Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 15, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Making the Most of It

Back when I was doing my training to be a teacher of English as a foreign language, I remember being told over and over to make sure that any original materials that we created were designed to be multi-functional. Why go to all the time and trouble to create something that would be used once in only one context?

I loved creating my own materials for English-teaching. Back then when I didn’t have much time for weaving, it seems that I poured all my creative juices into doing that. It was multi-functional in that I got to be creative while at the same time providing some welcome fun time for my students away from the text books. And I got better and better with using the same material in different ways with a variety of groups in a variety of contexts at different levels in their learning. And, as a bonus, it gave me a reason to buy stationery. I discovered that I have a thing for stationery.

Give me a chance to draw and paste and sticky-tape and color and I am happy as a baby.

When it comes to weaving, I have folders and closet shelves piled high with charts that I have created for projects. They got used once and then filed away, like the mega chart that I created for my Shipibo-inspired project that you can see above. Sometimes I wonder why I keep them. But then you know how that goes….about a week after you throw something away, you find that you need it, right?

My cat always enjoyed my get-down-on-the-floor-to-chart time.

So, with all that in mind, I am pleased that I have been taking the hummingbird charts, over which I have long labored, and using them in a variety of ways…making the most of all that time and effort. And, I am not done yet. I have a theme in my head for a future project…something that I wish to express, and all this sampling is hopefully leading me there. It’s all just a vague idea at the moment and I am still waiting for the light bulb to come on. In the meantime, I’ll just keep weaving hummingbirds.

I wanted to see what my hummingbird motifs looked like in a large format. I had completed my piece in 60/2 silk. In that fine thread, the stepped nature of the lines that form the various diagonals and curves is not all that noticeable. But what about in something much heavier? Would those lines then become clumsy and ugly? I combed through my stash and found that the only thing I had that would work in terms of having two high contrast colors was 8/2 Tencel and so I created a short warp for sampling. Some particularly high-twist crochet cotton made pretty heddles for warp-faced double weave.

What a dream it has been to weave with this heavier thread! Firstly, the Tencel is gorgeous to handle. It plays well with the crochet cotton heddles and is so easy to see when doing pick-up compared to to the 60/2 silk…no surprises there. I do think it is a shame to use Tencel, which is so much appreciated for its draping qualities, in a dense structure like warp-faced double weave but it was the only option in my available stash for this experiment. I promise that I won’t do it again!

Because the theme that I have in my head concerns embellishment and also the lack thereof, I decided to embellish my king-sized hummingbird to the max. I really enjoyed planning those “hippy bandanna” curls and swirls and I think they add to the playfulness, the love of life and joy of flight that hummingbirds always suggest to me. The hummingbird will be my new signature pattern.

I felt that the curve-like lines and stepped diagonals looked fine. I certainly did not feel distracted by the fact that the steps in these lines are more obvious than they are in finer thread. In fact, I would have to say that I was pretty thrilled with the whole thing.

So, what was next? I could see that 8/2 in warp-faced double weave in something of this width (3″) would simply not be useful for much…too wide for a sturdy belt or bag strap and much too thick and heavy for anything else. So I turned once again to my stash for something a little finer. I happen have, courtesy of my friend Deanna, a good supply of natural-colored 30/2 silk along with a small quantity of it that I had dyed in a color called “rye” for an ikat project I wove last year. The problem was that I did not have any other color that would allow me to weave pick-up patterns in double weave. Yes, I could dye some but…sigh…I wasn’t in the mood!

Solution….use supplementary weft to create the patterns. Bonus: for the supplementary weft structure, I can use the same chart as I do for double weave. I like to use several strands of a finer thread for the supplementary weft which gave me a nice selection from which to choose in my stash of 60/2 silk. I went with rye warp and teal supplementary weft.

The pattern color that you see in the double weave version on the right comes from warp threads that do not float as opposed to the silk piece in which the pattern is formed by floating weft threads. I love the added dimension that the supplemental weft threads give to the cloth. Bonus: I only made one set of heddles for this structure as opposed to four for the double weave piece. The double weave bonus: I can create horizontal lines of any length I please which I can’t do in the supplemental weft structure as the weft floats need to be limited to a certain practical length. That meant that some parts of my original charts needed to be modified. Long horizontal lines for wings needed to be transformed into sweeping curves. It took some time but wasn’t difficult to do and I am really pleased with the way they turned out.

