Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 29, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – When You are not the Loom

Weaving buddies of mine were recently at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and shared pictures and video of all the wonderful people, crafts and textiles they saw.

Marge Sume was in the right place at the right time and shared a small piece of video that she took of a gentleman from Kyrgyzstan weaving a narrow band. It was very interesting to see this as I have woven replicas of patterns of Kygyzstan woven in the terme structure and I wrote a tutorial on the method that I use to create the structure. It is always wonderful to  be able to see the methods the weavers themselves use but this is not always possible. And so, 6 years after I wove my first Kyrgyz motif, I now have been able to watch one of the weavers at work via Marge’s video clip. Exciting! It turns out that although my loom is different, the method is similar. The gentleman from Kyrgyzstan uses fewer steps than I do and is more efficient.

kyrgyzstan weaver screen shot of videoYou can see the loom on which the weaver is demonstrating and you will see more of it in the video. I, of course, use a backstrap loom for all my weaving.

When I am using a backstrap loom, I feel that I am part of the loom myself. The warp is attached to my body by way of the backstrap. My movements back and forth allow me to relax and increase tension on the warp and operate the loom smoothly and efficiently. I am part of the loom. In fact, on the occasions when I stretch the warp between my hips and my big toe, I am more than just a part of the loom; I am the loom.

My body movements enable me to easily open the shed controlled by the string heddles. A few coordinated moves which involve adjusting the tension on the warp allow me to raise the heddle stick and create a clean shed without having to struggle or scrape the heddles along the warp. All of you who have tried backstrap weaving will know what happens if you repeatedly scrape those heddles…fluff builds up, then pills and warp threads start to stick together making it very difficult to create clean sheds.

Watch two Peruvian weavers operating the heddle shed on their backstrap looms…

So, what happens when you are working with a warp that is under a fixed tension? Your body is not part of the loom and you can’t increase or ease tension at will.

If your loom is strong and fixed in place, you can grab hold of the heddle rod and pull with all your might…

vertical loom coastal EcuadorMariana is pulling the heddle rod with one hand in order to create a shed of all the white warp threads. Her other hand holds back the blue threads that want to stick and come forward with their white partners. The vertical loom is lashed to the floor and ceiling beams of the house and Mariana can put all her strength into pulling on the heddle rod without disturbing the loom.

But, what if the loom is not fixed in place like Mariana’s and, what’s more, is made of very light-weight material?

martaMarta, a Mapuche weaver of central Chile, is using a warp that is under fixed tension and her leaning vertical loom is very light. If she were to pull on her heddle rod, she would simply pull her loom away from the wall. She uses a different system for raising the warp threads that are controlled by the string heddles.

The heddle stick rests against poles which are placed alongside the leaning posts of the loom frame which means that the warps in the heddles are in a raised position. This means that Marta does not have to pull on the heddle stick in order to raise the warps in the heddle shed. You can see in the following video at the 28-second mark that by pushing down on the warps held on the shed rod, just enough space is created to allow her to get her fingers under the warps in the heddles and lift to fully raise them. (You might want to turn down the volume for this video).

Which brings me to the weaver from Kyrgyzstan. His heddles are in a position that keeps them in what looks like a permanently raised position. You will see that, like Marta,  he does not need to touch the heddle stick at all in order to open that shed. He simply strums the warps to bring all the light-colored warps to the upper layer. He props the wide flat piece of board on its side to raise the dark threads. Many thanks to Marge for allowing me to share her video here.

s yurt

The weaver uses what I call a ”simple” warp-float technique because warp floats are used on only one face of the cloth. It is based on two sheds with dark threads in one shed and all the light threads in the other. Plain weave on such a warp would produce a band of alternating dark and light horizontal bars.

You can see him selecting pairs of light colored warps and then adding them to the dark shed. Then he selects dark-colored pairs of warps and adds them to the light shed.

One of my other weaving buddies, Annie, took pictures of the woven band. The motif is not clear at all in the video but in the pictures I could see that he was weaving an ”S” shaped motif.

I was pretty tickled about that as it just happens to be the motif that I use in my tutorial here on my blog.


The patterns are formed by floating certain pairs of dark threads over  light horizontal bars and certain pairs of light threads over dark horizontal bars.

I have woven some of my favorite pieces using this technique and motifs from Kyrgyzstan but I have also seen cloth woven using this structure in tropical lowland Peru, Mexico and the Middle East.

yurt band design

Now, let me show you some things I have been working on lately.

I have been continuing to use the tiny skeins of naturally-dyed silk that I was given.

Since I last posted, I have finished the piece using the blue and green tones and created a fourth piece using browns, tans and golds. I wanted to maintain the ”leaf” theme and wove a pattern of leaves and creeper into the blue and green piece and I invented my own leaf pattern in the Andean Pebble Weave structure for the brown piece.

 I have yet to glue and finish the book covers.

I need to buy some nice paper in colors that match the fabric I have woven. I glue this paper on top of the ends of the woven fabric that get turned over to the inside of the covers. You can see an example below on the last collection of covered journals I made.

inside cvers of journals with backstrap weaving

Here are the three pieces I have made so far. The fabric is just sitting around the books for now until I am ready to glue and finish them.

book covers with naturally dyed silkAs for the fourth piece with the brown tones, I first needed to weave a sample as I had to see how the silk would behave and what kind of width it would give me in the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The first three pieces I had a woven with the silk were in plain weave…two simple versions with supplementary-weft patterns and one more complex one in double weave. I also wanted to see how my invented leaf pattern would look in case I needed to make adjustments. What looks good on paper often doesn’t weave up with the same happy results.

andean pebble weave leaf sampleI was pleased with my new pattern. The light colored silk is finer than the darker colors and I wasn’t sure if the pattern would show up well enough as a result. It’s quite a narrow pattern and so I decided to weave two columns of it in my project using the browns, tans and golds from my collection of naturally dyed silk. Now I can finish the red sample and sew it into a wrist cuff…another one for the collection.

natural dyed silk in browns and golds backstrap weavingI have to admit that this new warp looked a little drab after the rich reds, purples and greens with which I had been working. However, once the light Andean Pebble Weave pattern started showing up against the darker tones, the contrast brought the whole thing to life.

front and back of leaf natural dye pieceAs usual, it is hard to decide which side I like better. I had planned to use the darker side on the book cover and that is why I used light colors immediately next to the pebble weave section to provide a nice contrast. The back looks nice in its own way because the thicker dark-colored silk makes the leaves stand out more against the lighter finer silk background.

four natural dye pieces leaf themeHere are the four finished pieces waiting to be turned into book covers. I haven’t washed and pressed the brown piece yet.

I still have plenty of silk left! There are lots of the deep rich red tones to play with and I might make something using only the finer of the two kinds of silk. The finer silk took the dye colors in a very different way and there are some very pretty apricot, melon, lavender and peach tones.Perhaps I will make some cuffs.

As for the wee journals, they might become gifts…although, I’ll be keeping the berry-colored one for myself!:-)

Speaking of natural dye colors, I will finish by showing you just a tiny sampling of the bands I just received from Maxima and the weavers in Cochabamaba…

latest bands cbba










Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 15, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Leaves on the Snow

I can’t tell you how much fun I have been having with the tiny natural dye silk samples I was given on my last trip away! As the temperature here fluctuates every few days from the 60s to the 90s, I find myself buried in cool purples, warm golds and soft cheery spring-like greens and blues.

First I would like to show you what is going to become of the ”Leaves Amongst the Berries” piece that I showed in my last post. I am going to make it into a journal cover. I have woven journal covers before where I first found some suitable journals, wove a width sample with my chosen yarn….supplementary weft leaf pattern journal cover backstrap weaving and then wove fabric to fit…

journal coversThis time, I have done things the wrong way round having first woven the cloth and then deciding to use it to cover a little book. I needed to find a journal that was just the right size and I got lucky…

book cover natural dyesThen, I dove into that lovely heap of naturally dyed silk and picked out some purples and golds for the next project…

purple and gold natural dyesThe center has purples, rusts and greens mixed with off-white in what I planned to be a section of double weave. I wanted to have multi-colored naturally-dyed silk leaves on a background of solid off-white.

purple and gold natural dye with double weaveHere it is getting started on the loom. Only the center is double weave and it is flanked by warp-faced plain weave…”embedded double weave”, as I like to call this technique, which requires the use of two weft threads.

embedded double weave with natural dye silk samplesOf course, the back shows off-white leaves on a multi-colored background for an entirely different look. I am calling this one ”Leaves on the Snow”.

