Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 29, 2010

Backstrap Weaving-A tutorial and some terrific tiny projects.


A motif inspired by a Central Asian design and woven with a supplementary weft

A design inspired by weavings of the Huni Kuin people of tropical Brazil

You may remember these designs from a previous post on supplementary weft patterning. Now I am happy to present the promised tutorial on supplementary weft patterning together with a tiny project idea-key fobs.

This technique definitely falls into the category of those which are within the reach of beginners. We weave a simple plain weave band and then ”paint” in some motifs with an additonal weft.

A set of simple key fobs made with techniques suitable for beginners.

Let’s look at the above key fobs-nice beginner projects. A beginner in backstrap weaving will probably start by weaving a plain band like the light blue one on the left, learning to wind an evenly tensioned warp, set up the loom, operate the sheds and keep their edges straight and even. They may then move on to the next band adding some stripes to their warp-getting used to cutting and tying on new colors at the warping board and maintaining an even tension. From there they can try horizontal stripes which involves a rearrangement of the cross on the loom-a new skill.  More complex arrangements will produce staggered horizontal bands or ”combs” as in the red and black  and black and white bands.

And then we come to the two supplementary weft patterned bands on the far right. I aim to show you in the following tutorial how simple this technique is.

To weave bands decorated with patterns made with a supplementary weft, I start off with a warp prepared for plain warp faced weave. For this tutorial, I have used strong primary colors which show up well in photos. My yarn is 24 wpi mercerized crochet cotton. The blue base, seen below,  has a pale yellow stripe next to each edge. As I used my mini portable warping board, I have  just enough warp to make two key fobs. Instead of a shed rod I am using a simple shed loop and I have put the end loops on a needle to have a smooth rather than fringed start.

You can see more about the needle start in this previous post.

A warp prepared for plain weave. There are two sheds-the heddle shed and the shed loop shed.

Enough plain weave has been woven to be passed through the key ring, folded and sewn. Now I can begin the pattern.

We introduce the color of our choice as the supplementary weft with which to make our patterns. I am using doubled strands of embroidery floss which work really well with the 24wpi plain weave base. The supplementary weft always needs to be a lot thicker than the main weft. Embroidery floss is thick, lies flat and gives good coverage. Looking at the photos below, you will see the difference in width between the blue warp and weft threads and the yellow supplementary weft.  The blue weft will continue to form the structure of the plain weave while the yellow independently forms the motifs.

THE PATTERN CHART (All the pattern charts for these projects can be seen here)

Pattern chart for supplementary weft patterning

You may recognize this diamond chart from my double weave projects.

For supplementary weft patterning, we need to look at the chart in a slightly different way. In double weave the yellow spots would indicate the warps that need to be picked.

However, in this technique the yellow spots within the diamonds represent each warp that needs to be dropped in order to expose the supplementary weft.

Now let’s see this in action……..


Dropping the warps in the first row of pattern.

I have opened the heddle shed and placed my beater within and I am using a pointed stick to help select and drop my warps. Reading the pattern chart from right to left and starting at the bottom, I see that I need to keep the first six warps, then drop one, keep one, drop two, keep one, drop three and so on across the row.

Passing the supplementary weft through the shed from left to right. I am separating the warps to show the starting tail which is left hanging out under the weaving and which can be trimmed when the band is finished. You can see that I am laying in the supplementary weft only from one yellow edge stripe to the other rather than all the way across the band.

Passing the main weft from left to right under all the warps in the open heddle shed. This completes the first row.

I have opened the shed loop shed , placed my beater within and beaten. Now I am dropping the warps in the shed loop shed according to the second row of the pattern chart again counting the warps from right to left-keep six, drop two, keep one, drop two and so on.

Again, the yellow supplementary weft is passing from the edge of one stripe to the other turning on the surface of the weave. I am laying in the weft loosely and pushing it into place with the pointed stick .

After passing the main weft from right to left under all the warps in the open shed loop shed, I open the heddle shed, place the beater within and beat, ready to do row three.

I am finishing the third row. You can see that the yellow weft turns on the surface of the weaving at the stripes. I don't like carrying the supplementary weft all the way to the edge as I don't like the bumpy edge that that creates. I would rather have the weft turning against the stripe and use that as a decorative feature.

One half of the motif is finished. I can continue with the same color or introduce another. The finish tail of the yellow weft will be left hanging out the back of the weaving. If you have packed your wefts in firmly, you will be able to safely snip the tail off when you finish the band.

On this Central Asian design that I made you can see that the turning wefts on the left form their own decorative ''stripe' on the plain weave.

The turns of the pattern wefts in this piece virtually disappear against a stripe of the same color.

Several colors can be used for the motifs within one piece.

