Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 11, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Mess or Success

I feel like I am back at square one with my ikat experiments in terms of not being able to predict what the end result will be…..Mess or Success??… 

But then, I suppose it depends on how you define success. My experiments have been about trying to create images using the ikat technique with little or no shift in the warps threads to blur the image. I know that many people consider blurring the very characteristic that makes ikat so attractive. Quite often you can’t even notice the blurring unless you are examining the images closely. It is the overall effect that is important…the bird’s eye view rather than the ant’s view. Other times the blurring is very noticeable as if that was the very thing at which the weaver was aiming. One example of this is the fabric that you can see below from Uzbekistan. Soft blurred edges are what make these patterns so attractive.

Ikat fabric from Uzbekistan at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

My most recent experiments have been with silk. The first one, which you can see and read about in past posts, gave me images with barely any shift at all. I was so pleased! The silk I used was given to me and I have no idea of its origin. It was something like 5/2 cotton in size and somewhat “hairy”. That kind of smooth well-defined motif was what I had been after. I wanted something sharp and crisp like the the bold geometric patterns seen on ponchos woven by the Mapuche people of central Argentina and Chile. You can see an example of a Mapuche poncho below.

For my second experiment I followed exactly the same procedures, the only difference being that I used a finer and more slick kind of silk…I am guessing that it was something like 8/2 cotton in size. I got slightly more shift but have no real idea about how to account for that. I can only guess that the finer slicker silk made the difference.

Now to experiment number 3….same silk, same procedure, different kind of dye. I started with a multi-color warp in tones, of green, blue, grey and gold.

Here’s the warp stretched on the makeshift frame that I use when I wrap the warp threads with ikat tape. I have a small table with shelves that is made up of open bars. There are no solid surfaces and it turns out that it makes a very nice frame on which to hold my warp under tension while I do the wrapping.

My tools are a charcoal pencil with which I draw the pattern onto the warp threads, a paint brush with stiff bristles that I use to erase mistakes in my drawing, scissors to cut the tape and to remove incorrectly placed wrapping, a sharpener and of course the ikat tape itself.

My pattern has a kind of yin-yang thing going on in the center although the colors will not reflect the yin-yang concept. I was hoping for an illusion of slight “curviness” but I don’t think I managed to pull that off.

After a the blue dye bath, this is what I had. I looked carefully at the pink wrappings searching for dark spots which tell me that the dye leaked under the tape. I didn’t find any….not  that anything can be done at this point if the dye had in fact managed to get in.  I think my wrapping technique is getting pretty good!

Here is the warp back under tension on my backstrap loom. The scissors sit nearby ready to be used to cut off some of the wrappings. What I notice is that I need to work on getting my lines straight. You can see that the vertical line that is made up of ten separate wraps at the far right of the pattern is quite straight. The matching one on the far left certainly is not! How did I not see that? Those were the last wraps that went on and possibly I was tired and careless at that point. I have found that I need to take lots of breaks when I am doing this kind of work because it is indeed easy to get a bit careless when you are not feeling fresh any more. Oh well, nothing can be done about that at this stage.

Here is the woven motif. You can see that the warp threads shifted more than I would have liked them to. For me, calling this a success would mean being able to account for the fact that the threads shifted more in this experiment than they had in my second experiment.The only thing different about this project was the brand of dye and I hardly think that that could have had any effect. Standing back and looking at it with the eye of a bird in the sky, I  have to admit that I am very pleased with it. The ant’s eye view is less pleasing to me 🙂

I decided that there was enough fabric to be able to fold the piece in half and make a pouch. So I decided to play with the amount of unwoven warp that was left and add some figures using supplementary weft. I changed to a finer ground weft so that I could add a second supplemental weft without thickening the fabric.  I added a couple of the little paisley motifs that I had designed to use on a silk scarf some time ago. That scarf had been woven in 60/2 silk and the paisley motifs had been fine and delicate. How different the motifs look on this heavier silk! I wanted them to sort of match the shapes in the center of the ikat image. And then I designed a swirl for the small amount of space that remained.

My paisley patterns in supplementary weft on a silk scarf I wove in 60/2 silk.

I did end up folding the fabric and sewing it into a pouch. I even remembered to put in a lining before sewing the pouch. Lining always seems to come to me as an afterthought. I have yet to decide on whether I should edge it with a plain blue tubular band. That would hide the turns of pale blue supplementary weft that can be seen on the selvedges. And, I need to add a zipper.

I am heading towards using finer silk for my next ikat experiments. I have a cone of 30/2 silk that a friend gave me. It is not ready-to-dye and needs to go through a process of preparation. Thank goodness for my online weaving friends who are always willing to help when I need information and tips for such things. I have ready-to-dye 60/2 silk but I don’t feel ready to leap into that kind of fineness for ikat yet!

So, the 30/2 silk needs to be skeined and prepared.

While thinking about all that, I decided to slip in a small project…a silk ribbon on which to hang the awesome macrame seahorse that a talented young macrame artist in Australia made.

She is on Instagram as one_mile_smile_creations if you would like to check out her work. I think my little seahorse is actually her profile picture. I thought that the seahorse was a nice piece to buy from her as I was at that time visiting a part of Australia where she lives that is known as the Sapphire Coast. 

The silk ribbon has various fish and ocean motifs with seaweed, currents, ripples and bubbles. These patterns are charted in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book and several of them were contributed by my online weaving friends.

Perhaps I am just trying to put off winding those skeins of 30/2 silk and fiddling around with the preparation process…I don’t know…but I saw that still had enough of the multi-color naturally dyed silk that I have been using in these recent ikat projects to squeeze out one more project. This time I decided to create a slightly longer warp and weave it using very fine silk as the weft in the hope that the resulting fabric might have just enough drape to allow me to use it as a cowl. I won’t know until it is done and wet finished. It might stand up like a piece of cardboard!

So, here is the warp I wound with the scraps of silk that remain….

Instead of winding stripes of random widths, I wove twelve-end sections in each color. I have been wrapping sections of twelve ends in ikat tape so far and so it will be interesting to see how this warp will look with each ikat section being a solid color rather than a mix of various tones.

Here it is out of ts black dye bath. I didn’t challenge myself with curves or horizontal lines this time but I did create a pattern that is quite a bit bigger than the other three experiments. I think it will make a really nice cowl if it works out. If it doesn’t, oh well, I get another pouch! If the fabric does turn out to have enough drape, I will need to come up with a way to secure it at the back once it is around my neck. I have plenty of time to figure that out. I don’t see any dark spots under the tape on first examination. I think my wrapping was successful.

The big unwrapping ceremony is on standby while I finish another tiny tape on my backstrap loom. This time I am making a silk ribbon on which to hang the Koru pendant that I got in New Zealand. I chose a a pattern of curls to match the Koru curls that represent the unfurling leaves of the New Zealand silver fern. The pendant is one-and-a-half inches across at its widest point. The silk ribbon is tiny! 

I will leave you here with a picture from Gonit Porat in Israel. Gonit learned to do Andean Pebble Weave using the instructional and pattern e-books (PDFs) that I sell on Taproot Video.  I love being able to make connections like this with weavers on the other side of the world via my books. Gonit does amazing and inspiring work using eco dyeing and tablet weaving techniques as well as pick-up by hand. She teaches in her studio in Israel and this is the work of one of her students, Tal. This Andean Pebble Weave warp is tensioned on the frame of a rigid heddle loom. 

For me, this picture represents a little piece of heaven. Thank you, Gonit, for allowing me to show it here and for providing me with a beautiful image with which to finish my blog post. (If you are interested in buying one of my instructional ebooks but unsure about where to start, please read this page which gives you information on each book in terms of the audience, kind of loom and skill level at which it is aimed.)

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 27, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Stepping into Curves

I have been at my loom these past two weeks but also at my laptop keyboard as I move ahead with the new Andean Pebble Weave pattern book I am preparing. The new book has grown from 127 charts to 132…Help!…I can’t seem to stop! Give it one more week and I think I will be done. I am very excited about it. It has been fun weaving the new patterns into samples to be photographed for the book. Each block chart has its own photographed sample.