Now I have to figure out how to use this in a finished item where both faces can be seen. I had initially planned it as a book cover but it seems a shame to have the other face permanently hidden. Hmmm….I should have switched the background and motif color halfway. That would have made an interesting book cover with front and back covers being different.  And this is one of the many things I love about writing this blog… ideas come to me as I sit here typing. I’ll weave another one that shows both possible faces!reverse of double weave

So, here are both pieces showing off all those luscious natural dyes colors…

On to the next one….this time using greens, blues and golds with a few dark greys tossed in here and there…

blues and greens

This one has been planned for a book cover. I have bought the journal and I want to have a sort of ”leaf and creeper” pattern down the center of the front and back covers…

leaf and creeper pattern on natural dyed silk

Between these larger projects, I sewed a wrist cuff from some of the sample fabric I had woven for my conference pouch and edged it with a ñawi awapa. I love it when my samples can also be turned into a finished item.wrist cuffs with nawi awapas

I made the one on the right some time ago with my hand-spun llama fiber. I dyed the fiber with cochineal and spearmint leaves and used that along with some natural brown. I was wiser this time with the blue cuff as I started and ended the tubular edging in the spot that would be covered by the button. It is pretty hard to finish it neatly.You can see the start and finish on the llama fiber cuff on the lower left-hand side where there is a noticeable bump.

yurt design cell phone pouchMeanwhile, many of my backstrap weaving buddies have been in Santa Fe at the annual International Folk Art Market and have been sharing pictures and video. Marge Sume has kindly allowed me to use the video she shot of a gentleman from Kyrgzystan weaving a narrow band and I want to put together a post on these simple kinds of looms that have what I call ”raised” string heddles. Mapuche weavers here in South America use a similar system. I was particularly interested in seeing that weaver at work as I have woven several replicas of motifs of Kyrgyzstan. But, that will be for next time!

Other weaving buddies around the word have been sending me pictures and sharing what they have been creating on their looms. You may remember that Adem, in Turkey, was weaving a poncho for his niece as a surprise gift. Here is the fabric in progress on his vertical loom…

adem (1)

And here is the delighted Hazel showing it off! What a fabulous job Adem did.


Anne has been enjoying some summer outdoor weaving of complementary-warp bands on her porch with its spectacular views…


Aśka Kucharz, in Poland, sent me a picture of a double weave piece she created after having followed my tutorial.  She used her piece as part of the exam to obtain the title of Master Craftsman in Poland as an external student of the Folk University of Artistic Crafts (ULRA). You can see more of her beautiful work on her blog.


I still have lots of the naturally dyed silk left. I have rolled all the tiny skeins into balls and sorted them into color groups. What a lovely sight they are and I have to thank Sara, Eileen and Diane who were responsible to getting these skeins into my hands. They are giving me a lot of joy.

naturally dyed silk

Let me close by sharing this cute wool promotional video by Woolmark…






Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 1, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Winter Moods

It has been a couple of weeks since the last post and I started off weaving something in a woolly wintry mood. I guess the colors make it feel wintry to me…the blue and black alongside a greyish snow-like white. This is the piece that I was planning as the ”conference pouch” that I told you about in my last blog post. A few things changed along the way. I decided to weave it with four selvedges. It is a small piece and a nice opportunity to get in some more practice with finishing a weaving with four selvedges. For that reason, I decided not to include the little pocket that I had planned. One challenge at a time is enough for me! I would have my hands full laying in the last few shots of weft on a needle and didn’t need the additional  challenge of creating the pocket.

First, I wove a sample to see how the pattern I had chosen would look and to get an idea of how I should lay it out on the real project…

sample band for pouch projectI wove the sample with four selvedges too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the sample to give me one of the essential pieces of information as I had neglected to note an important detail…warp length. Normally, warp length is not an important issue to me. I generally wind one of my standard-size warps to try out a new pattern or material and decide when I am finished with the experiment what I would like the piece to be. I weave as far as I feel comfortable and then simply cut the piece off the loom. However, this time I was planning a specific product and had a specific size in mind for it. As I was planning to weave a piece with four selvedges, I needed to know what the take-up would be with the kind of wool I was using. That would tell me how long my warp would need to be to produce the 12cm long pouch that I had in mind. I wanted a ch’uspa-style pouch…one with an open mouth into which I could easily place and remove things without any fiddling about…so, no flap or closure.

Now I know that the amount of take-up is extremely small. It was very surprising information but it came too late. I over compensated for take-up and wound a warp that was too long and so my pouch now has a flap…oh well. A warp of 30.5cm ended up as 29.5cm of woven cloth which reduced to 29cm after washing and pressing.

Here is the project underway. I have started the weaving at both ends so that my piece can have four selvedges.

I wanted the ”terminal area” (the area where I have to stop weaving the pick-up pattern because the space between the two woven ends becomes too small to manage for pick-up), to be where I folded the cloth to form the pouch. This meant I had to do a bit of back-and-forth-ing from one end to the other to make sure the terminal area would be positioned just where I wanted it. I should point out that there was no need for this piece to have four selvedges. I have made cloth for many little bags by simple cutting the fabric off the loom and hemming the raw edge. I simply wanted to make this piece with four selvedges as interesting challenge.  I had never attempted it in wool this fine before.

closing the gap in four selvedge clothHere you can see the gap between the two ends of weaving getting smaller. I have changed to finer cross sticks and finer swords. I use the cross sticks to help open the heddle shed. I form a separate cross on two swords to do the pick-up. I wanted to keep doing the pick-up pattern for as long as I could. That involved a bit of awkward wrenching around with fingers stuffed into spaces that were too small and, as a result, the weft shots on one side got compressed more than those on the other meaning that the fell dipped at one edge. That made it hard to close the gap at that edge neatly.

wool piece with four selvedgesThe final needle-woven rows are a bit on the wide side.  I am, nevertheless, pleased with the result as a first attempt in this fine wool. I wanted a tiny terminal area and I wanted it to sit at the fold in the cloth…

pouch constructionThen came the construction of the pouch with all the fun embellishments…

coil stitches and pom pomsI edged the bottom of the pouch with coil stitches and added a couple of cute coiled pom poms.

nawi awapa edgingThe sides and flap are edged with a patterned tubular band called ñawi awapa.

nawi awapa and andean pebble weave strapI wove an Andean Pebble Weave pattern strap choosing a pattern that resembled the ñawi awapa and wove it without having to do pick-up by using 4 sets of string heddles.

Andean Pebble Weave strap with four sets of heddlesThe pouch is ready for my next conference…

conference pouchNext, the lovely pile of naturally-dyed silk samples that I told you about last week was calling to me….

While I thought long and hard about how I wanted to use these small samples, I spent some time sewing my two wool panels together…

joining stitch on wool panelsBoth this and the brown wool blanket stand by while I figure out how I would like to edge them.

As for the silk samples, I gathered up tiny skeins of similar sort of berry colors and wound them into balls. I wanted to create a warp with all the berry colors mixed. I decided not to go with any kind of stripe formula or planning and just wound a bit of this and a bit of that together. It is a random mish-mash of colors and I like it! Not all the silk is of the same weight and so there is yarn of varying girth all thrown in together here…silk dye sample warpBut first…. a sample…of course!

sample for silk natural dye projectThis may not look very wintry to you but it represents a different kind of winter mood to me. I love the way it looked as I sat at the loom with the soft low rays of winter sun falling across it.

I needed to sample to see what kind of width I could expect as well as figure out how many strands of embroidery floss were suitable for the supplementary weft. The sample gave me the ability to know approximately what width I could expect from the main project. It couldn’t be 100% accurate because of the mix of different weights of silk in the large project.

Random colors, random weights of silk and random placement of leaves…this is so not like me! But, I am really happy with it. I have used variegated tencel as supplementary weft to weave motifs on a single-color background in other projects. This project turns that idea around with solid-color motifs on a multi-color background. I like how the leaves change shape when they are placed on the areas of warp that comprise the finer silk warp threads.