While I wait for that light bulb to come on which will enable me to figure out how exactly to compose the themed piece that I have in mind, I will weave these embellished hummingbirds into something useful. I think I will use my embellished hummers with some indigo-dyed cotton from Guatemala that I have and use it to make journal covers as I have in the past. That will involve an outing to the stationery store to find a nice sized journal. I want something quite big so that I can squeeze in a lot of hummingbirds. I am hoping to get something that has paper that is nice for sketching.

The indigo and champagne colored Guatemalan thread along with the initial width sample that I wove for the first journal.

I used this 30/2 cotton in the past for mini-journal covers which I have given away as gifts. I wove my friends’ initials into the spines of the books…no re-gifting allowed!

For these, I used embroidery floss for the supplementary weft but I can tell you that removing strands from the slightly twisted six strands of floss is a royal pain if you are wanting to use very long lengths. I like to split all six strands and then lay them back together again so that all twist is removed. That way they lie flat and ribbon-like on the cloth just the way I like it. Yes, it’s a pain and so I might use silk instead. Combining threads to create multi-stranded weft is so much easier than pulling stands apart.

In the meantime, Zoom time is still spinning-and-plying time and progress is ever so slow. It gives me lots of time to think about how I would like to over-dye some of these colors and what I would like to weave with them. The planning is all the more important when using one’s own handspun and I already blew it by over-dyeing a really nice green with black the last time I used this handspun to weave some cuffs.

I also have another idea for an ikat project developing in which I combine it with three-color reversible pebble weave. I am sure that it will happen long before this handspun is ready for use.

And so I keep myself busy and out of trouble and keep my spirits lifted. Book sales at Taproot Video are keeping me afloat and I am hoping that the cooler temperatures in the northern hemisphere mean more cozy time at home weaving for those who live up there and maybe time to try some of the patterning techniques that I teach in my books. As always, thank you all for your support!

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 27, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – It isn’t all in the Wrist

The Garden Bands are finished and now the question is whether to use them in a project and, if the answer is yes, how?

In my last blog post, I showed you the first of the two bands sitting alongside my hummingbird band.

When I had finished the hummingbird band, I had been thinking about cutting it into two or three pieces, placing them side by side and making “something”. Friends in one of my Zoom groups were not enthusiastic and suggested I weave two bands to flank the hummers and use the whole thing as a wall hanging. I liked the idea of not having to cut (and possibly regret having done so). On top of that, weaving accompanying narrow bands meant that I could once again try out the little flower motifs and the subtle color transitions that I had been sampling in 20/2 cotton.

Now both bands are finished and here they are together…..

I am really pleased with them and may never use them for anything at all. I just really enjoyed creating them. I will play around with placing them next to the hummingbirds in various ways to create symmetry or even asymmetry as some of my weaving friends have suggested. I might keep the borders or perhaps fold them back so that they are hidden. I might hang them together so that they look like one complete piece or leave space between them.

Right now, I think I just need to leave them be and think about all that. Put it this way, there won’t be any cutting or sewing happening just yet.

What I would like to do next is sample these motifs in heavier thread. I have some 8/2 tencel that I would like to try. It will be interesting to see how wide the piece will be in this tencel. I have quite a few people asking me if I plan to publish these patterns and I am not really sure how they will look on a larger scale. They are fine and delicate in 60/2 silk. How will they look in 8/2 tencel?

At the same time I am not even sure if I would like to publish the hummingbirds. The hummingbirds have become part of my pandemic experience…they represent my yearning to be out of all this and zipping about freely. My friends in the States tell me that it is time to take in their feeders as the hummingbirds start their migration south. It must be so nice spotting the first ones arriving at the start of the season the following year. I have often thought about doing a similar seasonal change by spending the mild winters here in Bolivia and the summers in Australia but that was a pre-pandemic dream. I am not sure if I can pull that off any more. I, like many of you I am sure, have had to modify plans with the times.

