Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 18, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Round and Round it Goes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorinda tells me that Zuni is now learning to weave…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 4, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Seed of an Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then came the bigger circles….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is one of Svetlana’s pieces….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care and stay safe, please.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 21, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – The Third Drawer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 7, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – At the Bottom of the Tool Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And friendlier still once the heddles are in place…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 24, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Staying Balanced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I then created a wider warp.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some projects from my online weaving friends….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 10, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Chasing Away the Blues

I have been working with blues (and once or twice with the blues) these last two weeks as my latest ikat experiment develops. I still call these “experiments” as I aim to iron out kinks, try new things and learn something new from each attempt. I suppose the main focus of this one was to create the colors that I had in mind at the start of the project. If you have been reading along over this last year and following the progress of my ikat experiments, you will be used to my saying…”the color didn’t turn out at all as I had expected, but it grew on me.” This time, I decided that I would mix the dye powders I have and try to create certain tones of blue and have them match as closely as possible the colors that I have in mind, rather than just making do with what I get. Yes, Facebook reminded me that it’s has been a whole year since I started working on this latest round of ikat experiments. They began with my using short multi-colored base warps and black dye.

I showed you the start of my latest experiment in my last post where I had just begun applying the ikat tape. It’s a long narrow piece using what remains of my supply of 60/2 silk…a sash that will hang on the wall alongside other ikat pieces that I have created in this 60/2 silk. On the warping frame, it is folded to halve its length so that I can wrap the tape around two layers of threads at once.

Maybe a Christmas tree or a pine tree springs to mind…but, in my mind, these lines represent veins on a leaf.

I was able to mix three colors from my selection of dyes and get this faded-jeans blue as the first color layer. I was pleased with that. I wanted to get something that perhaps resembles the first dip in a vat of indigo.

The warp then went back onto the frame so that I could tie more patterns. That would allow me to reserve some of this color and then dye a second color over the top. Basically, all I wanted was a darker blue as the second color, preferably something that would look like multiple dips in an indigo vat. That took two attempts. On the first attempt, the color looked good and dark in the pot. I know to expect the color to lighten a lot as the thread dries, but it lightened way more than expected and I knew that there would not be enough contrast between the two shades of blue. 

On the second attempt, I got smarter and threw in some loose strands of silk that I had used as a test for the first faded-jeans color. I was able to remove them when I thought that the color was just about right and then rinse and quickly iron them dry to see the true color.

The warp then went back on the frame so that I could cut off the plastic wrappings. This time I didn’t leave any wrappings on. In my other experiments I left a row of wraps on the warp at the far end of the loom believing that they would help reduce the amount that the threads shifted as I wove. Time will tell if removing all the wrappings this time has been a mistake!

With all the wrappings removed, it was time for the grand opening. The warp could then go on my backstrap loom and be extended to its full length. I locate the pieces of thread that hold the cross and install the string heddles so that I can weave.

There are two kinds of shift that I have noticed from having done these ikat experiments as well as from having examined ikat work online, in exhibits and in my friends’ collections. When individual threads shift in varying degrees, you get that pleasant blurred effect that we all love. However, there’s another kind of shift that seems to be caused by the two layers of threads being misaligned. The result of that is an effect that I call “railroad tracks”. I am not fond of those railroad tracks!

In the picture below of an example of ikat work from Uzbekistan that my weaving friend Ute brought to show me , you can see the horizontal bars that I am calling railroad tracks. It’s something I would like to avoid. At the time of writing, I can tell you that the very first piece of pattern that I have reached in my current experiment, now that I have started weaving, is displaying railroad tracks….darn. I will be un-weaving and assessing and seeing what can be done about that. It may be the price for having removed all the wraps! If that is the case, I can say that this experiment truly had a purpose in showing me what not to do!