Here’s the late afternoon winter sun illuminating the larger project…

winter sun on leaf projectI got the initial idea for this project from a piece by Mollie Freeman in which she stamped solid leaf motifs on one of her hand painted warps. I haven’t seen her piece woven yet.

I don’t have a product in mind for this. No doubt the cloth will end up being folded into some kind of pouch. It is a really fun project and I have lots more of the naturally dyed silk samples in other tones to play with. I am wondering how this will wash and hope I don’t lose too much color.

leaf project progressI am getting pretty close to the end here. I hope I can squeeze in a couple more leaves while I think about what I want to do with all those other gorgeous silk natural dye sample skeins.





















Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 17, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Wool Weather

Finally….I am weaving with the right material to suit the season. It’s winter here in Bolivia and, although I am back in a tshirt and shorts today, we have had a couple of weeks of rather chilly weather. I wove with 20/2 wool as I finished the second of two purple panels that I plan to sew together. While doing so, I used the joined brown wool panels that I recently wove as my lap blanket. It was just the right weight for the cool-ish temperatures that we sometimes experience here in our tropical winter.

two purple wool panels backstrap weavingHere are the two finished panels that have been washed and pressed. The one on the left is actually showing its ”wrong” side so you can see how the narrower of the two patterns looks on the reverse. When both ”right” faces are showing, the wider strips of hook patterns on the two panels are mirror images. I created the patterns using black supplementary warp threads. I now have to decide which kind of joining stitch I will use to connect the panels and what I would like to apply to the edges.

My brown wool piece has been sitting by waiting for its edging. I have not quite made up my mind about that but I now have the brown wool that I need and just need to make some sketches and plan out the pattern. I am thinking about applying a flat band to the edges rather than a tubular one.

brown wool panelsl backstrap weavingIn the meantime, I have warped a sample using the same wool I used for my panels for my next project. The item itself is small but there will be quite a lot of time involved as I hope to weave the piece with four selvedges as well as include a tiny pocket and lots of decorative stitching and other embellishments. My short, narrow sample will simply show me how my pattern will look in my chosen colors of 20/2 wool.

sample warp for wool chuspaI want to make a 4-inch wide pouch…the kind people often wear around their necks at conferences. All participants were given one at a conference that I attended and it turned out to be the handiest thing for storing room key cards, meal passes, the business cards of people we had met along with other bits and pieces. So, I want to weave one of my own and I want it to look like a mini ch’uspa….the woven pouch in which people here in Bolivia carry their coca leaves.

chuspa I wove in Potosi 1997Here’s the acrylic ch’uspa I wove with my teachers in Potosi, Bolivia back in 1997. Using her drop spindle, my teacher Hilda added twist to the acrylic yarn that we had bought in the market. The piece has four selvedges and I wove it down on my knees using a horizontal ground loom.

Hilda showing me how to finish a four-selvedge piece.

Hilda showing me how to finish my first piece with four-selvedges.

I wove a few inches at both ends of the loom and then, when the space in between was too small to allow me to continue weaving the pick-up pattern, I changed to weaving just horizontal bars. Eventually, the space was too small to allow me to continue using the shed rod. It was removed and I continued using only the heddles for one shed while needle-weaving the other.. I finally had to remove the hedddles and create both sheds using a needle.

A shed is created by picking up every other warp end on a needle and then transferring the ends to a very narrow wooden sword or metal rod. Then the weft is passed.

It is a slow, slow process. Hilda had helped me finish my first piece this way but for this, my second piece, I was on my own!

While Hilda wove a band on a backstrap loom and her sister Juliana cut wool to spin, I wove the fabric for the little pouch on a ground loom.

While Hilda wove a band on a backstrap loom and her sister Juliana cut wool to spin, I wove the fabric for the little pouch on a ground loom.

The pouch has the little outer pocket that is typical of many of the Bolivian ch’uspas. I had asked to be shown how to weave a ch’uspa and Julia and Hilda had to consult about how exactly to wind the warp to include the pocket as neither had woven one for many years.

warping-for-chuspaSetting up to weave this odd-looking warp is easy enough when using a ground loom. You simply pound stakes into the ground to hold the extra warp-length for the pocket section under tension.

It’s a bit more fiddly when using a backstrap loom. Some years ago, I tried it here at home using cotton. The warping and set-up went smoothly but I came to the conclusion that cotton was not a good material for this particular technique….at least not in my hands. So, I am looking forward to trying again with wool. It seems to me that a stretchier material would make things a lot easier.

chuspa experiment in cottonThe little pocket sits on the outside of the pouch and is accessed from the inside…

chuspa-inside-outI have turned my woven ch’uspa inside out in the above photos and you can see the little pocket opening.

When I had finished weaving the pouch, after having struggled through the final rows of needle weaving, Hilda and I set about decorating it. She taught me to weave and sew a patterned tubular edging. We edged the pocket with a tripled cross-knit looping stitch and then added a finger-loop braided strap.

This is the pattern  that I hope to use (it is charted in my 2nd book) and my sample will tell me if it is going to look too small in the 20/2 wool. I charted these birds from a small fragment of pre-columbian cloth that Tom Knisely once brought to show me when I was visiting the Mannings.pre columbian bird patternI’ll be embellishing my little pouch in almost every way I know using patterned tubular bands, coil stitches and other decorative sewn finishes, braids and pompoms …it should be a fun project.









Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 6, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Majestic

MAJESTIC – I took the title of this post from the new name of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Yosemite….just one of many majestic things I saw during my trip in the U.S. this spring.

I was already jumping up and down at this first sighting of Half Dome. While I took pictures, Anne took a few pictures of me. My friends in Sonora made sure we had a day to spend together in the park. Thank you!

I was already jumping up and down at this first sighting of Half Dome. While I took pictures, Anne took a few pictures of me. My friends in Sonora made sure we had a day to spend together in the park. Thank you! This has always been a dream of mine.

I am back in Bolivia now to a rather cold and soggy winter. There’s nothing like travel to show you how climates are changing in different places. I just left southern California where people are seriously wondering if they will ever see rain again. Back here in Santa Cruz, our dry season is on hold, with day after day of dreary drizzle which is seeping into the walls. Wet Season used to mean hot humid mornings with clouds building up to tropical downpours at 3pm daily. They were a joy and a relief. Twenty minutes later, the sun would be out and the clean streets would be steaming.

One thing about those endlessly warm dry days in southern California…you can weave outdoors! This is something I have been wanting to do on all the visits I have made to the U.S and it has just never happened. The weather wouldn’t cooperate.

This time, it was simply perfect with just enough breeze to cool things down. And it remained perfect day after day after day. We had fun weaving tubular bands and Andean Pebble Weave patterns on Ginny’s sheltered patio and then out on the grass as more people came and we needed extra room.

backstrap weaving outdoors

Here is some contrasting scenery from the south and north along the west coast…

Hills in southern California.

Hills in southern California looking sandy and dry.

Hiking in the forest with Betty in Washington state.

Hiking in the forest with Betty in Washington state.

And then, of course, there’s Yosemite! My friends saved this overlook for me for the end of the day after having done some hiking and some sitting about in the sunshine in the valley. Majestic!

I love the two soaring birds against the face of El Capitan.

I love the two soaring birds against the face of El Capitan.

And, there was lots of weaving to be done, fun people to hang out with and beautiful textiles to be seen along the way….

…like the opportunity to meet Taylor Cass Stevenson whom I had first encountered via my blog while she was learning to make string heddles from my tutorials. She came to visit with Betty and me in Washington and brought bundles of beautiful Bhutanese textiles to show. There were large backstrap-woven panels and tablet-woven belts that she had bought and been given in Bhutan as well as books and remarkable pieces she had made herself.

Tablet-woven belts and fabric that Taylor wove herself while in Bhutan.

Tablet-woven belts and fabric that Taylor wove herself while in Bhutan.

Gorgeous Bhutanese cloth that Taylor acquired during her stay.

Gorgeous Bhutanese cloth with fine supplemental-weft motifs that Taylor acquired during her stay.