This is the warp I created for the second band…

In this photo, I have finished creating the heddles for one half of the warp in this warp-faced double weave structure (one heddle set for all the light threads, and one for the darks), and have just started creating a third set for the light threads on the other side of the cross. A fourth will hold all the dark threads on that side of the cross. Those of you who have used my book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms will have learned a two-shed set-up for this same structure that is perfect for the inkle loom. I only use four sets of heddles when I am weaving with a lot of ends and especially if the thread is fine. The inkle loom is perfect for the more basic two-shed set-up with heavier thread and fewer ends. Bolivian weavers who use this structure will use the method that is traditionally used in their community. Some of them use the two-shed method even when the threads are fine and numerous. This was the way that I was initially taught. Others use a four-shed set-up.

Working with multiple sets of heddles for a warp-faced structure on a fixed-tension loom, like the horizontal ground looms that are used in certain areas of Bolivia and Peru, is challenging.

Bunches of string heddles control the colored layers of warps on the horizontal loom of Taquile Island, Peru

In my experience, using a loom where the weaver can modify tension at will with his or her body makes the process of using multiple heddles much easier. Of course, I am talking about the backstrap loom. The weaver can control just how much the warp threads are able to rise and bend to form as large a shed as necessary without dragging up any sticky neighboring threads that don’t belong, and without causing abrasion.

A two-heddle set-up for Andean Pebble Weave for one of my Within These Walls panels.

When I was first taught Andean Pebble Weave way back in 1996 using narrow warps with quite fine thread, I was shown how to manage two sets of heddles. It took quite some time to figure out what was going on. I would just watch my teachers hands deftly manipulating the heddles, magically and effortlessly creating clean sheds, but at first was not able to replicate the moves. What I wasn’t noticing was how the rest of the body was also involved in the process. It wasn’t only about what their hands were doing. My teachers had to move to slightly relax tension on the warp while working with their hands. I broke a few warp threads in my rough handling before that key piece of information clicked. Those broken threads did not make me popular! You might understand what the title of this blog post is about now.

On narrow warps, I was able to wrap one set of heddles over one hand and roll it away while pulling up on the other heddle with the other hand. The wrapping and rolling tightens all the threads in those heddles. It holds them taut and in place so that they simply cannot grab on to neighboring threads and become part of a shed in which they don’t belong.

Here’s 7-year old Lily doing just that:

This and some of the following images are screen shots from videos that I took and will be blurry as a result. I think they still allow you to see what is going on. You can see how slack Lily’s warp is because she has relaxed tension (more than is really necessary as you can get away with very slight movements when the warp is this narrow). One hand is pulling up the second group of heddles while the other wraps and rolls the first set away.

Here’s my student Berna doing the same: (Hi Berna! I know you read this blog from time to time). She is raising the first heddle while rolling the other away. You can see how her left pinky rests on the warp and acts as the pivot point for the roll. Having placed her other pinky within the shed to save it, her body is on its way to returning to the “neutral” position in which the tension on the warp is no longer relaxed. She had relaxed tension just enough to enable her to save the shed on her finger. She can later replace her finger within the shed with a sword to beat.

Susan learned all this about operating a loom with two sets of heddles on narrow warps from me during my visits in the States. She needed to contact me recently after having set up the beautiful Andean Pebble Weave warp (below) with its two sets of pretty heddles as it’s her first time attempting something this wide. She works with wood and has had to prepare swords that will suit the width of this new project. I hope that she sends pictures of them.

The heddles on their rods fill a narrower space than the width of the warp as some of the heddles hold two threads. This difference in width is expected as the woven cloth will be a fair bit narrower than the width of the warp as you see it here. The fact that this structure uses warp floats on both faces of the fabric means that the fabric will be narrower and thicker than one with the same number of ends in plain weave.

Isn’t this warp gorgeous? I can’t wait to see what she does with this asymmetric layout.

This is Susan’s first attempt at this kind of width having woven several beautiful Andean Pebble Weave guitar straps for friends and family which have given her plenty of practice in winding nicely-tensioned warps and making string heddles. Of course, now her question is how to manage these two sets of much wider heddles. A hand is simply not large enough to wrap and roll these.

For wide warps, I was taught to substitute a sword for the hand….

Here I am demonstrating doing this for a group of friends and exaggerating somewhat to show the effect of moving my body forward to relax tension on the warp. The more I move forward, the larger the shed. The edge of the sword rests on the warp and is the pivot point. Once the shed is open, I can let go of the sword in the wrapped-and-rolled heddle, maintain the forward position, keep pulling up on the heddle rod, and save the open shed on a sword. You can see how my sword is completely wrapped within the heddles and rolled. So, an important tip is to take account of the width of your sword when you are making the heddles. If they are shorter than the width of the sword, this move will not work so well. If they are a lot longer, they will be clumsy.