Between bouts of charting and weaving samples I wove the Silver Fern leaf pattern that I showed you in progress in my last post. Maori Koru motifs represent the curly yet-to-be fully unfurled fern leaves and I wanted to draw, chart and weave a representation of my own as a joyful reminder of my recent visit to New Zealand.

My first sample of the shape was a little too flat along its bottom edge and so I made a few adjustments in an attempt to create a bit more of an impression of “curviness’ and then set about weaving a narrow band for a book mark in 60/2 silk.

This is really just a test-run of my charted pattern but it is nice that it can be turned into something useful like a book mark.

The sample will help me see if the proportions are to my liking and if the figure looks too flat or is indeed quite curvy as I have hoped it to be. It will also help me to experiment with the ideal width.

My sample started out too narrow but the figure started to settle and look nicely rounded as I allowed the band to widen. I attempted to let the band go even wider hoping for even better proportions and curves but might have overdone it at the end as I could see a little  bit of red weft exposed in the black areas.

I am pleased with the result and may end up using this motif in a larger project at some point.

In Maori culture, the Koru is said to represent renewal and hope for the future. As there have been some quite significant changes going on in my life recently, these concepts are particularly meaningful to me right now. 

Next on the loom will be a silk neck ribbon for a brilliant little macrame seahorse that I bought from a talented artisan in Australia. I think I am going to use some of the patterns in the Rivers and Oceans set that I published in my Complementary-warp Pattern Book. That set is made up of some of my patterns as well those contributed by my weaving friends Julia and Kristin….a variety fish, sea creatures and watery swirls and eddies. Those watery patterns should make a very pretty band for the seahorse.

A few of the fish and water-themed motifs from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book.

Something else that is underway right now is another ikat piece using the tiny balls of naturally-dyed silk that I was given a few years ago. I combined a lot of the colors in two ikat warps earlier this year. They were very colorful base warps that I proceeded to wrap in ikat tape and then dye jet black. The areas wrapped with tape resisted the dye and gave me a warp of multi-color figures with stepped diagonals on a solid black background which I could then weave into cloth.

My latest warp is much more subdued as I am using a collection of paler more subtle colors…mostly the green, grey and blue-ish tones with a smattering of gold. I plan to dye this one blue with some powders that my friend Mog gave me when I was visiting in Australia. It involves mixing two lots of powder to get the blue I want. Mog gave me very clear instructions. I just hope I get it right!

As far as the pattern goes, I am still using figures with stepped sides but I am making the steps a lot smaller in the hope of creating something slightly more curvy….stepping my way slowly into curves, you might say. Even if I fail on the attempt at curves, I think the pattern will be quite nice…that is, IF I tie the ikat tape tight enough to avoid leaks and IF the threads don’t shift too much as I weave and IF I get the right tone of blue when I dye….so many things to consider when doing ikat!

And, I have this idea of adding some plain weave in a pale tone of blue to the sides when the time comes to weave the piece. I might weave some motifs into that part using supplementary weft. Yes, I can feel very confident about this plan at this point as the actual weaving part of this project is still a long way off!

Here’s the warp stretched on my ”ikat frame” with some ikat ties in place.  I have already decided that the first shape on the left is not quite right and so I will most likely be cutting those ties off, adjusting my pattern and re-tying. So, I see days and days of tying plastic strips on this warp… measuring, adjusting, cutting, starting again! Call me crazy but it is actually very satisfying. It provides a nice ”relax” time away from the keyboard and the book. In the same way, the book gives me nice breaks from tying ikat. It’s all good!

I will leave you with a reminder that all my e-books (PDFs) are now available at Taproot Video. It has been impossible to change every single old link on my blog over the last nine to ten years from Patternfish to the books’ new home at Taproot Video (I am, however, still trying to!) I see via my blog stats that a few people still click on the old Patternfish links now and then. I do hope that you somehow find your way to the Taproot Video website eventually.

If you are curious and/or excited about my up-coming new book of Andean Pebble Weave patterns but have not yet learned how to do complementary-warp pick-up or Andean Pebble Weave, my e-books(PDFs) on Complementary-warp Pick-up and Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms will show you how. The Complementary-warp Pick-up book teaches you a method that can be used on any kind of loom. The only experience you need is the ability to warp your loom and weave a plain-weave warp-faced band. The method enables you to weave Andean Pebble Weave and any other kind of complementary-warp structure.

The Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms book teaches methods that are particularly suitable for those who use a standard inkle loom. Those who are already weaving plain-weave bands on their loom will have all the skills necessary to continue with this book. Support in the form of video clips is also provided.

I hope to show you a lovely ikat warp on the loom and ready weave the next time I see you here. And maybe I will announce the release of the new pattern book and show you my seahorse pendant on its silk band. Thank you all for your continued support. Now it’s back to work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | September 13, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – In the Pursuit of Curls

I am once again in the pursuit of curls, curves, circles and spirals as I attempt to draw a chart for a figure inspired by Maori Koru. The Koru is a spiral shape that represents the unfurling of a frond of New Zealand’s silver fern.

Image from the website of activityvillage.co.uk

The challenge is to figure out how to make the lines that I can naturally create in my weaving somehow all work together to give the impression of a curve. In my tool box of natural lines are wavy verticals, smooth horizontals, smooth diagonals and stepped diagonals at various angles. In my experience, the more ends I have to work with, the easier it is to create something curve-like. However, it’s amazing how when weaving a band with only nine ends per shed, a figure can appear to be curved. Below you can see an Andean figure that so many people have told me reminds them of Maori Koru, including my weaving friends in New Zealand itself.

I have read a few different descriptions of what the Koru means in Maori culture. One description names it as a symbol of creation. Another says that it represents new life, growth and peace. The spiral shapes are the kinds of things I had in mind when I first started studying how to create curves in ikat and I collected images of Maori kowhaiwhai scroll patterns so that I could attempt to create something similar in ikat. That was all very well until I sat in front of a fresh white warp with ikat tape in hand and realized how difficult it was going to be! I first needed to see if I could create just one simple curve before I could even think about creating something as complex as a kowhaiwhai pattern.

Image from the website of silverfernz.com

I decided that I needed to step back a bit and start out slowly with large simple curves and then perhaps think about trying a more intricate kowhaiwhai pattern after I had had several years of experience with much simpler shapes! So, I just went with circles and I was pretty pleased with those….

…except that I forgot to consider take-up and my nice circles ended up flattened once they were woven into cloth. Another part of this particular experiment was to create pick-up patterns within my ikat circles. It is a quirky piece of work which has made a nice slip cover for my laptop.

I remember when I was living in Chile and just starting out experimenting with weaving on a trial-and-error basis somewhere around 1994. I had knocked together a simple wooden frame with nails at two ends to hold warp threads. I had no idea how the warp threads should be spaced.  All I knew is that the weft yarn had to go over one and under one. Because of the way I had spaced the warp threads, I was ending up with weft-faced cloth and that was fine. Of course at that time, I didn’t even know that there was a choice.

After weaving a couple of small pieces that had the shape of hour glasses, (I finally figured out how to lay in the weft correctly to stop that kind of draw-in) I found that by adding and changing colors I could create little patterns on one face of the cloth with a whole mess of ends hanging out on the back.

From there, what I really wanted to do was to create images. However, I had little at my disposal for ideas in terms of books or magazines. This CD cover by the band Split Enz provided inspiration instead and I remember weaving a very simple version of one of these patterns into a piece using acrylic yarn that became a cover for a very small pillow. Sadly the piece never got photographed and is one of many things that had to be left behind when I moved to Bolivia. 

It’s funny that after all these years I have come around full circle to once again have a strong desire to weave these kinds of patterns.

So, which structure should I use to try to create my Koru-like pattern? I quite like using warp-faced double weave for this kind of thing. I can create shapes that are very angular, as in the pattern below left, as well as ones that appear quite curvy, below right. The finished piece, if successful, will be called a book mark but it really will be just a sample for perhaps something bigger later. Double weave in fine silk will give me a piece that is not too thick for a book mark. 

Double weave is also the structure I used for my Shipibo-inspired piece in which I wove fine curvy lines within a frame of bold angular lines…

Using supplementary weft for patterns on a base of warp-faced plain weave has also enabled me to create the impression of curves. I designed some paisley figures for both warp-faced double weave and plain weave with supplementary weft. The process started with a paper paisley cut-out which I traced onto my charting paper….