Taylor had spent two years in Bhutan working on a project which involved weaving with recycled materials. She worked on weaving bags made with recycled plastics. The large green bag in the next picture is woven with strips cut from plastic soda bottles. A small simple device that uses the blade from a pencil sharpener is used to cut the bottles in strips. The best part of this story, for me, is that the bags have found a strong local market.

I’ll quote from Taylor’s Live Debris website…

Live Debris workshops demonstrate and develop techniques and products for reusing and reducing waste materials, while also addressing the social and personal significance of reintegrating our discards. The workshops are site specific, taking into account local waste production, resource availability, need and interests. They also demand mutual education, asking participants to share their own skills and ideas around reuse and alternative waste management systems. Artist and waste researcher Taylor Cass Stevenson has taught reuse craft and design in the context of peace and security to kids and adults around the world. Workshops can be conducted in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese or Sharchop.

recycled plastic bags live debris Bhutan

See more bags here. You’ll be hearing more from me about Taylor in future posts.

I got to go to several guild meetings and see Show and Tell, hear about weaving challenges and see the results, get lots of ideas for my own projects, as well meet people who have been following my blog.

In Los Angeles, I got to see a fiber art exhibit which included Anna Zinmeister’s amazing work, The Beatles, which I believe also appears in the latest edition of Handwoven magazine. On my visit last year when I stayed with Anna, I saw her pieces depicting John and Yoko which she had made as part of her guild’s Beatle-themed weaving challenge.

Anna Zinmeister Damask Weave The Beatles

Anna Zinmeister. Damask Weave. The Beatles.

At this same guild meeting, I was given two beautiful Bolivian awayos one of which is labeled as having been made in the late 19th century.


Here it is folded up. As you know, one of my latest ”things” is the siray, or joining stitches that weavers here use to connect their woven panels into larger pieces. This weaver has used a couple of styles to decorate the join in her carrying cloth. Look how small the terminal area is where she had to stop doing her pick-up pattern and resort to plain weave in order to complete the four-selvedged cloth. You might be able to make out what look like stripes in the black solid-color section. Those are formed by using Z and S-twist yarn in alternating narrow strips.

In this next picture you will be able to see more closely the changes in the direction of twist. Now I think this is something that I would like to try.

awayo with z and s twist ''stripes''My friend Betty has an enormous textile collection and each time I visit is another chance to look at things. Each time I have something else on which I want to focus. This time it was joining stitches. As you know, I don’t buy textiles any more when I am traveling in Peru and Bolivia unless I really can’t figure out how a piece was made. I will then buy it so that I can examine it more closely at will.  I just take pictures of textiles now and so I don’t often get a chance to handle and inspect things as closely as I would like.

sirayI love all the pebble weave figures on this one and the jolly joining stitch down the middle.

narrow band with heddles on a stick

I used another piece in Betty’s collection as background for my band with its heddles on sticks. This band is too narrow to warrant heddles on sticks but I was teaching friends how to make them  and this narrow warp served the purpose. The heddles are just so darned cute on those tiny sticks. It took me a while to recognize this pattern which I copied from one of Betty’s pieces as simply the kuti hook pattern woven connected head to tail and flipped back and forth. That is the way so many of these patterns are formed…by simply mirroring, flipping and sometimes connecting small simple motifs.

One of my weaving friends took this very classic Andean hook motif and flipped it this way and that, separating each motif with a white horizontal bar. I love the look of her own innovation. It sits on a piece with the beautiful natural dye colors used by the weavers in the CTTC in Peru.

That particular Andean hook pattern is more often seen woven like the examples in the next set of pictures Focus on the white threads in the picture top left and you will see the basic hook. Focus on the black threads in the picture bottom right and there, again, you will see the simple hook motif.

andean hook patterns

Here’s another version. If you focus on the white threads rather than the red, you will see that this is the same classic hook woven tail to tail and then head to head. I charted this one from this textile in Betty’s collection and sent the chart to a couple of weaving friends with whom I had spent time on this trip. Here’s Elinor’s version…

elinor 2

I love charting and like to share my enjoyment of it with the people with whom I get to weave. I like to walk them through a couple of simple charting exercises in the hope that they will find patterns on textiles and online that they want to weave and have the skills to do so. I was very pleased when Tina grabbed the Tarahumara band that Sofia had brought to show and started charting it. I hope to see her woven version of it one day. It wasn’t an easy one to chart!

tina charting

There was double weave fun to be had too in northern California. Wendy had charted her own butterfly motif but didn’t get to weave it in the time I spent with her. I hope she sends me a picture of it soon.

double weave cali

We got brave and later added extra heddles to make the pick-up process faster…

Tubular bands and decorated pouches were also on the weaving list…

annie's pouch with tubular bandThat’s Annie’s pouch with ñawi awapa tubular bands along the sides, coil stitches along the bottom and some cross knit looping along the mouth.

Here’s a closer look at that tubular band…

nawi awapa

Here’s one of the outdoor weavers, Carl, enjoying Andean Pebble Weave…

carl andean pebble weaveGinny got tired of having to pick up her sword when it slipped out and fell to the ground and Snap the dog was probably tired of being bonked in the head with it. I offer two solutions…sit on the ground so that sword doesn’t have far to fall…weave lots more because experience will help you find that ”sweet spot” and ideal tension that allows the sword to stay in place. But now, Ginny has a third solution: apply some double sided tape and stick a piece of fine velvet on the sword…

ginny velvet sword

And while Anne was taking pictures as she Patty and I were hiking in Yosemite park, my weaving friends from the U.S and around the world were sending me pictures of their work and themselves at the loom…

Heading to Yosemite Falls

Heading to Yosemite Falls.

destin washingtonThat’s Destin a day or so after our time spent together. She was camping at a lake and her husband set up a post so that she could do some Andean Pebble Weave. How idyllic is that?

In Florida, Berna and Cyndy got together to make their backstraps…

berna and cyndy

Lori in northern California made a backstrap too…


As did Wendy…

wendy backstrapI love those colors!

cindy andean pebble weaveCindy sewed three bands together and made a pouch. She covered the joins and decorated the edges with red cross knit looping. While I haven’t seen cross knit looping sewn flat in Peru and Bolivia, my Montagnard backstrap weaving teachers use it flat, as Cindy has done, as a joining stitch when connecting woven panels.

Adem in Turkey has just about finished the adorable poncho for his 1-year old niece. You can see that he split the piece while weaving to make a neck opening for her. I told him that I want to see her wearing it in the next picture. Adem uses a vertical Mapuche-style loom rather than a backstrap loom. The patterning technique he is using is the one I call Simple Warp Floats.

adem (1)

Alicia Wilches in Argentina, under the instruction of my friend Susanna Vallejo, wove a pattern that I charted in my second book. Alicia also uses a Mapuche-style vertical loom…

alicia wilchesHungyingyu in Taiwan has been dabbling in double weave. She used the llama figures that I have charted here on my blog. This is her first attempt. I see great things coming!

hungyingyuDawn, in the Netherlands, sent me pictures of things she has been making following my blog. I cannot tell you how much admiration I have for people around the world taking up their sticks and learning all this via the internet and my blog without ever having had face-to-face instruction. They are inspiring!

First we see her beautiful backstrap…

dawn mul backstrap

Then she tried some Andean Pebble Weave using my book

dawn apw 1…as well as some supplementary weft patterning. This is a pattern I charted from a scrap of pre-columbian fabric that I have.


dawn supp weft

Sobahime has been delighting us in the Ravelry group with the fabulous towels she has been weaving on her backstrap loom in cotton. Sometimes she uses her own handspun cotton as weft. She made her own reed to achieve a balanced weave structure.

sobahime reed and project

sobahime finished towels one with handspun cottonHere are two of her finished towels. The one on the right uses her own handspun cotton as weft.

What else?

I bought yarn, I was given yarn, I stayed in Susie and Rex’s yurt again, this time with its new painted door..

Betty had read about my use of 60/2 silk in backstrap weaving and brought out some unused cones of Lunatic Fringe 140/2 silk for me!! Dare I??

 Later I showed these to Sara saying that they were kind of her colors. She agreed but said that the pink was a bit wimpy. She likes fuchsia. The next day she showed up with cones 140/2 silk from her own stash to add…Thank you!