This still-shot which I grabbed from one of my videos, shows a backstrap weaver in Peru positioning herself to wrap and roll her sword away while her other hand lifts the heddle nearest to her. She chooses to use a sword rather than her hand even on this relatively narrow warp. Her sword sits just below the heddle stick which shows that her heddles are the perfect length for this. That is what I always aim for. No doubt she has been doing this for most of her life and doesn’t even need to think about it.

Now you can see her raised heddle a lot more clearly and her forward position is evident.

So, this was precisely what I was doing on my double-weave Garden warp. I would roll Heddle One away with my hand while lifting Heddle Two. And I worked Heddles Three and Four in the same way. It enabled me to work with this fine 60/2 silk without breaking any threads from abrasion and achieve nice clean sheds every time.

When working with just one heddle together with a shed rod, I like to use what I call the “twisty stick” method. You can see this in action in this video clip. Twisting the two sticks tightens that layer of threads so that the threads remain taut and in place while I bend and raise the threads in the other layer. I go into this in more detail (how to set it up etc) in my video class Operating a Backstrap Loom.

You can see me using the twisty sticks a few times in this next video where I am nearing the end of a warp of 60/2 silk…

Of course, it is important to point out that there are many many different methods used by backstrap weavers to operate their looms. I share with you some of my current favorite methods that work well for me with a variety of warp materials. There is no single correct way to do any of this. Some materials, for example, are just friendlier in terms of stickiness and work well with simpler methods. Some materials are so sturdy that the weaver can get away with simply grabbing and pulling up on the heddle while sawing it back and forth along the warp to clear the shed and remove any stray threads that don’t belong.

How I would love to be there with all of you who are venturing into weaving on backstrap looms. Who knows when that will be possible? In the meantime, I hope that some of what you have seen here today is helpful and perhaps interesting even to those who don’t use a backstrap loom.

It’s time to wet finish the Garden and Hummingbird bands and give them a good hard press in order to better enjoy the loveliness of the silk. Right now they could easily be mistaken for cotton. I am looking forward to bringing out their sheen.

Until next time….

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 5, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Anniversary

My birthday fell on lucky Friday the thirteenth this year, Friday August 13.

Birthday 2019. Perth, Australia.

I was also lucky in that I got, as I usually do, a double dose. I am greeted with wishes from friends and family in Australia a good fourteen hours before the calendar flips over in Bolivia.

For several years pre-pandemic I would find myself in Australia in the middle of a teaching tour on my birthday. None of my students would know and it would pass like any other day. It would be too weird to walk into a classroom, greet the students and announce that it was my birthday, right?! However, on my last visit in 2019, after a day of teaching in Perth on the west coast of Australia, my friend Wendy helped me celebrate. We had dinner at the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and she even brought along a candle so that I could have a birthday gelato. ❤

This year was celebrated with mini cheesecakes some of which I placed in the freezer. I ate the last one today. What a way to stretch out a good thing. It’s something like the way I am stretching out my fairly limited yarn stash. I am choosing very long, slow and involved projects that don’t use much thread so that I can really get some bang for my buck.

I decided to go with the ideas I had received from band-weaving friends who suggested I weave two narrow bands to accompany my silk band of hummingbirds. By the way, today September 4, according to the Audubon Society, is National Day of the Hummingbird in the USA. I wonder how bird enthusiasts mark the occasion?

For my latest project, I had to sort through my stash of silk as I have completely run out of natural white. The closest I could get was a very pale yellow.

The blue that I had used in the hummingbird piece was almost gone and I had to scrape up every bit of it that I could find including bits that remained on shuttles from past weaving projects. I needed to make sure that I would have enough for two projects, one band on each side of the hummingbird piece. It would be the border color.

There was plenty of the pinkish lavender that I had used as the border of the hummingbird band. The problem was that at some point I had wound it off its skein into two balls and then doubled it and wound it into a single ball….possibly to use as supplementary weft? Who knows? I can tell you that it is very tedious separating doubled threads back into two singles.