It was very sweet in warp-faced double weave but, as I was wanting weave the patterns into a scarf, I decided that double weave would be too heavy. I went with using supplementary-weft to make the patterns on a warp-faced plain-weave base….

When I look back at these patterns, I start to think that maybe a Koru-like pattern won’t be so hard to design after all. I have actually already made a preliminary sketch on my charting paper and now just need to iron out all the kinks. The double weave warp with the paisley pattern I showed above still exists. I can use that same warp to test my first attempt at charting the Koru. I use four sets of heddles when I do warp-faced double weave with fine thread like 60/2 silk and it will be nice to be able to weave this sample with a warp that has been already set up. Now I just have to dig around and find it!

I had a de-clutter frenzy when I got back from my latest trip away and I am hoping that I didn’t toss it out. I came home feeling stifled by stuff. Once I get into one of my de-cluttering moods, I can get pretty carried away!

If the book mark pattern works, I’ll make a silk ribbon with curvy design on which to hang my Koru pendant. I also have a lovely seahorse pendant that was made by a talented macrame artisan that I met when in Australia which needs a patterned silk ribbon…something wave-like to represent the ocean…more curves! Hopefully, I’ll have some progress to show you soon.

In the meantime, I am putting the finishing touches on a book of one hundred and twenty-seven Andean Pebble Weave patterns.

Another one??

Well, I have to admit that this is not exactly a new book. Back in 2012 I published More Adventures with warp-faced Pick-up Patterns, a book of patterns inspired by ethnic textiles from around the world. In that book I introduce weavers to the “spotted chart” for all the patterns in the first half of the book. In all my other books, my patterns are charted on the more conventional style of chart which is made up of stacked rectangular blocks.

My idea for using the spotted charts in 2012 was based on opening up and promoting the possibility of readers designing their own motifs. The spotted charts make designing so easy. And, many of the readers did just that! I was happy to then be able to make roughly 25% of the Complementary-warp Pattern Book that I published in early 2018 about original patterns contributed by devoted fans of the spotted chart.

Above: Original patterns contributed by Maja Bürger (spindle), Laura McCarty (dog chasing squirrel) and Carlos Vargas (bee) to the Complementary-warp Pattern Book published in 2018.

However, I know that many weavers have not had the time to study that spotted charting system and have by-passed all the awesome Andean Pebble Weave patterns (Celtic knot-work patterns, Guaraní stars, motifs inspired by Central Asian textiles, to name just a few!) in the front half of my More Adventures book in favor of the other kinds of patterns charted on block-style charts in the second half of the book. 

So, I have now had all those spotted charts transformed into block-style charts. There are 127 of them and that is what I am about to publish.

Having said all that, my ”new” book will be aimed at two audiences. It can act as a supplement for those who own my previously published More Adventures book and who have not had the time or inclination to get into the spotted charts, or it can be a completely new book of patterns for those of you who have woven using my Complementary-warp Pick-up or  my Andean Pebble Weave or Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms books.

See you with more news about the ”new” book soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | August 26, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Flying Visits

Flying visits…I’ve been zipping here and there in the southern hemisphere starting with a three-stop visit in Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud, followed by stops on both the east and west coasts of that other great southern land, Australia.

It all started with a flying visit to Santiago, Chile where I was happy to run into Mapuche textiles in a store in the airport during my three-hour wait for the flight to New Zealand. Being in the airport and hearing the Chilean accents was enough to have me feeling a tug on the old heart strings. I had lived in the far south of Chile in the Chilean Patagonia for five years before I moved to Bolivia in 1998.

I loved seeing this heavy wool Mapuche poncho in one of the stores with its very precise ikat pattern. It is these incredibly precise patterns that are created by the Mapuche weavers with little or no shift in the warp threads that inspired my own recent ikat experiments in silk.

 

The pieces on display in the store included pillow covers with patterning in complementary-warp pick-up as well as belts in double weave. The balls of hand-spun wool were tempting but the yarn was far too heavy for the kind of work that I like to do and the climate in which I live.

I met lots of backstrap weavers in New Zealand. This is a group of friends in Auckland forming a huddle.

The weavers settled very quickly into the rhythm and there were even occasions when they could pause for a smile between sessions of silent concentration.

A little to the south, in beautiful Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty I wove with even more budding backstrap weavers and was taken by Colleen and Lynne to visit the famous Mount and other picturesque places along the shore.

On a drive out to visit the folk at Majacraft, one of New Zealand’s makers of spinning wheels and fibre tools, I was taken with the sight of a Maori pouwhenua – a carved land post that marks Maori territorial boundaries or places of significance. Between the fields of kiwifruit surrounded by thick high hedges protecting them from the wind, an open untouched green field suddenly appeared. It seemed strangely out of place, open to the elements and vulnerable next to all the other fields with their thick protective walls of hedges. This field was, however, guarded in one corner by a stately but raw and rather weather-beaten wooden pouwhenua. I was told that this one most likely stands to watch over the site of a battle.

A series of seven beautiful pouwhenua stand on the shore near the Mount. They represent Te Kahui Matariki (the Pleiades cluster of stars, or the Seven Sisters) and are much photographed and visited. But I have to say that I much preferred the weather-beaten but powerful single powhenua standing alone in the corner of that wind-swept field in the country.

I got a scarf with Koru motif in the super-soft possum-merino blend for which New Zealand has become known as well as a Maori Koru pendant which will soon swing from a silk neck ribbon that I plan to weave. The Koru is a Maori spiral-shaped motif that is based on the appearance of an unfurling frond of the silver fern.

Air New Zealand aircraft sport an image of the silver fern and  Koru motif…

I flew over snowy peaks (it’s winter at this end of the world) on the way down from Tauranga to Wellington, the last stop on this visit to New Zealand…

Wellington is a gorgeous city. I have been to New Zealand three times before, the last time being thirty years ago. On all three visits we simply drove through Wellington to take the ferry over to the south island. I was so happy to be able to stop and stay this time and enjoy, thanks to my friends Fiona and Sandra, the views across the Cook Strait (see below) and from the top of Mount Victoria, a stay in one of the many homes that cling to the steep Wellington hill sides and a visit to the Te Papa museum with objects from not only Maori but many other Pacific island cultures.

Onward to Australia and the far south coast of NSW where my old backstrap weaving friends gathered once again for a few days of weaving fun. Driving down the final descent to the fishing club where we always gather to weave, a kangaroo nonchalantly hopped across the road. Yes, I am Australian, but I can still get excited about kangaroos.

Once again we enjoyed the pretty view of the ocean with its changing moods right from the door of our weaving venue. We usually step outside in the winter sun to wind warps on the table outside. This time I found it occupied by a group of kookaburras all fluffed up with the cold. Yes, I get excited by kookaburras too! The mural of Spirit Dancers painted on the side of a local water tank is one of several in the area.

At home with my friend, Mog, I found her weaving these beautiful golf towels with lettering and golf ball motif that she designed herself. I don’t think I have heard of anyone weaving golf towels before. It might become a ”thing”.

Then it was off to Western Australia where I met with weavers in Perth city, the Perth hills, and then later up north in Geraldton. I got to spend an evening with weaver Wendy Garrity. If you have been a long-time follower of my blog you will know that Wendy and I first met online via her blog on Bhutanese weaving techniques. We then met up in our travels in Bolivia and Santa Fe in the USA and have maintained a correspondence over the years since then. It was nice to see her this time in her home city. That day just happened to be my birthday and Wendy made sure it was celebrated with dinner at a Perth beach with its beautiful fine white sands to watch an Indian Ocean sunset, a tour around the city and gelato complete with birthday candle. Thank you, Wendy!

Brenda, provided me with crumpets for breakfast and other Australian treats that I often miss when in Bolivia. This picture is for all the Americans to whom I have ever tried in vain to describe a crumpet!

Brenda’s husband, Geoff, made me a bunch of beautiful swords in Western Australian jarrah, also known as, Swan River mahogany. The card that accompanied the gift shows the numbat, a termite-eating marsupial that is native to Western Australia.