I have put the pattern charts for these motifs as well as the Central Asian and Huni Kuin inspired designs on a separate page. You can design and print out your own blank diamond charts here.

If you are planning your own designs, as a general rule, it is best not to have weft floats that span more than four warps. This of course will depend on how fine a yarn you are using and the purpose of the piece you are weaving. You need to consider that long floats on a key fob or bag will easily catch on things whereas on a hatband, for example, they may not be a problem. You should also take in account the fact that floats over a single warp, for example the points of the triangles in my sample design here,  can barely be seen. Try to have your weft floating over a minimum of two warps.


I finished the motif in another bright photogenic color and have turned the loom around to weave another key fob on the other end. You can see that the design does not show on the back of the band.

Below are some more key fobs that I have made in a variety of techniques and yarns ranging from 12 wpi mercerized cotton to doubled sewing thread. I weave a few now and then to add to the collection and have them handy as gifts for my friends here, or back in Australia or for other travelers I meet on the road in South America. Some are finished and some are yet to be braided and sewn.

Two can be made on one warp. First I weave one and then I move the shed loop to the other side of the heddles, turn the loom around, pass a needle through the end loops and start weaving from the other end. I cut between the two small weavings when I have finished and then braid the ends or leave them as fringe.

Key fobs in earthy colors

And some in brighter colors.


There’s nothing I like better than to see my instructions and charts put to use!

Here are some things that a couple of blog visitors have worked on……..

Amber's mug rugs look good with black motifs on white.

Amber made one African and two South American motif mug rugs on the one warp. She tied up her loom to the ladder on her sister’s bunk bed which I think is a brilliant tie up place. I am thinking about having a sturdy wooden ladder with several rungs built  and screwed into a wall so that I can have different tie up places at different heights.  When I am not using it for weaving, I can use it to hang things on or display weavings draped over the rungs. Thanks for the idea, Amber.

Courtney tied up her loom to a sofa bed to weave her llama band. You can read more about this project and her furry helper on her blog.

My tutorial for this one-weft double weave technique can be found in the Backstrap Weaving Group at Weavolution.

Courtney's black and red llama motifs.

If anyone else out there is weaving the designs or using the tips from my blog, I would love to hear from you and show off your projects here. Even if you have not woven a project yet, I would  love to see the backstrap loom you have put together. I hope to see what you have created with supplementray weft patterning.

Leave a comment for me here or contact me at Weavolution. You will need to join Weavolution to do so-it’s free!

Once again, thanks for visiting and thanks for all the comments! 🙂

© Laverne Waddington and, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laverne Waddington and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Thank you very much for this tutorial. Unfortunetely, I am very busy at the moment, but I´m tryng to find some free time to weave.


  2. hi Laverne, this tutorial shines a different light on supplementary weft patterns . I tried it before and allways wanted to pass the extra weft over the plain which didn’t work so well .the photo’s are such a help. i must try this urgently . thank you so much for all the work you put in this new tutorial.

    • Hi Jeannine. I have seen your piece with supplementary weft patterns and it looked great to me. You can pass the main weft before or after the supplementary one. I just prefer doing it in the order I have shown here.

  3. Hi! I just took up backstrap and weaving in general recently, and your blog is a treasure trove of info for me. I first saw the technique in The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book by Rachel Brown, which I see from your photos you also have as well. I haven’t worked my way up into anything more complicated than tabby balanced weave, but I’m definitely inspired by what is possible. I’ve added the scarf I’m working on to my Ravelry projects, my username is Gillian, if you’d like to check it out. Thanks for all the great tutorials!

    • Hi Gillian,
      I’ll check out your scarf project. Balanced weave on the backstrap loom is nothing to be sneezed at! It is pretty tricky keeping all the warps evenly spaced. I tried a few just with sticks and no reed but now always use my rigid heddle as a spacer. What about you?

      PS……..I just went to Ravelry and saw your scarf. It’s coming along just great! I love the colors.

  4. Thank you for the pics Laverne! I finally got it in my head how the supplementary warp works!

    You’ve been telling me for most of a year how simple it is, I know-I know!!!

    I’m the one who is simple.

    I’ll push this up to the top of the list.

    Thank you again!
    Have a good day!

    • Well as you always say we weavers are visual folk so telling just doesn’t do it sometimes, does it? I am glad that is has clicked for you! Yes, please make something so I can put you in a future post. 🙂

  5. I’m pleased to learn how you handle the turns of the supplementary weft, the photos make it easy to understand.

    How long does it take you to weave a key fob? I guess several can be woven on one warp, but all the same your photos of lots of key fobs makes it look like you weave these at an amazing rate, or have you been building the collection over many months?