I will be making cuffs to start with to see if this is actually doable! It will be interesting to see how much pattern I can squeeze into a cuff width using this fine thread. In this picture you can also see a bunch of buttons and charms that I picked up all over the place for bag closures and more woven necklaces and bracelets. I really enjoyed wearing those things on this trip. There’s also a sweet zipper adornment that Cindy made in tatting and gave me.

While with weaving friends in northern California, I was invited to select things from a deceased weaver’s estate. There were so many GREAT books. It was nice to see them go to good homes but inside I ached…it would just be too troublesome getting them back to Bolivia. Instead, I picked up all the wonderful silk natural dye samples you see below. They are all beautifully organized and labeled and I think I can weave something nice with all these soft tones. There are samples of logwood, indigo, cochineal, madder, osage orange, cutch, fustic, mixes of two or three of these and overdyes.

I am thinking of picking one color group and weaving small projects with dark solid supplementary-weft motifs on the background of soft tones. I wonder how that would look. I am inspired by Mollie Freeman who posted a hand painted warp project on Facebook on which she stamped dark leaf motifs.

Speaking of natural dye colors, I got to visit with a textile collector in southern California. I can’t even begin to tell you about this collection. The color work on some of the older mantles, the incredible fineness of the yarn and the width of the backstrap loom woven pieces were astounding. What would appear as a blackish purplish solid-color piece in indoor natural lighting would simply shimmer with all sorts of tones when held up to the light.

I was struck by the piece you see below from Bolivia which the owner estimated as being possibly made in the 1880s because the colors look just like those that are being so expertly produced by the CTTC now in Peru. I like the plain-weave tubular band edging. It is interesting to see the ripples across the solid colors in the terminal area which shows how the weaver must have labored to finish the four-selvedged piece picking up the extremely fine threads with some kind of needle to form those final sheds.

Mary, with whom I stayed on this trip, is running an online natural dye class. The first sessions are on yellows. I got to see all her prep work for the classes as well as some of the finished work from her students. Future classes will be on reds and indigo. What fun to be able to do this online from far away interacting with teacher and fellow participants online.  A kit is sent in the mail.

marys online class

I will leave you here with one more picture of that special day in Yosemite…

the weaving gang at yosemiteMany thanks to all those who opened their homes to me.









Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 30, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Meanwhile….

I haven’t been at my loom at my large projects for some time but I have been doing some weaving here and there on narrow bands with friends.

Meanwhile, my online weaving friends around the world have been sending me news of progress on their various projects. Not all of them are woven on backstrap looms but they are warp-faced projects using patterning techniques that they have learned via tutorials on my blog.

Adem in Turkey, for example, has been using a vertical loom to weave a poncho for his 1-year old niece. Can you imagine how adorable this will be when finished? It’s a birthday gift for his niece which needs to be ready by July 1st.

Here is one stage of the warping process. He`has already inserted the pattern sticks that he will use to weave a motif….

adem warpingAnd here is the complete warp with the various motifs underway including a large butterfly in the center…

adem poncho (2) A few weeks ago, I posted a video that Adem made showing how he uses pattern sticks to create motifs comprising warp floats on one face of the fabric. I’ll post it again here for you to see….

Another way to go about this would be to enclose the threads held on the pattern sticks within string heddles and this looks like the method Adem has chosen for this poncho.

Further progress…
adem poncho (3)Now Adem has switched to a pattern that I have seen on Central Asian yurt bands and which I teach in this tutorial.If you are thinking that the pattern looks like multiple columns of the Andean tanka ch’oro pattern, you are not mistaken. It is not exactly the same, as the structure used to weave the tanka ch’oro is double faced., that is, there are warp floats on both faces of the fabric. When it is woven, as Adem has done, using the method practiced in Central Asia, the floats are only created on one face.

Four versions of the yurt band border design

Four versions of the yurt band border design with pattern only on one face.

Tanka ch'oro and Andean hook patterns.

Tanka ch’oro and Andean hook patterns which are double faced.

A lighter fabric is created when the floats sit on only one of the two faces.

Meanwhile… Nigeria, Roli has started piecing together some of the finished panels for the traditional cloak that she has been commissioned to weave…

roli pieced cloak (2)She has been weaving panels to create hats, bags and cloaks which form the traditional clothing of people from her husband’s ethnic group in Nigeria. I showed you pictures of her finished cloaks, hats and bags in a previous post. Roli uses a frame  with adjustable tension as her loom. It sits in her lap and leans against a table. She used the instructions in my lettering tutorial to weave the letter O , which I believe represents the name of the person for whom this textile is being woven.

A weaving friend with whom I am currently staying, has an extensive collection of textile books which includes this one…

book on Nigerian textilesI hope to learn some more about the textiles in Roli’s Nigeria.

Meanwhile… in the Netherlands, Gerbelien Cocx-Wilschut has been doodling in plain weave on her inkle loom and creating beautiful original patterns using my warp-faced double weave tutorial.

gerbelien cocx-wilschut

When she sent me the picture, she wrote…

I read all the stuff you wrote down and learned from it. A week ago this was Chinese for me, but thanks to you I understand how to do it and I wrote my own pattern. this is my second band. I like to let you see the whole pattern. Now I am going to repeat it.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post on Doodling which included a  small tutorial on creating and charting patterns for the double weave structure. Gerbelien’s website shows more of what she has been doing.

Meanwhile….in Taiwan,

hungyingyu taiwanHungyingyu blew me away with this large piece that she wove on backstrap loom and which she patterned with the simple warp-float structure…beautiful!

And while all this has been going on, I have been poring over textile collections, visiting museums and hiking and weaving with friends. After spending a few days weaving with me and other friends, Mary sent me a picture of her finished Andean Pebble Weave band which cleverly includes her initials.

mary seattle

The conversation bounced from South-east Asia to the Middle East and on to South America when long-time online weaving friend Tracy got together with Marilyn- another textile  kindred spirit- and me. What  lovely evenings we had on the floor examining pieces that Tracy had collected while living in Qatar and India…

tracy hudson textile collectionYou can see a couple of amazing Bedouin pieces with motifs woven in the warp substitution structure. I have written a couple of tutorials on the warp substitution structure and the al’ouerjan pattern in particular. The warp substitution structure creates patterns on one face of the cloth with long warp floats on the back. Some of the floats are amazingly long!…

long floats on back of Bedouin textile

If you read through my tutorial, you will see a way to pin down those floats in a tidier way. We saw that weavers in Syria were using this method to possibly make the textiles more appealing to a non-Bedouin clientele. In order to eliminate the floats all together and create a double faced textile, you can add a couple more steps and make the piece a double weave.

Marilyn pulled out pieces that she had collected in her travels through Laos and, as Tracy had spent time there on an internship, there was much to share and discuss and I learned a lot about the intricately patterned Laotian textiles with their incredible combination of supplementary-warp, supplementary-weft and ikat techniques all in the one piece of cloth.

Tracy brought a backstrap weaving she has been working on that is still on the loom. She is using complementary-warp pick-up to create the motifs and the warp s her own handspun wool. She is using wool from Serbia that has a lighter twist as weft. I had seen this piece in the online forums and it was wonderful to be able to touch it.

tracy and marilyn

tracy handspun backstrap

Marilyn’s birthday was celebrated at the top of this…

seattle space needleand a wave of 80+ degree weather was celebrated with a hike in the woods on a neighboring mountain with Marilyn and her husband, Rainer ….

We rewarded all that exercise with a German dish, Kaiserschmarrn, for dinner, prepared by Rainer. My sweet tooth appreciated this…super light pancakes with rum-soaked raisins and a dusting of icing sugar!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately, the wave of heat also brought a definite end to the tulip season. Marilyn’s outdoor meal setting looked pretty surrounded by colorful tulips but they were just a little bit past their prime after the hot days…

 We wove ñawi awapa tubular bands. Here’s Tracy’s first one…

tracy nawi awapa

marilyn weaving nawi awapaThat’s Marilyn with her colorful Turkish socks, pretty huipil and Laotian bangle with a patterned tubular band underway on her simple body-tensioned loom.

tracy nawi awapa sewn to clothThis is Tracy’s ñawi awapa woven and sewn to the edge of a piece of Bolivian handwoven cloth and here she is weaving and sewing it…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Stacy folded her cloth into a pouch and decorated it with the tubular band and some cross knit looped stitching….

stacy pouch with nawi awapa

Marilyn had a meeting the next day. Meanwhile, I squeezed in a visit to the Asian Art Museum with its Mood Indigo exhibit…

 I was treated to rooms full of indigo-dyed kimonos…


I especially liked the pieces with Sashiko stitching as my weaving friend, Julia, has lately been adapting traditional Sashiko patterns to weaving using the Andean Pebble Weave structure….