In the Perth hills I stayed with Maggie and husband Peter. It was lovely  to get outside and stretch with a stroll around in the bush in the low evening sun spotting tiny native orchids. Peter just happens to be an expert in them.

In Geraldton, I visited Lynne and Max who offered me a bedroom right on the Indian Ocean. I was treated to a glorious sunset almost every evening. That was the view from my bedroom.

And weren’t we spoiled for lunch?! Geraldton, apart from lying in the wheat belt of Western Australia, is also the center of the rock lobster industry. Lynne’s husband Max provided a lunch of luscious lobster from his own catch.

Now I have time to spend with my brother and sister-in-law in their new home on the mid north coast of NSW. They have been taking me around the local beaches and lookouts…

…and into the bush.

Protests in the main square of Santa Cruz city. (Picture from The Bohemian Diaries).

See you next time back at home in Bolivia. My home province of Santa Cruz has been in the news lately in connection with the fires in the Brazilian and eastern Bolivian jungles. September is typically the month when farmers burn-off in preparation for the new planting season. It’s usually a smoky and unpleasant time of year. Smoke descends in the cooler evening temperatures and still air and is thick and fog-like in the streets at night. Apparently, this year, many of the fires are burning out of control and destroying vast areas of jungle. I’ll reserve further comment until I get home and see for myself what is happening.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 22, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – The In-box

I thought I had best clear out the In-box of all the images of wonderful woven projects from  friends and acquaintances that I have been accumulating to show here on my blog. Some of them are emailed to me, some of them I photographed myself when I visited friends and others have come to me as I prowl about in the online groups.

My friend Diane recently went on a long campervan trip to Alaska and entertained herself during those long hours of daylight in the northern evenings by weaving a new band for her fisherman husband’s hat…

She combined various fish and geometric patterns from my Complementary-warp Pattern Book and used a backstrap loom.

Victoria Kusch Erker was also attracted to the cute fish motifs and you can see one that she is weaving into band on her inkle loom. There are four of these cuties in my pattern book. I adapted them to pebble weave from a band of tablet-woven fish.

Victoria then went on to weave a band with the cheeky viscachas that also appear in my pattern book. It’s hard to believe that this pattern came from a fragment of pre-Columbian cloth. It looks so contemporary.The owner of the fragment shared pictures with me so that I could study and chart the pattern. It’s adorable. The band includes a cat figure that is also seen on pre-Columbian pieces as well as some geometric patterns which are all charted in my book.

Kathy King gathered motifs from Bedouin textiles to create this beautiful band. The Bedouin weavers pick patterns for only one face of their cloth which leaves very long warp floats on the back. However, one simple additional step allows the weaver to avoid those floats and create two bonded layers of cloth. This is what we do when we weave warp-faced double weave. I have a tutorial on this structure here on this blog.

Kathy also quickly moved on to creating patterns of her own. Her backstrap loom goes with her when she travels to escape low winter temperatures.

Jane Milner showed me what she has been doing in Andean Pebble Weave…

Motifs that are woven in certain structures in tablet-weaving can be very easily adapted to Andean Pebble Weave and this is what Jane has done. I adapted, with permission, some tablet-woven motifs by Louise Ström for publication in my second book and I believe that Jane used some of Louise’s patterns as well.

Terry and Jennifer made jewelry from the eye-pattern tubular band aka ñawi awapa:

I teach this in one of my latest books, The Eye-pattern Tubular Band and Other Decorative Finishing Techniques in which I show how the band can be woven without any loom at all (that is, with the warp stretched between your waist and a fixed object), or if you prefer, on an inkle loom. The ebook includes the support of video clips.

Lynn wove the tubular band while sewing it to the edge of a pouch. This is actually the traditional use of these kinds of bands…as an edging. She used a piece of fabric which was woven by my Bolivian weaving teachers in the co-op that they run in Cochabamba. My friend Dorinda, who lived with and supported the weavers in their establishment of the co-op over many years, has lengths of these beautiful pieces of cloth for sale if you are interested. You can contact me via this blog or you can contact Dorinda via the PAZA Bolivia blog if you would like to buy them and help support the weavers. The yarn is hand spun and dyed with natural substances.

Lynn has a very interesting life style…she caretakes lighthouses around the world! and always takes some weaving and sewing projects along with her when she is doing a stint of lighthouse watching.

Here’s a picture of my new weaving friend Jan who was bitten by the backstrap bug during my visit. She has a nice comfy set-up in her living room…

On the foot-rest you can see one of the lined zippered pouches that the ladies in the Bolivian weaving co-op also make to sell. The natural dye colors are so beautiful!

Hand spun wool yarn, natural dye substances and weavers skilled in producing beautiful cloth on simple looms.

Jennifer, who wove the tubular band necklace with the star pendant I showed above, has also been making gorgeous wrist cuffs. using patterns from my Complementary-warp Pick-up e-book. This book teaches the technique and includes 42 pattern charts.

Jennifer is using the wooden ends from Purl and Loop which come with metal clasps ready to ”install”. I have bought a few sets of these for myself but have yet to use them.

And, here’s a picture of the efforts of several of my friends who are weaving patterns with supplementary weft…

I love how this technique allows color changes when ever you feel like it. It can be as colorful or as subdued as you like.  The set-up is very simple as it only requires two basic sheds. You are weaving patterns into a base of plain weave. This means that this technique can be easily woven using an inkle loom.

This technique is the topic of one of the three books that I currently have underway. Until then, if you are curious, I wrote a very basic tutorial on it many years ago.

Ann wove my leaf pattern at left in beautiful autumn tones.

Since I last visited Mary and wove double weave with her, I invented a little song to remember the moves. It can be quite an ear worm but Mary believes that it really helps and she really took off with her double weave when I saw her recently.

She put together a cool stand for her inkle loom which can be dismantled and easily carried around.

I got to see Deanna’s double weave Iching hexagrams in person on my last visit. They are so striking! Deanna uses a backstrap loom for her double weave.

Patricia Stern Mulcahy  wove some bands for key fobs. The hardware she used for these allows you to clamp them directly onto raw edges. There is no need to bother with turning a hem. The bands are folded with both raw edges clamped. There are those adorable viscachas again. She wove some of the individual geometric patterns from my book as continuous ones and I really like the effect.

Nancy uses her inkle loom for her pebble weave and tells me that she has become accustomed to the spotted charts that I use in my second book. They do require time and little patience to get used to but I can tell you that they are a great aid to moving on to designing your own patterns. About a quarter of the patterns in my Complementary-warp Pattern book were created by my students or readers who use the spotted charts to sketch out their ideas. These knot-work patterns, woven by Nancy, come from the second book…More Adventures with Warp-faced Pick-up Patterns.

Martina in Germany wove some pebble weave paw prints and river-themed patterns into key fobs too. The heart-shaped hardware is unique. I had never seen them before.

Theresa Cariello uses the  popular Mini Wave loom for her complementary-warp work. I love the way she used the horizontal bars on the border of her pick-up pattern…such a striking effect! Her band is so crisp.

And, to finish, I’ll show you what became of my latest ikat project. The idea was to see how the finer, slicker silk thread behaved. I abandoned all my fancy ideas about adding panels to the sides and weaving supplementary-weft patterns in them. That will come later. I decided to concentrate on doing everything in exactly the same way so that I could see the effect of using the finer thread. It did shift more in this project than in the first one.

Here it is out of the dye bath and almost dry. And now, on the loom with a pile of cut and unwrapped ikat tape nearby. I unwrap gradually as I weave.

There is just enough shift in the warp threads to make it immediately recognizable as ikat but not so much that the pattern is spoiled. I know that many people like the blurring. I don’t want too much of it. Below you can see it off the loom before I wet and then pressed it. I really like the way the colors darkened when it was wet.

Here it is pressed and finished with a bit of sheen that would be expected from silk.

I don’t have any real plans for this. It is part of the experiments as I work my way to finer and finer silk and longer and wider pieces. I have one more multi-color base-warp experiment that I would like to do with all the shades of blues and green that I have left from my little skeins of naturally dyed silk yarn but that will have to wait until I return.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | July 12, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Tying and Stitching

I have been enjoying some stretches of quiet time in which I have been sewing and tying tape onto a new ikat warp.