    • Hi Dot,
      Using the yarn weight that I show in my tutorial, I can weave two key fobs in one sitting. I limit myself to two per warp so each keyring can have its third selvedge. Those other key fobs, especially the ones done in doubled sewing thread took many sittings! Yes I slowly add to the collection over months. they are things I weave as a break between larger projects or when I am just tired of looking at the colours in whatever my current project happens to be.

  6. Thanks for this tutorial… this looks like something I can handle after I finish my warp float project.

    If you’re ever looking for another tutorial to do, I’d love to see the rolling river pattern, although I’m sure it will be years before I can handle it! I was looking through your flickr images the other day and you have some lovely projects there!

    I’m excited I’ve found a loom I can take overseas this summer. 🙂

    • Hi Steph,
      Thanks for the suggestion. The ”rolling river” design is another technique again but you can weave a similar design in double weave. Bibi in the group at Weavolution did it after I gave her the chart. You may have noticed that there is a mini rolling river on one of the key fobs. I am glad that you are going to take your backstrap loom ”on the road” with you.

      • I like the embroidery floss… I have a lot of that! I like backstrap weaving because I can use all those smaller amounts of yarn I have leftover from my floor loom, and it’s mostly cotton.

        Do you double the floss so that it’s thicker? Are you trying to make it the same thickness as the blue warp?

      • Hi Steph,
        I double the floss because it needs to be a lot thicker than the blue 24wpi weft. I think I I’ll edit the post to make that clearer. The supplementary weft always needs to be a lot thicker than the main weft or it won’t cover well and you will be left with gaps between each row.

      • Also, what was the wpi for the blue thread?


  7. Ooo!!! This is SO going to be my next warp! I’m currently working on a funky comb-horizontal stripe pattern in black and white, but haven’t taken any pictures yet.

    I LOVE all your tutorials and hints, your projects are so inspiring! I’m shocked at how I’ll sit down for “a few minutes” and end up weaving a foot of my warp.

    I’ll see if I can get my son to take some pictures and I’ll make a whole post on my blog about this new obsession…

    • Wonderful! Send me some pictures so I can show your work off on my blog too 🙂

  8. Wow. Just wow! I am by no means a weaver; rather a fly on the wall who now has to speak up. The clean geometry of these woven pieces would be my joy to own.

    I grew up in a home where tribal rugs and runners were much preferred over ornate Persian designs. As my husband and I set up our home together, I think about the future delight of waking up to these.

    Many thanks for the beautiful images!

  9. Never mind– I found the wpi for the blue.

  10. great walk through of the method laverne – thanks for posting it!

  11. I love your work and this tutorial is so clear and understandable. Thank you!

  12. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this post. I have attempted this technique years ago on my inkle loom, but was unsuccessful. I’m sure that I can do it using your very clear instructions.

    • Hi Annie! This is quite a coincidence as I just discovered your blog last night. I am glad that you found the tutorial helpful. I hope you will show us your work when you are done.:-)

  13. […] you from Ann Littlewood, woven from her own design in supplementary weft technique (see my tutorial here). She is going to use this as a […]

  14. Hi Laverne,

    thank you so much for the tutorials, they are lovely and hopefully this weekend I will be able to get started on my first loom projects.

    One litte note, I tried the link to the graph paper for making my own charts, but it seems to be broken.

    With kind regards and once again many thanks,

    aka Oliveandoaks on Weavolution

    • Thanks Bettina for letting me know about that link. I shall fix it, if I can find it!

  15. […] supplementary weft patterning technique used is the same as that described here. It is a single faced technique and both Ju and Nach were delighted to see Bolivian examples of […]

  16. Hi Laverne! It’s me your favorite pest again. I have been doing more reading and I actually think I understand the supplementary weft quite well. In your tutorials you say warp floats are great for beginners, however, since the warping is giving me fits and I seem to understand this supplementary weft pattern a little more clearly, I was wondering if this might also be o.k. for a beginner project? For now I am still struggling with my striped band and will be anxious awaiting the reply to this post. I hope my instincts are correct as I am excited by this tutorial.

    • Marsha,
      You really should have sheds of two colors to do warp floats. As you have the same colors in both sheds this will be very difficult and you won’t even see the floats very well.
      As for the supplementary weft, yes what I show in that tutorial is what I would consider one of the easier techniques. Click on the tab at the top of the blog page that says “Tutorial..starting out in backstrap weaving, steps to success” and read through the recommended list of techniques.

      Make sure you play cose attention to my yarn recommendation for the supplementary weft technique. You need to have the right weight ratio of patterning weft to regular weft /warp for this to work.

