of tape in place while I start the weaving. I always feel more comfortable weaving with some ties still in place as I believe that they help minimize the amount that the threads shift. I am not crazy about having the teal there and I will probably weave some motifs in supplementary weft on those strips to almost completely cover them.

Now to get the cross sticks in and make heddles…882 of them! It was fun peeling the two layers apart to see the completed pattern.

The threads are still sitting together in their little bundles, somewhat stuck together after having been tightly wrapped for so long. I try to leave them that way as much as I can as I think that this also helps stop them from shifting too much out of alignment (although it is really tempting to strum and fan the whole thing out to get the full effect of the pattern).

In other news, I am moving along with my latest book project even though this ikat project has been occupying a lot of time. Sitting at the frame and tying patterns is very relaxing after typing away on the book project but it also opens my mind up to thinking about the current instability here in Bolivia and also the dreadful bush fires in my other home, Australia. Many people have written to me with their concerns about the situation in Bolivia as well as for my family, friends and property in Australia. I am always grateful to receive those messages and I reply to them in as much detail as possible. I hope you will understand if I don’t feel like talking about any of that here.

I’ll leave you with a picture taken by my brother, Wayne, of little bit of re-growth in the blackened bush at the back of his home on the mid north coast of NSW.

 

 

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