The sewing part of my reward time was about converting the long strip of cloth that I recently wove on the Karen backstrap loom into a table square. I cut the strip into five pieces so that they could be joined side-by-side into an almost-square piece of cloth, roughly 24″ x 24″. I think that it is something I can use on tables to display my workshop samples.

I wanted to lay the strips side by side and join them edge to edge using one of the decorative stitches that Bolivian weavers use when they join their woven panels. There are many varieties of these joining stitches and I chose one of the simplest one. The needle and thread follow a basic figure-eight path. The needle emerges from bottom to top a certain distance away from the edge of panel A. Then it dives down in the gap between the two edges of the panels and emerges from bottom to top the same distance away from the edge of panel B. Then it once again dives down in the gap between the edges of the two panels and starts again from the beginning.

I used this joining stitch a couple of times before when I connected wool panels to make lap blankets. Here’s one of the two panels of the purple blanket on the loom…

And, here it is connected to its partner with the decorative stitching…

I took care of raw edges by eventually covering the perimeter of the blanket with the woven band you can see below…

The red and brown blanket got the same treatment. Above you can see the two panels sitting side by side before I sewed them together.I used a contrast color for the join which made the stitching practical as well as decorative. This blanket also had its perimeter covered and raw edges protected with a woven band.

I guess the hardest part is making sure that the needle always pierces the cloth the same distance away from the edge. Cotton seems to demand a higher level of accuracy and I wasn’t confident enough to go with a contrast color for the stitching.  I matched the color of the sewing thread to the cloth and the little inaccuracies give my stitching a fairly ”rustic” look.

Stitching in progress. There were four joins to cover.

A close-up of the joins.

I covered the two raw edges with cross-knit-loop stitches and left the two selvedges uncovered….

I kept the cross-knit-loop stitches as close together as possible. This gave good coverage and meant that I could just turn the raw edge over once and feel confident that the stitching would cover and protect it.

My other non-weaving activity was time  spent tying a new pattern into my next ikat project. It’s another short warp as I am still at the stage where all I am hoping to do is learn and improve my skills before I launch into a ”real” project.

The base colors show against black in the last silk ikat project.

I again used the naturally dyed silk sample skeins that I had been given.

This warp is made of a different kind of silk to that which I used in my last ikat project. It is different in that it is finer, more slick and has a higher twist. I guess it more closely resembles the silk that I eventually hope to use in the real project, whatever that might be.

A major difference is that this kind of silk absorbed the natural dyes in a very different way too. The colors in my last warp were more muted and “sad” I suppose you could say. These colors are brighter and clearer….almost too bright for my liking and I might over dye the project later to sadden the colors if the contrast against the black dye is too high.

It’s the differences in this thread that are of interest to me. Will the fact that it is finer and slicker make it more difficult for me to achieve good firm ties when I apply the ikat tape? Will the black dye bleed under the ikat ties? Will the threads shift more freely out of alignment when I weave because they are more slick than those I have tried in other experiments?

 

To make it all a bit different to the last ikat experiment, I plan to add two panels to either side of this piece when the time comes to weave it. I hope to be able to weave motifs with supplementary weft in those two panels that resemble the ones I have created with the ikat tape.

When I posted pictures of my last experiment in online forums, questions arose about the tape I am using. It was given to me years ago by my weaving friend Betty. You can see a roll of it at left.

I don’t know where she got it from but the only place that I have seen selling anything that seems to be specifically designed for ikat is Maiwa in Canada.

I used cassette tape with some success before I was given the ikat tape. It worked very well when I was using cold water dyes on cotton. It failed in hot water, though. It held knots well but you had to be careful when pulling knots tight as it could snap. The ikat tape has never snapped.

Others in the forums have mentioned using flagging tape and cut strips of plastic grocery store bags when they have taken ikat workshops. One of the features I like a lot about the ikat tape is that it can be split and torn vertically into strips as fine as you like. I am not sure if that is a good thing if you are trying to use the entire width of the tape to wrap a very large area. I think it in that case that it may have a tendency to split when you don’t want it to.

This is probably one of the last ikat experiments that I did using cassette tape….

I know that you probably can’t make out anything here but this is the pattern that I am currently tying. I  mark the pattern with a charcoal pencil and I use a paint brush with stiff bristles to “erase” mistakes in my marking.

I am finding straight horizontal lines the hardest thing. I tie each bundle separately and just hope that the plastic wraps line up well enough to give a smooth horizontal. I have been tempted to put several bundles together and bind them all at once but I know that if I were to grab my bangs in a bunch and cut straight across, I wouldn’t end up with a straight line.

The other thing I did in my reward time was to cover the journal with the last ikat piece and add it to the collection of little books with hand woven covers.

I was pleased that the three motifs in the middle ended up nicely seated on the spine of the book.

I have actually finished all the tying part of the latest ikat project. Now I just need to carefully inspect it and make sure that I didn’t forget any parts. You can see in an old experiment in the picture below that the top left motif is missing one wrap on its extreme left. It went into the dye bath like that. So, I will be looking very closely over my current pattern to make sure it is complete!

It will go into the dye bath tomorrow. Fingers crossed that all goes well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 27, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Something from Scraps

I was motivated by the announcement that the summer 2019 weave-along (WAL) in one of the weaving groups on Ravelry would be “Weaving with Hand-dyed or Painted Yarns”. The WAL for the last couple of summers has been about band weaving and although I happily participated in those, this newest topic is much more interesting and challenging for me.

I decided that it was a good time to try ikat using silk for warp and started scratching around in my silk stash which includes cones and skeins of 30/2, 60/2 and 140/2 thread. I figured I would be wise to start with the heaviest 30/2 thread even though that still seemed very intimidating. I have mostly used cotton for my ikat experiments in the past, the finest being this one with 20/2s.

I was able to turn this experiment into something useful…a nice draw-string bag for my Kindle…

I had been using cold water dyes for these cotton experiments. Now was the time to take out the lovely Landscape and Jacquard brand dyes that I had bought a few years ago in the hope of dyeing wool and silk for some of my projects. I had all I needed: the ikat tape, the right dyes and a selection of silk from which to choose, but I still hesitated.

Ikat projects are such a big undertaking. There’s all the time spent designing and then tying a pattern, not to mention all the measuring and care to make sure that the pattern gets tied on straight. My eyes always seem to to tell me something completely different to what the ruler is indicating. Then you can never really be sure if you have wrapped the yarn well or tightly enough. There’s always a chance the dye will seep into the wrapped yarn and spoil the motif. And, finally, even if the initial tying and dyeing stages have been successful, you can never know just how much the threads will shift on the loom to possibly blur the pattern out of recognition.

The fineness of my silk in my stash was intimidating. So, I was quite relieved to discover in my scratching around that I still had scraps of naturally dyed silk left over from other projects. This silk is much heavier and seemed like it would be much more manageable for my very first ikat experiments with silk. I had been offered all these tiny dyed skeins of silk by a guild when the guild member who had created them had passed away. No one else had seen a use for them, but I knew that I could use them for small projects on my backstrap loom. This was what I was able to bring back home with me to Bolivia….

You may remember that some time ago I used them to weave four pieces which became covers for journals…

These are the remaining scraps I found in my closet…

Ikat Cat by Budi Satria Kwan fineartamerica.com

There are two quite different kinds of silk rolled up in these tiny balls. I opted for the heavier of the two for my ikat project and decided to wind a crazy multi-colored warp. I wanted to weave a piece that would cover a journal that I had left over from the other project. The warp only needed to be nineteen inches long to give me enough fabric for the cover as well as a comfortable amount of working space on my backstrap loom.

I was inspired by a picture of some fabric I had seen on the internet many years ago of the silhouette of a multi-color cat sitting on a dark background. I had saved it and kept it in the back of my mind. I wasn’t feeling brave enough to go for such an ambitious shape right now and decided to stick with some basic straight lines for this experiment. I had done some experiments with creating curved shapes in ikat some years ago too. They were quite successful but would have been even better if I had remembered to account for take-up when I tied the shapes. My circles had come out a little flattened!