This new band would only be an inch and a half wide (122 ends in each layer of double weave) and so I didn’t have to struggle with splitting and recovering the doubled thread for too long. I ended up with a warp of blue borders with lavender and pale yellow for the double-weave center.

I wanted this band to show flowers and other bits of garden in keeping with the hummingbird theme. I was pleased to be able to use what I had learned from a previous double-weave experiment in which I wove flowers in a style that I had seen and admired on Japanese braids created on a takadai. The sample was in 20/2 cotton in gold and black.

What I had liked about those Japanese braids was the fact that the images do not sit wholly within the width of the band. The way that they sort of overflowed off the edges seemed to give them a certain amount of movement and playfulness. I also liked the way in which the braider had flipped background color back and forth from light to dark without creating a harsh horizontal division. I am told that in this kind of braiding the color transition can be achieved structurally but is also sometimes created by using space-dyed thread, I will stick with doing it structurally in my double-weave band for now. I quite like the challenge of making that happen… figuring out just where and how to place the figures to make gradual transitions.

People always ask me about how I manage to see the tiny threads as I do the pick-up. The high contrast between the blue and white in the hummingbird piece made this very easy. I was able to read the cloth and not have to count cells on my pattern chart. Once the pick for the first row of pattern is counted out on the chart and in the threads and woven, all subsequent rows can be picked by simply adding threads to the left or right of those picked in the previous row. It’s actually delightfully easy. I use the picked threads from the preceding row to find my position. Having high contrast between the colors makes that possible. I only need to count chart cells and threads again at the start of a new figure.

What I wasn’t prepared for was to find how much harder it was to pick the flower patterns simply because the contrast between the lavender and yellow threads was so much lower. I was really disappointed because it meant I would have to go through the tedious process of counting cells on the chart as well as counting threads almost every row to make sure I was starting each row in the correct place. It was very much harder to find the right position. It started out being very tedious and on the first evening I was almost ready to abandon it. However, it’s amazing how quickly I got used to being able to “count” cells on the chart at a glance. I just started being able to recognize what a group of ten cells looked like without having to actually stop and count them out one by one. Of course, I didn’t get it right every time but this made life easier and I was able to settle and enjoy my weaving. Dividing the chart into ten-cell columns would have made it even easier and I might do that next time.

So, I have another 130″ of chart rolled up in my closet and am about to start planning out the band for the other side.

My initial thought was that there should be a matching band on the other side, a mirror image of what I had already woven. Not surprisingly, I had zero interest in repeating what I had just woven! So, I am planning a new band that will be more about leaves and boughs with a few flowers here and there. My band-weaving friends agreed that the new band should be different (thank goodness!) Of course, it will be in the same colors but I need the challenge of a new pattern.

See what I mean about bang for my buck? I will probably end up having worked on this for over three months by the time I am done. Luckily I LOVE designing. It’s giving me something interesting on which to focus…color transitions and use of positive and negative figures…and it uses very little thread. There’s also something quite satisfying about using up every bit of thread rather than having odds and ends of fairly useless tiny balls of random colors rolling around at the bottom of the drawer.

Now I will be obliged to starting using my stash of 30/2 silk again if I want to use natural white in a future project. I have plenty of that. It means that I’ll also be able to play with dyes again. Maybe there will be more ikat happening.

Ikat scarf with supplementary-weft patterns in 30/2 silk.
Ikat cowl in 30/2 silk

As for the anniversary that I mention in the title of this blog, I was able to mark the 25th Anniversary of my very first backstrap loom weaving lesson in Peru in 1996. I know that I traveled onward to Huancayo a week after having spent my birthday in Ayacucho. It was in Huancayo while recovering from illness that I started weaving with two ladies who had moved there from Ayacucho during the activity of the Shining Path movement.

They taught me Andean Pebble Weave as well as how to create patterns using supplementary warp threads. They also gave me my very first sword which I still have and treasure even though it is quite bent out of shape now with use.

My first Andean Pebble Weave and supplementary-warp learning bands
.

It’s amazing how that encounter would come to change the entre path of my life. So here’s silver-haired-me raising a shuttle and marking my Silver Backstrap Loom Anniversary.