Other rooms held indigo-dyed textiles from around the world. The following pieces are from New Mexico, USA, Guatemala and Nigeria…

international indigo pieces

I liked this fun quote that was displayed on one of the walls:

indigo indigoing indigone

In another group of weaving friends we wove some complementary-warp pick-up bands using one of the classic Andean hook patterns…

andean hook patterns

Ravelry buddy, Cindy, was there. We last wove together in 2013  and she brought along a project that she started back then and which she has, of course, since finished….

She took a piece if handwoven cloth that I had brought with me from Bolivia and made a small zippered pouch. It’s adorable! She has edged it with a ñawi awapa and added tassels along the bottom. The pouch is lined and beautifully finished. The fabric is made from wool yarn that was handspun and naturally dyed by ladies in the Bolivian co-op that my teacher Maxima runs.

Cindy also brought a large pouch that she had found in the USA in some kind of thrift store. What a great find. It has tiny Andean Pebble Weave motifs, tassels and a ñawi awapa edging.

pebble weave pouchShe also showed us some nice mercerized cotton knitting yarn…Scheepjes Catona  she had found that I think would work well in warp-faced weaving. Websites label it as sportweight. It may have a tendency to fluff in inexperienced hands but I think that the softer twist will make bands that have quite a different look to those made with crochet cotton.. It comes in 69 colors in 125m and 62.5m balls.

scheepjes catona

I may not have time to blog regularly as I visit with my friends here in the USA but I have included lots of links to my tutorials in this post. So, meanwhile, as I make my way here and there… can try some of the woven structures I have posted about here and maybe even send me some pictures of what you have been doing.















Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 15, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Gallery

I have had little loom time this week. But, I did spend some time at the warping board and wound the warp for the second purple wool panel. I finished the first a few weeks ago and took a break from such large projects spending time weaving lanyards. That was a lot of fun.

All I need to do is make the string heddles and this project will be ready to go. The patterns are in a supplemental-warp structure which requires two sheds and a lot of pick-up. I feel that the process is easier ”mechanically” than complementary-warp pick-up as there  is greater distance between each pattern warp. Because of this, there is less risk of crossing pattern warps when selecting them and I don’t, therefore, need to set up a picking cross for each row. Not having to open two sheds for every pick to form the picking cross means less abrasion and a much smoother process overall which is particularly helpful when working with wool.

Here’s the first panel in its early days…

start f first purple wool panelThose hook patterns start swimming before your eyes.

I wove until it was as long as the brown panels I recently finished. I want these wool panels to form a set.

And here’s the new warp set up for heddle-making…well, not quite there yet. I realized that the center gold stripe was only half as wide as it should be. You can see it in the picture. I discovered this mistake by looking at this photo rather than at the warp itself. If I hadn’t wanted to take this picture for the blog, I would never had made the comparison. So, back I went to the warping stakes. As far as warping errors go, this was not a bad one.

The rest of my time was spent behind the scenes on my blog, or should I say blogS. Over two years ago, I started another blog which I intended using as a Gallery rather than as a blog to which I would regularly post updates. I haven’t been very good about building it and it has sat unattended for quite some time.

I added a few projects to it this week. They are mostly very recent things, many of which I wove this summer. It has quite a different format to this blog and allows me to post quite large pictures. I hope you will take a moment to go over and look at it. You will find it here.

In the meantime, I have put together a mini gallery of thumbnail images of many of the things I have woven in recent years. I sort of needed to look over my projects and decide what I would like to have on my Gallery page. I am going to try to add things more often.

It is sweet, joyous and sometimes even sad looking back and remembering the people, places and events that influenced and inspired some of the projects and the people I was interacting with online and in person at the times that I wove them.

I look at the black and white guitar strap and think of my ex and and best friend and the music he makes. I see the thistle pattern cell phone pouch and remember my visits with Angela, my Guaraní teacher. The Montagnard patterned pouch makes me think of a special birthday spent many years ago with my friend, Lisa, when we got to weave with Ju Nie. I see the purple double weave pouch that crossed the ocean to live with a fellow weaver in Qatar.  The four-color pebble weave piece is like something from another lifetime when I lived at the southernmost tip of Chile weaving with those Patagonian winds howling outside. And, I remember a dear friend and my old roommate of two years, Teresa, who passed away just last week, when I see the red and white wall hanging that I made for her many years ago..

I will leave you here this week with that collection of thumbnail images….

ScreenHunter_38 Apr. 10 16.48ScreenHunter_40 Apr. 10 16.49ScreenHunter_60 Apr. 10 16.57ScreenHunter_41 Apr. 10 16.49ScreenHunter_53 Apr. 10 16.54ScreenHunter_56 Apr. 10 16.55ScreenHunter_58 Apr. 10 16.56ScreenHunter_39 Apr. 10 16.48ScreenHunter_43 Apr. 10 16.50ScreenHunter_44 Apr. 10 16.50ScreenHunter_46 Apr. 10 16.51ScreenHunter_47 Apr. 10 16.51ScreenHunter_48 Apr. 10 16.52ScreenHunter_49 Apr. 10 16.52ScreenHunter_51 Apr. 10 16.52ScreenHunter_52 Apr. 10 16.53ScreenHunter_54 Apr. 10 16.55ScreenHunter_55 Apr. 10 16.55ScreenHunter_57 Apr. 10 16.56ScreenHunter_59 Apr. 10 16.56ScreenHunter_61 Apr. 10 16.57ScreenHunter_62 Apr. 10 16.58ScreenHunter_63 Apr. 10 16.58ScreenHunter_64 Apr. 10 16.59ScreenHunter_65 Apr. 10 16.59ScreenHunter_66 Apr. 10 16.59ScreenHunter_67 Apr. 10 17.00ScreenHunter_70 Apr. 10 18.13ScreenHunter_71 Apr. 10 18.13ScreenHunter_72 Apr. 10 18.14ScreenHunter_73 Apr. 10 18.14ScreenHunter_75 Apr. 10 21.19ScreenHunter_77 Apr. 10 21.50ScreenHunter_78 Apr. 10 21.51ScreenHunter_79 Apr. 10 21.51






Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 8, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Doodling

Doodling….One of the things about the replacement of long lazy phone calls with emails is the loss of doodling time. I could cover pages and pages with doodles while chatting. Maybe I should take up the art of zentangle one of these days.

There are two weaving structures that I use that I like to call ”doodling on plain weave”. Both the warp-faced double weave technique and the supplementary- weft patterning that I know allow a lot of freedom for designing. Both are based on plain weave.

The warp-float structures that I use limit design possibilities to a certain extent because the angle of the diagonal lines that they naturally create are quite often difficult or impossible to smoothly alter. The designer also has to keep an eye on warp-float length. A certain shape might be impossible to reproduce because it would require the inclusion of very long warp-floats. (Having said that, I have seen some nice curvy patterns created by a weaver in Argentina using the Simple Warp Floats Technique with fine thread).

You might call the plain weave curvy wandering lines in my Shipibo-inspired piece ”carefree doodles”…

shipibo inspired wall hanging plain talesThe black-and-white section of this piece is in the warp-faced double weave structure that creates two bonded layers of plain weave.

The supplemental-weft patterning technique that I often use also allows me to create a variety of angles in diagonal lines and produce the impression of fairly smooth curves and meanderings…

supplementary weft pattern on journal coverI have a lot of fun settling down with paper and pencil to chart patterns for these techniques…

charting shipibo patternI use a chart of staggered oval cells…

staggered oval cells

You can find a page of this style of charting paper to download on my FAQ page here.

This is the kind of charting paper that I used to chart figures and letters for the following lanyard project.