I really liked the simple idea of having the multi-colored shape appearing on the black background.

Here’s the warp I created.

Next, I extended the warp on a frame so that I could start tying in the design. A friend lent me a small table that made a perfect frame for this.

Those light pieces of thread you can see in the picture are enclosing the sections of threads that will be tied. Most bundles were made up of twelve ends with a few evenly distributed ones that held fourteen ends so that I could cover the total of 270 ends across the width of the warp.

I wrapped the thread in ikat tape in several short sessions over three days. The frequent breaks are necessary as I tend to get sloppy with my measurements when I get tired.

Here you can see the warp off the frame and ready to be soaked before going into the dye pot.

Here it is after being rinsed and left to dry overnight…

And now on the backstrap loom, heddles in place, first section unwrapped and with weaving underway…

Rather than remove all the ikat wraps at once, I like to slowly unwrap as the weaving progresses.  I feel that leaving some of the wraps in place helps reduce the amount of shift in the threads which gives a crisper design. I know that the shifting and blurring can be attractive but I have found that it is less so when the motifs have blunt horizontal edges as mine do. Shifting in motifs like these can sometimes create spots and/or lines of color that are totally disconnected from the main motif. The practice of not removing all the ties at once gives me a relatively small space in which to weave and operate the loom. I use fine swords and wrap my weft around a stick rather than the regular shaped shuttle that I prefer. I can slide the stick with the weft into a very small shed. I keep weaving until I absolutely can’t continue due to the lack of space and then I remove the next ikat ties to free up some space to continue.

Almost there…

I am hoping that I have planned this well enough so that the black squares in the middle of the center row of three motifs sit right in the middle of the spine of the journal.

Done!…

I am very pleased (and relieved!).

Ikat projects are always a big unknown for me. They can end up being a mess or a success. I’ll call this one a success.

It does seems a bit weird over-dyeing naturally dyed silk with chemical dye, but there really wasn’t a whole lot more I could do with the scraps of silk that were left in my closet except perhaps make some wrist cuffs.  I already made the cuff you can see at left when I was sampling for the first set of book covers.

I am glad that this project still shows off the beauty of the natural dye colors.

There is probably enough of the other kind of silk that I was given to do some further ikat experiments. It is finer and slicker. Maybe I will make an ikat cuff or two. The more experience the better if I am ever to move on to my finer 30/2s and 60/2s silk thread!

I could have produced a very similar effect in warp-faced double weave without all the mess and risk. I was thinking about that. Double weave would have given me a thicker fabric for a start, which I didn’t want. Plus the two layers of cloth would not have connected in the areas of solid black. That can sometimes create a sort of ballooning effect between the areas where the layers are in fact connected. In any case, the more ikat I do the more confident I will feel about eventually reaching my goal of creating complex curved shapes…the kinds I wouldn’t be able to achieve in double weave or the other patterning structures that I use.

Now all that remains to be done is to look for some pretty paper to use on the inside of the front and back covers of the journal.

Between bouts of ikat wrapping, I started sewing together strips of the green cloth from my Karen backstrap loom project to make a table square that will be approximately twenty-five inches square. It will be another piece on which I can display my samples at my workshops. I’ll show you my progress on that in the next post.

And, this will be my last chance to remind you to make sure you have downloaded all your purchases from Patternfish. You have until the end of the month to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 15, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – Order and Disorder

It all started a few years ago when my weaving friend Bhakti gave me a loom with a circular warp that she had been using to study with a group of Karen backstrap weavers. Her teachers had created the warp and set it up for her. It seems that they used the sticks that they would normally use for their much wider projects. The coil rod, heddle sticks and shed rod were clumsily long for this narrow warp. Because I was traveling, the first thing I did was leave behind the large piece of long pvc pipe that they had been using as the shed rod. It was way too bulky to pack. I saved the space it had been occupying with a sturdy piece of cord.

I loved the simple backstrap made from a piece of plastic Thai rice sack. A halved stick of bamboo fills the seam at the two sides so that the strap doesn’t fold in on itself. The sword was also wonderful as was the forked dowel rod that had been neatly split in two. The unwoven warp, and later the cloth itself, get clamped between the two pieces of that split rod and then rolled with the help of another rod to hold the circular warp in place. This stops the warp from slipping around the two end beams as the weaver beats. It was too precious a piece to leave behind even though it was heavy and bulky. The simple temple, which consisted of a flat stick with pins taped to ends, was also a treasure.

In case you are not familiar with what I mean by a circular warp, compare the two warps in this next picture….

The warp with the blue and yellow pattern is circular. You start weaving at one point and continue around the circle until you arrive back at the place where you started. The entire warp slides and rotates around its two end beams every time you advance the warp. This means that the weaver always stays more or less seated at the same distance from the end of the warp throughout the project.

The other warp is the one that I more typically use…a single-plane warp. You start weaving at one end and finish at the other end. The cloth is rolled up as the weaving advances. The weaver, therefore, moves closer and closer to the end beam as the weaving advances.

I learned about the use of circular warps on backstrap looms with the Montagnard (Vietnamese hilltribe) backstrap weavers with whom I studied some years ago and have used this kind of warp a few times in my own work. It is particularly handy when I want to weave a piece that is too long to fit in my weaving space on a single-plane set-up, like the purple scarf project below….

Here’s another long warp that I set up in circular fashion as a demonstration piece…

Above, you can clearly see the circular nature of the warp my Montagnard teacher, Ju Nie, is using.

One thing I have struggled with a little when using a circular warp is getting the warp well clamped and fixed in position in order to start the weaving. My aim has always been to clamp the warp so that I can start weaving as close to all the knots (where I changed colors in the warp) as possible. This creates the smallest amount of  loom waste. This has always involved a lot of fiddling and messing about, for me in my inexperience, with the threads slipping and sliding in their circle around the two end beams so that the knots eventually got very much misaligned. My warp that had come off the warping stakes in such good order would end up in complete disorder! Eventually I would get it clamped but there would be much more waste than I had anticipated because the knots had slipped so much out of alignment. Part of the problem is that I didn’t insert the coil rod while winding the warp. A coil rod in a circular warp has a very useful stabilizing effect even before you can actually start weaving.

I noticed that the Karen weavers set up their warp in a slightly different way which keeps the color changes in the warp perfectly aligned and in good order no matter how much messing about you do. They use two coil rods….one in the typical position beyond the shed rod and the other is positioned at the point in the warp where one would start weaving. This second one creates even more stability and locks everything at the color changes into position.

This is the way I would go about winding a warp if I wanted to replicate the set-up of the Karen warp I was given…

Of course, I can’t say that this is the way they did it themselves.

The two blackened circles are the two fixed stakes that hold the warp tension. Ca = the coil rod at the ”start” of the warp. Cb = the coil rod in its typical position beyond the shed rod. The stakes marked X hold the cross. I know that the Karen weavers use a hollow rod of large girth (H) to measure the length of the heddles that they create while they wind the warp. Later, a stick of much smaller girth is inserted in the tube. The tube is slid out from beneath the heddles and the thinner stick remains behind as the heddle rod.

I could see from examining the Ca coil rod in my Karen warp that the first and last ends of warp were tied directly to the rod. At a color change, the tail of the old color would be left on standby until it was later called into use again. The new color would be tied to the rod. It all looks a bit disorderly there in the picture below but, wow, what a difference it makes to getting the warp nicely clamped and positioned so that the start of the weaving can be as orderly as possible!

I placed a stiff cardboard strip in one of the sheds at the coil rod which gave me a nice straight and even base against which to beat and started weaving from there.

In the very first picture I showed of the warp you may have noticed that there were two shuttles. The warp had been set up for some continuous patterning with supplementary-weft. The green weft was used for the ground weave and the white weft was the supplemental patterning thread. The warp included two patterning rods that raised certain warp threads in order to form the simple repeating pattern. These were placed in the same way that my Guatemalan weaving teachers had shown me.

I wasn’t really in love with the pattern and I also didn’t care for the fact that the ground weave was more warp-dominant than warp-faced so, once I had decided that I was going to actually sit and weave this piece (about three years after having received it!), I removed the patterning sticks and un-wove the six inches or so of cloth that had been started.