Twenty-five years later, here’s my book on Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms which is available as a PDF or as a spiral-bound book at Taproot Video. The two outer bands in this image were woven by Priscilla Bradburn who took several of the small motifs that are charted in the book and combined them to create her own unique design. It’s very inspiring to see what she has done using these basic shapes.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 12, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Thinking Outside the Walls

Is there anybody out there?! This was taken on a visit many years ago to the fabulous Salar de Uyuni here in Bolivia.

Fully vaccinated (albeit with the Sinopharm one in which I have little faith), I decided it was time to think outside the walls and venture out for my first outing, since the arrival of Covid-19 in Bolivia, that didn’t involve the supermarket or the dentist.

What would I find out there? Would I find that I have been behaving in an overly cautious way all this time and perhaps one of the few still hiding away within walls?

Would everything be completely normal? After all, we are not under any kind of restrictions now. Case, hospitalization and death numbers rise and fall from day to day as the third-wave curve wends its way downward. The fourth wave has already been predicted to arrive in October. Have we all just learned to live with this?

I have always been good at physical distancing! This was taken on a visit to a large expanse of sand dunes that inexplicably emerge from the surrounding jungle right here in Santa Cruz where I live.

This outing wasn’t about visiting spectacular salt lakes or mysterious sand dunes. It was simply about eating a burger with a friend in one of my old favorite hang-outs…the main Plaza here in the center of Santa Cruz. I used to live one and a half blocks away from it and would pass through it every day on my way to and from work. After finishing work at 10pm, I used to love stopping to sit there on balmy summer nights. The place would be full of activity as others gathered to enjoy the relative coolness of the evening before reluctantly heading home to face a restless night within heated walls.

My companion suggested the Plaza. The thought of being amongst all those people doing something that required the removal of masks made me nervous, even though it was an outdoor setting.

A typical sunny weekend afternoon would see the Plaza completely full…standing room only… as families gathered to eat ice cream and watch the world go by. There would be wandering coffee cart vendors in their crisp white uniforms, others selling cotton candy, balloon animals and toys and trinkets, people feeding the pigeons, kids chasing the pigeons, teenagers gathered in their little groups in every corner, the shoe shine guys poised ready for the next customer, elderly men playing chess surrounded by youngsters studying their moves, wanna-be models having their photos taken outside the cathedral. The Municipal Police would be strolling around although it is hard to imagine anything “bad” happening in that place of good clean fun. In a city in which it is often impossible to escape the blast of salsa and cumbia music, the Plaza is blissfully music-free.

And so it was with a mixture of relief and sadness that we found the Plaza almost deserted. There was no need to make circuits while looking for a place in the shade. Clearly people are being careful and largely staying home which is a big ask when home can often be a simple adobe or single brick dwelling, the interior of which resembles a pizza oven on hot days. It was sad to see this popular cooling refuge abandoned in this way.

Yes, I admit that it is strange to be writing several paragraphs about an outing to get a burger! So I’ll get back to the weaving now. In my last post I showed you the start of my hummingbird piece. This is another effort to think outside the walls and capture a feeling of uninhibited movement and joy.

I am weaving this in warp-faced double weave. It is certainly not the fastest patterning technique that I know. However, you might remember that I have just spent seven months picking up threads one by one to form intricate patterns on four panels. As a result, nothing feels slow any more and I just simply enjoy watching each and every one of the little figures I have created emerge. I loved designing the plants and piecing all the figures together. Weaving this lifts my spirits!

This is the final third of the band which I photographed so that you can see what the two faces look like. The plant at the very top is the one which is showering the scene with its parachuting seeds.

There was never meant to be an end product but I did find myself thinking about cutting this strip into three and sewing the pieces side by side to make something useful. But then a couple of people in a recent band-weaving Zoom gathering suggested weaving two more strips to flank this one. They could reveal more of the garden that surrounds this happy scene. I like that idea. It spares me the agony of having to do any cutting. All of you who produce hand woven cloth will know exactly what I mean. Plus it gives me a chance to do some more designing in this fun double- weave structure. It amazes me how far removed this is from the kind of pieces that I generally choose to weave.

And so I get to sprawl on the floor and do some more double-weave doodling. The chart for the hummingbird piece ended up being 130 inches long! I suppose I could photograph it in sections, erase the drawings and re-use the paper.