I am pleased with the tones of blue that I created. From now on, I will always toss a tiny bunch of loose silk into the dye bath with the ikat warp so that I can iron it dry, see the true color, and then adjust the dye mix accordingly. One other thing I did, which was maybe not a good idea, was leave the metal rod in place in the warp in the dye bath. I fold the warp around a metal rod when it is extended on the ikat frame. I removed it and replaced it with string in the first dye bath. As a result, all the threads at that end of the warp finished in a tangled mess. I left the rod in place in the second dye bath which kept everything in good order. However, either the metal stained the warp, or it reacted with the dye as there is a bit of a line across the center of the warp which may or may not come out in the wet-finish. More lessons learned!

At left, you can see a rough drawing I made of what I expect the finished piece to look like, complete with the line across the center. That line may refuse to budge in the wash and I so I may as well get used to it being there!

You may have noticed that the title of this post is “Chasing Away the Blues”. I have actually been actively welcoming blues in my latest project rather than chasing them away. What I am referring to in the title is the fact that I was involved in a very nice blues-chasing activity this morning. I received a very warm invitation to attend the Zoom meeting of a group of band weavers who call themselves the Banditos. What a way to lift my spirits! I am so grateful to Keith and the other Banditos for thinking of inviting me. This group is part of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. Being able to join in gave me a chance to experience just a little piece what I have been missing from not being able to travel to meet and weave with weaving friends while chatting about all things weaverly. I have traveled to Australia in July and August every year for the last four years to do that. Last year I even got to go to New Zealand and spend time with weaving friends. These Zoom gatherings certainly help to chase away the blues that I sometimes feel as we all face such uncertain futures. 

Now it’s time for Show-and-Tell….(another thing that chases away the blues for me is seeing what online weaving friends are creating using my publications)…..

The idea in this photo is to show you the band that Allyne Holz wove to go with the bag that she crocheted. The pattern that she chose for her Andean Pebble Weave band is from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. However, I know that you won’t be able to take your eyes off the bag! Leaf-lover, that I am, I have barely been able to get past the bag and its awesome draw-string closure either!

Diane Wardlow has chosen to weave a double weave band to add to the upper edge of her bag to cleverly increase its depth. She wove the  fabric for the bag using a really interesting sakiori/rag weaving technique.

Meg Kourmadas is also working her way through double weave using my book and has used the alpaca figure as part of her very first learning band.

Monique de Viscos is using a pretty variegated thread to weave patterns from my More Andean Pebble Weave Patterns book. It is interesting to see the effect of not using a third border color. I really need to include variegated thread in my bands from time to time. Monique’s band is very inspiring.

Orangie wove a striking sampler of eight-thread patterns from my Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book. 

I love the colors that Judy Andersen has combined for one of the 8-thread Andean Pebble Weave patterns in which S hooks are joined to form a sort of ram’s head motif.

And here’s Terry Martin’s first double weave learning band. I think she may have squeezed every one of the 11/12 learning patterns onto her band. I love the boldness and simplicity of lettering in this structure and how effective the very simplest stick letters can be.. There are also examples of more sophisticated alphabets in the book to inspire you.

Unfortunately, I was too late in asking permission from my online weaving friend, Josefin, to show her beautiful backstrap loom warps that she sets up attached to a tree in her garden in Sweden. She spins her own yarn and hand dyes it in lovely soft colors that look so natural. Hopefully I can include those very inspiring pictures next week.

I wonder if any of you are taking part in Ravelry’s annual Tour de Fleece event. I joined a team and have been spinning while waiting for my ikat warp to dry. I bought what were called Felters’ Packs when I was at the guild in Melbourne on one of my trips to Australia a few years ago. Here are the contents of one pack. I loved the colors and bought three packs. I think the quantity of yarn I get from this will be enough to weave a nice band perhaps in three-color pebble weave…something I haven’t done for a long time.

I hope you are all finding ways to stay positive and chase away the blues. Please stay safe and keep well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 26, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Creative outlets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First some scratchings on paper….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 12, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – How warp-faced are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care, please.

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 29, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Stash-busting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is opened out and on my backstrap loom…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone.

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 15, 2020

Backstrap Weaving – Looking Forward, Looking Back

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

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

From Bolivia 360 Facebook page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all I do…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe all of you, please.

 

 

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