I used a thick piece of dowel to replace the pvc shed rod that I had removed. And then I put sticks in the original cross to get an idea of how wide this warp would be if I wove it as warp-faced rather than warp-dominant.

I am in the habit of first weaving a sample with new-to-me yarn before taking on a major project like this so that I know exactly what width to expect. That wasn’t an option this time. By putting in cross sticks and gently sliding them back and forth along the warp until everything settles, I can then push the threads around and get a pretty good idea of the where these threads will want to sit in my hands when I am in the driver’s seat. It’s worth noting that ten different weavers could work on this warp and all create different widths of good warp-faced cloth. The threads will behave in different ways with different weavers at the loom according to how how much tension each places on the wrap, how they beat and how they handle the weft. Something that was a little unusual for me was the fact that the warp was made up of doubled threads.

The first thing I had to come to terms with was the lack of order in the green strips. I am a bit nutty when it comes to symmetry. The green strips were all different widths. Well, the fact is that I didn’t come to terms with it and I cut and pulled out ends so that the two outer strips matched. I then made the two inner ones match too. They were slightly wider than the two outer ones. One white stripe was missing a couple of ends but I decided I would live with that!

ABOVE: In “jammies” on a wintry day trying to decide what to do about those uneven green bits!

From order to disorder….I then decided that the little supplementary-weft patterns that I planned to use, needed to be scattered randomly along the length of the piece. I don’t do random very well and every time I try, I find myself unconsciously slipping back into a pattern. I pushed ahead trying to be as little controlled by a need for symmetry and orderly patterning as I could.

There was plenty of warp to work with and so I decided the first part would just be about seeing if I had set the width correctly. Then I would decide on the motifs I would use, the material for the supplementary weft and the colors. The warp didn’t come with enough weft material to weave the complete project and so I used some white thread I have in my stash. You can see the turns of the white weft along the edges. A bit later I discovered that I did in fact have some green in my stash that almost perfectly matched the warp color.

Below you can see the fun moment when the ”starting coil rod” rounds the far beam and starts heading towards you rather than away from you. You finally get to catch just a glimpse of what you have woven so far….

The warp is in good order which is more than can be said about the contents of my cupboard!

And getting closer….and then closer….

In the picture above left you can see that I am using a shed rod attached with rubber bands to a second stick. These two form the system that I call the ”twisty sticks” and twisting them is what helps me to open a nice clean heddle shed without having the scrape the heddles along the warp. This way of operating the loom is one I learned from a backstrap weaver in Peru and is just one of many methods that I have seen backstrap weavers use.

In the picture on the right, you can see the flat stick (it’s actually a shuttle that I am re-purposing) that I kept permanently positioned in the ”back” shed at the shed rod. I would pull it down towards the heddle and then tilt it on its side to raise and clear that shed through the heddles. Then I would leave it lying flat once again within the shed when it wasn’t in use.

Getting veeeeery close….The two coil rods and the shed rod (I am using a two-stick shed rod aka ”twisty sticks”) are now so close together that if I wish to continue, I’ll need to change the large shed rod to a much slimmer one, which is what I did. With that, I was able to squeeze in another couple of inches.

And, this is where I called it quits….

All sticks have been removed and you can see the unwoven warp that connects the start of the woven cloth to the end. What a mess that is!

And here is the cloth straight off the loom….

One idea I have is to lay pieces of the cloth side by side, joining them with decorative stitching, and make a bag of some sort. I will let the cloth lie around for a while and see what other ideas come along.

Here are the simple sticks that went into this project from top to bottom…

far beam,

forked split rod (these are the ones that came with the warp but I ended up using the pair below them which I had bought from another backstrap weaver from Burma. They are much lighter in weight.),

shuttle (I didn’t use the stick shuttle that came with the warp as I am not fond of that kind of shuttle),

sword/beater (this is an old favorite of mine from back in 1995. It was originally a very long shuttle for my Navajo loom which was cut down and beveled to become a simple sword…love it!),

shed rod,

heddle rod and second heddle -”protection” rod,

starter coil rod (Ca)….interesting how it ended up a bit bowed!,

coil rod (Cb),

second shed stick which together with the shed rod formed the ”twisty sticks”.

Oh, and there was a second rod (not pictured) that was used together with the split rod to roll and secure the near end of the warp. I didn’t feel any need for a temple.

One other thing worth mentioning is that I have a new appreciation for the way my Guatemalan weaving teachers taught me to enclose the warp threads in heddles. This is the same method that the Karen weavers use and is also used by Yan, who brought her Li-style backstrap loom to show me, and Ju Nie my Montagnard teacher. I’ll expand on this in another post after I have done some experiments.

In the meantime, I must write to Bhakti and show her what became of her wonderful gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 3, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – A new home for my ebooks: Taproot Video.

Patternfish.com has been the home for my e-publications since 2010 when Syne Mitchell first introduced me to its dynamic owner, Julia Grunau.

Sadly, after eleven successful years in business, the site closed its doors for sales on May 31, 2019. I would like to thank, Julia, Phil, Dale and all the team for the support they gave me over those nine years and particularly in the weeks and days leading up to the final closure. And, I would like to thank all of you who bought my e-books and gave me your vote of confidence right from the start when my first ebook, Andean Pebble Weave, was made available on WeaveZine.com back in 2009.

Now it’s time to move forward and I have found the perfect new home for new purchasers of my ebooks on the website of Taproot Video, which is also the home of my video class, Operating a Backstrap Loom. I couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition thanks to the hard work of the good folk at Taproot Video as well as those at Patternfish who were there to help out right to the very end.

As you can imagine, it will take me a while to update all the links to patternfish.com that I have placed in my blog posts over these nine years! The main links on the side-bar of my blog have been updated to Taproot Video and I have also included the links in the book titles below the next photo. Old links that continue to take you to patternfish.com will show you my old product page with a direct link to the new page at Taproot Video….at least until June 30, 2019, when the site may disappear all together. In that case, I hope that the message I have placed on the header of this blog will guide people to the right place.

Andean Pebble Weave

More Adventures in Warp-faced Pick-up Patterns

Complementary-warp Pick-up

Complementary-warp Pattern Book

The Eye-pattern Tubular Band and Other Decorative Finishing Techniques

Andean Pebble Weave on Inkle Looms

Foreign language editions:

Andean pebble Weave in GERMAN, FRENCH, ITALIAN and SPANISH

Complementary-warp Pick-up in GERMAN

Remember: if you have purchased one of my e-books from patternfish.com any time in the past but not yet downloaded it, please do so before June 30! Sales have ceased but the site will remain open for downloading purchased files until then. Please ask for help if you don’t know how to do that.

I hope you will visit Taproot Video after you read this blog post. While you are there, why not take a good look around at the other products that are offered, for example, video classes on tablet weaving by both John Mullarky and Kris Leet…cotton spinning by Joan Ruane….weaving on an inkle loom for beginners by Marilyn Romatka…sprang by Carol James…ply-split braiding with Linda Hendrickson… and  more.

As for me, I have more ebooks in the works which I will be offering at Taproot Video in the future.

In the meantime, I am pleased to say that I finished the straps for my big pocket bag and have sewn them on! This bag will go away with me on my next trip and we will see how my hand-sewing stands up to it! I am very happy with it and especially like the plain-weave tubular bands that edge the pocket and sides of the bag. The pocket is the perfect size for my iPod.

Right now I find myself sitting at an enormously long warp that was given to me by a weaver in the USA who had taken some classes from a Karen backstrap weaver. This was her student warp. It’s a circular warp and so it is actually twice the length of what you see here! It had about six inches of cloth woven and I have taken it back to the beginning to start afresh. I can only wonder what the weaver had planned for this long, long warp….perhaps a couple of scarves?

This warp has been sitting in my closet for a couple of years and now seems to be the perfect time to take it out and get it going again because I have received several questions from people about circular warps since I showed the picture of Yan Zhang’s loom in my last post. Following along with this project will help answer those questions better than words alone.

I have placed sticks in the original cross so that I can try to get a read on how wide this piece wants to be. It came with a simple temple ( a flat length of wood with pins taped to the ends) which would normally tell me the width but it was being woven as warp-dominant cloth rather then truly warp faced.