This week I have been weaving a lanyard for my nephew who competes in triathlons. I chose the warp-faced double weave structure and 60/2 silk. The silk would give me lots of threads in a small space so that I could create relatively detailed patterns. The double weave structure would give me the freedom to create curve-like shapes for the little athlete figures as well as give me the sturdiness that a lanyard requires. I wanted to weave a favorite inspirational quote of his along with symbols representing a swimmer. cyclist and runner.

double weave warp backstrap weavingAfter weaving a sample last week, I made some changes to the original plans and got down to charting the figures. It was fun. I was relieved, when I finally wove the piece, to find that the althletes’ heads and bicycle wheels actually looked circular rather than egg-shaped.

ryans ltriathlon anyard backstrap weavingI am guessing that some of you have seen my tutorials for these two ”doodling” techniques – warp-faced double weave and supplementary-weft patterning –and are perhaps using them in projects of your own. I figured that even if you haven’t, you may enjoy seeing how the charting process works for me.

I decided to show you how I would go about charting a very simple leaf. While, I can doodle up pages of nonsense, and copy things reasonably well, I am not at all talented at drawing from scratch. So, let’s make this leaf pattern as simple as possible.

leaf outline

There it is…a very basic shape as close to symmetrical as I could manage.

I added some detail in the form of veins but didn’t go overboard!

leaf outline with veins

I then transferred my simple shape to the charting paper…

transferring outline to charting paper

You can probably make out my first erased attempt to transfer the drawing on the left. In the end, I cut out the shape from the drawing paper and traced around it on the chart. Yep, that’s how poor I am at drawing.

Then, it was just a matter of filling in the oval cells that lie closest to my traced outline. You can see my examples on the left of diagonal lines ascending at various angles. These are just a few examples of the way diagonal lines can be depicted on these charts. At this point, it is probably better to put the original drawing out of sight. The charted motif will never look like the original because you simply cannot produce a real curve on this kind of chart. It is best to just work with what you have from here on rather than be continually comparing the charted motif to the original sketch. Once I had one side of the leaf drawn in, I could just fill in the cells to match on the other half.

completed leaf outlineNow to add the details. I sketched in the veins…that was easy. The center vein is a vertical line. I can’t create a true vertical line on this kind of chart. Below, on the left of the leaf, you can see a couple of options for creating what will appear pretty much as vertical lines when woven. I used the thinner one for the vein of my leaf.

vertical linesHere’s the completed leaf…

completed leaf pattern in outlineNow I can dare to bring back the original and see how I like the comparison. I am happy with it. I even managed to squeeze in some extra vein detail.

I decided that I wanted my leaf to be solid rather than simply an outline. If I were to use very fine thread for my weaving, that outline alone would barely show up…

outline transferred to solid shapeSo, I drew it again, filling in the shape and leaving the cells for the veins blank.

Now, this pattern chart is all set to go for warp-faced double weave. I just need to choose my thread and colors and go wind a warp.

However, I realized that I might one day want to use this same charted motif for supplementary-weft patterning. I use the same style of chart for both structures.

possible long floats for supplemental weftThere could be some problems if I decided to use this charted motif for supplementary-weft patterning if I planned to use heavy-ish thread. Horizontal lines on the chart will become weft floats in that technique and those that are indicated by arrows above might be awkwardly long and impractical. It does, of course depend on the weight of yarn you are using for the plain-weave ground. I have had floats that span up to 17 warp threads without any problems when using 60/2 silk, for example, but I have also used heavy cotton on which floats that span more than 6 warp threads are ugly.

So, I decided to alter the chart to eliminate the floats that span more then 6 threads by making the leaf veins a little longer.

adjusted leaf chartNow I have a dual-purpose chart….one that works equally well for both double weave and supplementary-weft patterning. I like two-fers.

Sweet! And, because it is double weave, I can decide if I want to look at the face that has a white leaf on green or the face that has the green leaf on white. I wove the leaf a little to the left so that I could have a staggered line of them veering from left to right and back again. I can even reverse the background and motif color as I go if I want both color options to be seen on one face of the band.

back of leaf design band

backstrap-benefitsOne thing to keep in mind, is that several weavers could work from the same chart yet produce motifs that look quite different. For example, a weaver who has a light beat might produce an oval shape while the weaver with a heavier beat produces a circle working from the same chart. One weaver may tend to have his/her warp threads pushed more closely together than another.

That’s why it is always a good idea to weave a small sample while you are still designing to see if the proportions of the figure you weave match those of the figure on the charting paper. From there you can make adjustments if necessary. That is one of the many great things about backstrap weaving. You can wind the tiniest warp for this kind of sampling, like the one at left, sample quickly and continue charting.

Perhaps you will be encouraged to do some doodling of your own. I look forward to seeing what you create.








Posted by: lavernewaddington | April 1, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – Multiple String Heddles in Action

The lanyards are done and packed away ready to be sent off. I made six in the end and really enjoyed the task.

6 lanyards backstrap weaving

With so many structures and techniques at my disposal, it was hard to decide which to use for the sixth. I made another Andean Pebble Weave one. I would have liked to have made one in double weave and another with supplementary weft patterns but the idea was to weave them quickly and Andean Pebble weave was better suited to the use of multiple string heddles. I could still make a fairly complex pattern without having to go overboard with the number of heddles. One day, when I am in less of a hurry, I would like to make a set of lanyards representing each of the structures that I have learned in my twenty years of backstrap weaving.


multiple heddles Andean Pebble weaveThe lanyard on the right is the last I made using a 2-ply crochet cotton that is similar in size to #10. In addition to the two Pebble heddles, this one only needed four sets of string heddles. One shed was repeated within the pattern which made things even more efficient.

I made a short video of myself weaving this last band. The two light green heddles nearest to me hold the threads in the Pebble Sheds. They are alternated with the other four sets of Pattern heddles. I use a Pebble heddle and then a Pattern heddle, a Pebble heddle and a Pattern heddle and so on.

I work one Pebble heddle against the other as an aid to opening a clean shed. The idea of the video is just to show you the use of multiple heddles and what that involves. There is a constant process of straightening and moving the heddles so that the sheds furthest from me can be cleared to the front of the loom. After a few pattern repeats, the sequence becomes second nature. I was surprised, when viewing the video later, how gentle my little tappity-tap beat looks. There is actually quite a bit of firmness in that beat.

On a visit to Peru, I was able to watch a weaver from Chahuaytire using multiple string heddles to weave the tubular band that is used in her community to edge textiles.

chahuaytire weaver with tubular band

Picture by Virginia Glenn

Picture by Virginia Glenn

You can see the pattern on the band emerging along with the weaver’s hands hard at work. This pattern requires four sets of heddles. I used it myself to edge a tool pouch that I wove using my own handspun llama fiber….

pouch edged with chahuaytire tubular bandIt is certainly a faster band to weave than the ñawi awapa of Chinchero, the pattern for which requires some fairly radical moves and, therefore, all manual pick-up.

In this next video you can enjoy watching a weaver from Chahuaytire using her various sets of string heddles while she weaves and sews the tubular band to the edge of the cloth.

And, finally, I would like to show you a weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola in Peru who uses many sets of string heddles to make her complex band pattern entirely loom-controlled. I think there is a definite limit to the number of heddles that I would want to use while remaining comfortably positioned at the loom. This weaver spends a lot of time with arms extended and leaning forward to reach the far heddles. I imagine she has a strong back and firm abs.

weaver san ignacio de loyolaShe is using a similar method to that which I showed in my video in that she alternates the Pattern sheds at the back of the loom with the two heddles nearest her. She also works one of the two front heddles against the other in order to easily open a clean shed. This is the two-heddle intermesh technique that I teach in my second book. This is the structure that I used for the blue and white silk lanyard. I only needed six sets of heddles for the simple pattern…four pattern heddles and two intermesh heddles.

Here is a video of the weaver from San Ignacio de Loyola showing how she works her multiple heddles….

silk bookmark backstrap weavingI’ve decided that I am not entirely finished with lanyards. I  want to make one for my nephew who is a triathlete. Some time ago, I attempted to weave a silk bookmark for him with the words of one of his favorite inspirational quotes for training… ‘’The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of failure.’’ My letters are adapted from fonts provided in Linda Hendrickson’s tablet-weaving book ‘’Please Weave a Message’’.