I was very pleased to see that Vicky Erker has been designing her own double-weave motifs after having learned the technique from my book Warp-faced Double Weave on Inkle Looms. My book includes a section on designing in which I use a leaf motif as the example. Some people take to designing more easily and quickly than others while some have no desire to design at all and are happy weaving from charts that have been provided in books.

This striking hand petroglyph is the first pattern that Vicki showed me…..

And then she blew me away with this pattern that she based on a Quetzal motif that is often used in textiles of Guatemala. In Guatemala it is woven using completely different patterning structures.. Isn’t that awesome!

If you are wondering about the H and O lettering on Vicki’s swords. it is something I suggest doing to help you keep track of the shed in which you are working when weaving double weave. You can always mark tape and apply that to the sword if you don’t want to mark your sword. The H stands for Heddle Shed and the O for Open Shed. It is one of the tips I give weavers for working in double weave which of course will make much more sense when you are using the book. I hope you might consider trying warp-faced double weave. There are plenty of charts in the book and perhaps you will feel motivated to try creating some of your own designs.

When I was going through my old photos and finding the ones I posted earlier of the Uyuni Salt Lake and the sand dunes, one of my first thoughts on seeing those pictures, was…wow, not a single tree to which I could attach a backstrap loom! Of course, a tree would not be entirely necessary as backstrap weavers can turn themselves into completely self-contained looms using our feet or toes to hold the end of the warp.

Carolin shows here that if you happen to find yourself at the Uyuni salt lake while cycling from Alaska to Ushuaia, one’s bicycle can always provide a handy anchor point for the end of the warp….

Carolin with tiny loom tied to her bike and weaving on the salt lake.

Others have chosen to create something a little more comfortable that can be picked up, carried around and enjoyed both indoors and out. I don’t quite remember who started the frame-making thing in the Facebook group but several members have found these to be a really nice idea when they got fed up with looking for suitable places in their homes, both indoors and out, to which they can attach the ends of their warps. Here’s the one that Martina in Germany built….

Here’s Jenny’s with a clever pool-noodle hack to stop the beam from sliding….

And here are models by Carlos on the left and Rosemary on the right…

Ritika Mittal allowed me to show this image of a weaver in Nagaland using a study frame to hold the end of her warp and provide a nice place for her to brace her feet.

Nancy’s anchor point isn’t exactly a portable one, but I always enjoy seeing a simple backstrap warp being attached to the more complex floor loom…this is Nancy’s first ever backstrap loom project and its a beauty.

When I was having my Operating a Backstrap Loom class filmed, we had some trouble finding an anchor spot in the studio that was close enough to the set because I insisted on sitting on the floor. Eventually we managed to pile a lot of heavy stuff into a portable storage bin and use that.

While on the topic of that video class, Operating a Backstrap Loom, I’ll take this opportunity to let you know that the stock of DVDs is really low now and that I won’t be replacing them when Taproot Video runs out. The purchase of the Lifetime Streaming option caught up with, and now far outnumbers, the purchases of DVDs. So, if DVDs are your preference (they still are mine), you might want to make sure you get one while they are still around.

I showed Nancy’s first-ever weaving on a backstrap loom. I neglected to ask her if this piece is destined to become a backstrap. The dimensions are right. The backstrap itself is often a new backstrap-loom user’s first project and I am happy to see that the article I wrote about weaving your own backstrap way back in 2009 is still being used and enjoyed.

Here are a couple of backstraps that have been woven recently by Lieve on the left and Louise on the right….

My birthday is on Friday (lucky Friday the 13th) and I’ll hopefully be venturing outside the walls again for a little celebration.

Until next time.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 23, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Road to Double Weave

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

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

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

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

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

Hummingbirds from the Within These Walls series.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 27, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – A Bit of the Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polytmus guainumbi (source watermarked)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…..

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 4, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Between Science and Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pale-bellied Hermit Hummingbird. John Gould 1861.

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

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

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

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

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 21, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Unraveling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the root system taking shape….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and continue to stay safe, please.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 19, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – Come Fly With Me

Let’s do a little armchair traveling.

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

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

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

Tent panels of woven yak yarn. Photo: Daniel Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From visityap.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…..

Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 2, 2021

Backstrap Weaving – The Story of the Hummingbird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next came her first faja

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

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

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

Take care everyone and stay safe, please.

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