You can see the simple temple in the picture below. It’s the small stick at the bottom of the picture.

In the meantime, I need to get over the lack of symmetry in the stripes which is making my hair curl! This is me, below, pondering how difficult it might be to cut and pull out some of the green threads so that I can even up the stripes. And then there’s also the need to add a couple of white threads niggling at me. Pulling threads out is relatively easy but adding threads to such a long warp is not something I am willing to tackle!

There’ll be a full progress report next time….!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 27, 2019

Backstrap Weaving – The View from the Driver’s Seat

Twice during my recent trip away I got to sit in the ”driver’s seat” to experience what a weaver from another culture sees as they sit at their backstrap loom gazing down the length of their warp.

First, I got to spend the day with Yan Zhang, a woman from mainland China who went to study with backstrap weavers of the Li minority group who live on Hainan Island, China. She kindly brought her loom and warping frame and we, along with my good friend Deanna, talked about all things backstrappy for a good part of the day. You may remember Yan from a previous post of mine in which I embedded a beautiful video that she made of herself warping and  weaving with her teacher on Hainan Island. I had also written about a loom and patterning process from Hainan Island when I crossed paths with Megan in this post. some time ago.

Unrolling the warp and feeling excited as the beautiful cloth and tools are revealed.

Soaking up everything Yan has to tell me about the process…and hoping that I might have a chance to try!

Here’s my view as I sit at Yan’s foot-tensioned loom with its circular warp. While I have woven many a time using my big toe to tension my warp, this was the first time I had had the opportunity to sit at one of these awesome foot-tensioned backstrap looms. Yan’s legs are shorter than mine which meant that we needed to unroll the woven cloth from the beam and adjust length. We didn’t take the time to get it quite right and, as a result, I didn’t have the full range of movement in my feet that was necessary to be able to operate the loom comfortably. Nevertheless I got to use the loom and throw some shots of weft and it was thrilling!

The pattern structure is what I call ”simple warp-floats”. Floats form the patterns on one face of the cloth but not on the other. The loom was set up to create all the pattern sheds with heddle rods and other sticks in place and so no pick-up was required. I loved having my feet be part of the loom. I loved the feeling of curling my toes around the beams. Of course it requires lots of practice to make just the right amount of tension adjustments with movements of the feet. Quite often, I moved my feet too much and had the far beam slide down off the balls of my feet.

Look at Yan’s feet flexed toward her so that she can relax tension enough on the warp to enable her to raise a heddled shed.  She is adding the threads that are held on her pattern stick to the main heddled shed.

The tools that Yan used were all beautiful in their simplicity. She told us that some weavers on Hainan Island have introduced materials such as pvc pipe and I often see these also being used in the highlands here in Bolivia and Peru. Yan’s tools are all natural traditional materials.

Like backstrap weavers in many regions around the world, the shuttle is a simple stick. I  love the shape the yarn takes as it is wound onto the shuttle and Yan showed us how the Li weavers create that. Look at that gorgeous sword on the floor! The heddle rods are doubled pieces of bamboo and weavers look long and hard to find bamboo that grows in such a way. Once found, these pieces very much cherished. They are formed when a thin off-shoot of bamboo grows parallel to a piece of larger girth. The larger piece holds the heddles  while the thinner piece closes around them and secures them. Yan does not use a temple. When I asked her about that, she indicated that the coil rod is what is used to help maintain consistent width.

When we asked Yan about the thread she was using we all had a chuckle when she said it came from the craft chain store Joann! My Vietnamese weaving friends in the USA were never quite comfortable with the thread that they bought locally. Whenever a family member traveled back to Vietnam they were asked to bring back thread.

Yan showed us her handwoven skirt fabric and the way it is wrapped and pleated to fit the user.

Yan also learned how to spin cotton with her Li teachers and showed us a beautiful piece that she has woven using her own hand spun cotton. Here it is removed from the loom still in its uncut circle…

One of the other many fascinating things for me was the frame that Li weavers use to measure their warps. The loom can be set up anywhere and held between the body and the feet. In the same way, the warp can be measured anywhere on a simple hand-held device!

The particular warping path shown in my photo is what Yan calls ”four point” and creates the shortest possible warp. She showed me how to wind this shortest warp for what she says might be used to make a scarf. We separated the colors at the cross sticks in much the same way I was taught to do using my four warping stakes. The heddles are only made once the warp is off the frame and on the beams. However, the threads are turned in such a way as the warp is wound on the frame to allow the immediate insertion of the coil rod when the warp is removed. You can see the way the warp threads wrap around the upper right corner of the frame.

I shared some of my weaving with Yan and we compared warp-float techniques as well as the techniques used to create patterns using supplementary weft. She liked my wrist band with my leaf pattern in supplementary weft and I was happy that she accepted it as a gift. Here she is wearing it while warping.

She showed us some fabric that was woven by her teacher which is considered particularly precious because it is embedded with slivers of mica. You can see one sliver glinting in the light in the next picture. Follow that column down and you will clearly see the pieces of mica sitting under the red warp threads.

It was an absolute delight meeting and weaving with Yan. It was just a few months ago that I first saw her beautiful video on Youtube. I am grateful to my friend Deanna for opening up her home for this visit. Deanna is my backstrap weaving buddy and she of course was just as interested to meet Yan and spend the day with her.

A week or so later, I got to sit in the driver’s seat at another backstrap loom, this time from Guatemala. Susan had been to Guatemala and bought a loom with a couple of yards of cotton cloth already woven and wound onto its beam. She asked me to give her some tips on how to operate the loom so that she could finish off the weaving.

Single-layer warps are used in Guatemala rather than the circular ones that the Li weavers use. This one is made up of lively cotton stripes. Two colors have been used to create horizontal bars on one half of the warp. There is even some variegated thread in use on one edge.  Variegated thread was also used to make the colorful heddles. Susan did not know for what this piece of cloth was intended but I think the sturdy cotton fabric could be made into tote bags.

Unlike the Li weavers, Guatemalan weavers use a simple temple which is made up of a length of bamboo with open ends that spans the width of the cloth and two small nails. The piece of bamboo sits below the fabric. The nails are pushed through the edges of the fabric from top to bottom and then turned into the open ends of the bamboo.

The loom came with a good ol’ hefty sword…not as smooth and polished with use as the sword Yan was using but it certainly does its job in propping open the sheds and beating the weft firmly into place. I used the two cross sticks that are typical in Guatemalan backstrap looms as ”twisty sticks” to help raise the heddle shed.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the way the weaver had settled the far end of her warp. This is the second time I have seen this. My Guatemalan teachers taught me to start out by weaving an inch or so at the far end of the loom before turning it around and starting from the other end. The inch of weaving at the far end locks the two layers of threads together around the far beam and also sets the width at the far end of the loom. I noticed that the weaver who was using the loom that Susan bought had simply placed a metal rod in the second cross, lodged it up against the far beam and firmly lashed it into place. This is a quicker and far less fiddly way of achieving the same result, although perhaps not quite as pretty!

Yes, I had a very nice time sitting in the driver’s seat of these two looms and am so grateful for these opportunities. I think both Yan and I show it in our faces…the joy of weaving on a backstrap loom! The wonder of “being the loom”!

Right now, I am happily weaving on a 180-inch-long narrow warp, creating the straps for my blue pocket bag. I bought the wool yarn I needed to finish the project while I was away. It’s just a plain blue strap in the sturdy intermesh structure and it is a nice way to get back into the loom with an easy task which gives me head space to plan out my next project while I weave. I will get to use my shoulder bag with its quirky pocket on my next trip away in late July.

Oh, and if you happen to subscribe to Spin Off magazine, the summer issue has an article by Devin Helman to which I was excited to be invited to contribute.

You will also see Sara Lamb’s contribution to Devin’s article, Honest Cloth, as well as words of spinning wisdom from Kristin Merritt whose work I often show here on my blog.

And…here’s the ten-month grey hair update.

DON’T FORGET: While Patternfish sales will cease on May 31st, you still have until June 30 to download and save your purchases to a safe place. I’ll be announcing the new home for my ebooks in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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