I felt that the bookmark looked too cluttered with its three lines of text and so I am now weaving it as one long line of text on a lanyard. I would like to flank the text with triathlon symbols…a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner. This is one of the many nice things about warp-faced double weave….it gives a lot of designing freedom. However, I only have 35 pattern threads with which to work. Let’s see what I can squeeze in there. The bookmark has been washed and pressed to show off the glorious sheen of the silk.

I wove a width sample for the lanyard in 60/2 silk. It looks quite dull in its unfinished state. It was quite some time ago that I wove the bookmark and I didn’t trust it to give me a reliable width reading. Years go by, your weaving changes, and old pieces can’t be relied upon to give accurate information.

double weave warp backstrap weavingAnd it’s a good thing I sampled as my width estimation was off and the band widened. Now it has settled into a consistent inch and I can start over with a fresh warp and get the pencils and eraser out for some charting.

The heddles you see there are not pattern heddles. They simply hold threads in the two sheds for the two layers of the double weave. I was initially taught this structure using only two heddles but I find four heddles handy when using many warp ends or very fine thread. With few threads or heavier yarn, I find it easier to use just two heddles and use my fingers to select the threads. The pattern sheds in both methods are all picked up manually.

Narrow warps like this one have also been on some of my weaving friends’ looms. Janet made a hatband in cotton using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. It’s gorgeous….

janets hatbandAnd, Anne decorated her hat with an intermesh band in cotton…

annes hatbandThere are so many cool things for which narrow bands can be used but, even if you don’t have a particular use in mind, they are simply fun to weave. They can be displayed on a wall with no other purpose  than to delight the eye. They can be kept rolled up in a trinket or treasure box and taken out now and then simply for the fun of running them through your fingers and enjoying the different textures.

I hope that whoever gets my lanyards will enjoy them.

6 lanyards front and back



Posted by: lavernewaddington | March 25, 2016

Backstrap Weaving – A Little Online Globetrotting

I’ve been playing with lanyards this week. These are nice tiny projects which have kept me entertained at the loom during breaks from other things not related to weaving that I have had my head in this week. I have been adding more and more string heddles to my bands to make them more and more loom-controlled and it has been a fun exercise.

Here are the first three finished bands which I will send away, as promised, for lanyards…

three lanyards backstrap weavingThe one on the left has the heaviest yarn, the center one I will call ’medium and the one on the right has the finest –  the 60/2 silk. I set up the center black and white band with 11 sets of string heddles. I could have made the eleventh heddle a simple loop but I got carried away with the fun of making heddles…

11 heddles on band backstrap weavingUsing a system of colors certainly helped. Every second heddle is white. I knew that when my weft was on the left, I needed to use a white heddle. Then it was just a matter of remembering the color of last heddle I had used when the weft was on the right to know which heddle was next in the sequence. I worked my way up through the heddles and then back down again. The thread I used has a lot of twist and is super smooth. That helps a lot when using multiple heddles.

I had to advance the warp as often as possible so that I didn’t have to lean far forward to reach the last heddles. This black and white band is the one with the most heddles and the one I enjoyed weaving the most….so far.

bands for lanyardsNow I have four made. The last blue and white one is in the 60/2 silk using the intermesh structure that I teach in my second book. However, I am going to re-do that one. I didn’t start it at its ideal width and the width changed a bit before settling. Now that I have a sample from which to work, I can make a better one. I am finding the the silk is the hardest to work with when using multiple heddles as it has more of a tendency to fluff with the extra abrasion.

Before getting into the second version of the intermesh lanyard, I warped another band in a different weight of mercerized cotton…

lanyards with multiple string heddlesAgain, the colored heddles help a lot with keeping track of the pattern. I am using the Andean Pebble Weave structure for this one with its two Pebble Sheds. I know that after every black heddle I need to use Pebble Shed 1, and then, Pebble Shed 2 after every orange one. These little tricks help keep the process fun rather than frustrating.

Last week, I posted a video that was shared with me by Adem in Turkey. It showed backstrap weaver Kay Seng demonstrating the use of multiple pattern sticks rather than multiple heddles on a piece that she was patterning with simple warp floats. The floats were formed from threads that were in one of the two sheds.

12895472_10154144034673629_611384756_nAdem has been weaving a band using this technique. He found a picture of a band online with this sweet butterfly pattern and tells me that it is from a book published in Japan. The image at left is the best I can do to show you the name of the book. Here is Adem’s band….


adem pattern sticksYou can see that he has half of the pattern stored on his pattern sticks beyond the shed rod. Many thanks to Adem for sharing a video he made of himself weaving the pattern and showing how to operate the loom with those sticks.

And now for some more globetrotting…from Turkey and Japan, let’s now travel to Nigeria where I have a new online weaving friend, Roli.

Roli and I had similar experiences when we were first introduced to the wonderful String Heddle. The Question of the Week in one of the online weaving groups was about an epiphany that we had experienced in the course of our learning to weave. I don’t know if mine was exactly an epiphany, but it certainly felt like the light shone down and the choir sang, the moment I was shown these things called String Heddles. I was with the teacher who taught me Navajo-style weaving. How I love them!

Until that moment, I had been using a plastic ruler to go over and under warp ends to create sheds on a very crude wooden frame I had knocked together. The cardboard rigid heddle I later constructed kept breaking and I was becoming frustrated with the whole business of trying to create fabric. This was back in 1994 and 1995.

Roli told me of a similar experience. In 2006, she was trying to revive the traditional ancient costume of the particular group of people to which her husband belongs in the Niger Delta. She tells me that the royal cast who were priests and kings wore the cloaks you see below and still do. She wanted to construct caps and bags and cloaks using strips of cloth that she had woven on a frame loom she designed and made from pieces of the raffia palm tree. It is a very lightweight material.

niger deltaShe, too, was using a stick to pick up every other shed and found it so tedious she almost lost interest. Then, one day, she came across my blog where she learned to make string heddles and she tells me that she has now resumed in earnest.

Not only does she use the raffia palm tree to provide pieces for her loom and tools, she also uses the fiber from the leaves as warp and weft. Often she combines it with colored acrylic yarn.

loom and tools


textile and hatShe produces fabric decorated with pick-up patterns. Bands are sewn into caps and several bands can be sewn together to make the cloaks and bags you see below.

cloaks hats and bagsI had never seen a raffia palm tree before. Here is a picture of one from the Wikipedia page. Hopefully, I am showing the same species that Roli knows in Nigeria.

Raphia_australisUsing wood from the raffia palm, she has created four looms of different sizes to accommodate the different widths of cloth that she needs for her projects. Right now she is working on a custom order for a white cloak and has used a lettering and patterning technique from this tutorial on my blog to create a band for the center of the cloak. She will weave six white panels of 6” each for the cloak and then make a matching bag and cap. Beautiful work!

Roli at her loom

pieces for cloakRoli’s loom is of her own design. She sits it with one end in her lap with the other end on the back of a chair. It can be adjusted to compensate for take-up (unlike the frame loom I built for myself all those years ago. I had no idea about such things as take-up!) She tells me that the traditional loom for these garments is a vertical frame. However, the clothing, the weaving and the stripping of raffia leaves for fiber are all shunned practices now as they are considered ‘’fetish’’. She explained ‘’fetish’’ as meaning that these items of clothing were associated with traditional worshipers.

I hope to see more from Roli. I would love to know more about how she strips the raffia leaves and processes the fiber and I can’t wait to see the finished white cloak. I am hoping its new owner will allow himself to be photographed with it. Many thanks to Roli for sharing this with us.

From Africa let’s move over to North America…..Amanda showed us the backstrap she wove for herself using Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Naturale yarn. That’s my favorite yarn for backstraps. She chose of the variegated options and did a beautiful job.

amanda set up

amandaAnd, Janet has been using her gorgeous handspun once again to weave beautiful things using the Andean Pebble Weave structure. The pattern is her own design and she says she might use this as a guitar strap.

janet handspunIt’s nice seeing these large projects as I head back to my tiny lanyards. I am having fun. I have always loved things in miniature.

My purple panel sits by waiting for me to produce its twin. I have decided to call it the ‘’lady bug’’ project after seeing the colors in this beautiful picture online

finished purple panel on loom


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