  17. […] A tutorial on this technique (pictured above) can be seen on my blog here. […]

  18. […] Then I wove the wee bag. I decided to keep it simple and warped up for plain warp faced weave so I could weave in a small motif with a supplementary weft (see the tutorial here). […]

  19. Gracias por toda esta informacion. LLevo un tiempo mirando y estudiando todos tus tutoriales y por fin hoy he hecho mi primera cinta …. Bueno el resultado al principio no ha sido muy beno pero espero que con la practica lo consiga. Un saludo cariñosisimo desde España

  20. Hi, Laverne
    I’m noticing more motifs I thought I saw before when I first discovered your website. I was reading a part of your blog when you visited North Carolina (talk about a talented family, including the 5 year boy weaving).

    You have a pattern I was trying to look up and buy called “Viscacha” the rabbit like creature with a long tail. I think you have mention this pattern at the workshop at Janet’s place. I went on Emagazine and/or Patternfish, but couldn’t find it.

    Is there another source I can get a copy of this viscacha pattern? That is such a cute pattern motif.

    • Hi Cookie,
      There is a viscacha in the pebble weave book that you already have. It will be in the back part where all the charts are. If you would like one in supplementary weft I could try to make one when I have some time.

  21. Now I get it! I struggled so with this when I was trying to learn it as a child, and then there wasn’t anyone left to teach me. Thanks, LaVerne. You are a remarkable teacher.

  22. Thank you for the wonderful tutorials. How do you finish the braided ends on the key fobs? Do you knot them?

    • Hi Lynda. I don’t like knotting the ends of short braids and so I seal them by dabbing on a little diluted white glue. As the glue dries I kind of shape the ends so that they are not so blunt.

  23. Thank you very much. I just love your work and am so grateful for your postings! Finishing and sewing things together will be another challenging adventure.

    • Finishing and sewing used to be very challenging for me too until I got enough practice to feel secure in it. Now I love finishing off pieces and the more “finishes” the better!…zips, buttons, braids, edgings…I love them!

  24. Laverne,
    It’s cold, but sunny here in Canada today!  A great day for some back strap

    eaving!!  I’m improving using your wonderful book on Andean Pebble weave.  
    would really like to try some of my own designs and I’m wondering if square
    graph paper will work. The graphs in your book seem to be rectangular??  
    I’ve seen paper for designs in double weave (somewhere in your blog or
    tutorials) but no mention of what to use for pebble weave designs. Any help
    Will be greatly appreciated.
    Another big fan,

    • Hi Lynda,
      Yes, that sounds like perfect backstrap weaving weather! You can use regular squared graph paper to chart your own designs for pebble weave. Mark every second row of squares as a pebble shed and fill in the squares for the warps in pebble sheds 1 and 2. Then fill in the squares in the all the rows in between to make your pattern.

      Send me a picture when you have woven something of your own design.

      • Thank you. I’m trying to design a guitar strap for my daughter using music symbols…..trying is the key word! I’ll post a pic when I get it done.

  25. Laverne,

    Thank you so much for your tutorials! Wonderful!

    We’re trying some of your techniques in Kenya. Unfortunately we’re coming up with some problems and I was hoping you’d be able to help.

    When we weave a sample wider than maybe one inch, we have real problems creating the shed! The cotton just seems to stick together. Then over time with the wear the heddles get all these cotton bobbles on them. Hope you know what I mean.

    Unfortunately we really only get one kind of cotton here. It’s simply spun without being treated. Does it make a difference if the cotton used is mercerized? As far as I’ve been able to find, we can’t get that here.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    Thanks, Bernie

    • Hi Bernie. Sorry to hear that you are having problems. Yes, the type of yarn you use is really important. It is one of what I consider the three essentials along with a good warping set- up and a stable place to hitch your loom. Cotton that is not mercerized will be difficult to work with. The abrasion of one thread next to the other will cause it to shred and also make opening the sheds difficult…all the problems that you are experiencing. All I can suggest is taking extra extra care when opening the sheds…perhaps review the FAQ page I have on sticky sheds…make sure that you are not dragging the heddles up and down the warp…try to just raise them without scraping. I am afraid that this may not help a great deal. Can you not get DMC perle cotton there? It is pretty fine and may not be what you want but you could try it on something small to start with.

      • Hi Laverne,

        Thanks for your reply. Sadly we are very limited in the different kinds of cotton we can get. I have not found a source for DMC perle cotton, or any other kind of cotton for that matter! I do wonder how some of the people do it that you’ve been working with in South America who spin their own cotton. Surely they also have just “ordinary” cotton. Yet they must not have the same problems that we are encountering.

        Very frustrating, but we will persist in our efforts.

        Thanks again for all your information! Bernie

      • Bernie, the people here who spin cotton for their weaving are spinning their cotton for that particular purpose and know exactly how much twist needs to go into it so that it is firm and resistant enough for warp-faced weaving. It is the same with the wool spinners. Wool is spun and plied differently for knitting and weaving particularly if the weaving is warp-faced. The simple cotton that you are using was not specifically created for warp-faced weaving. Many of the cottons sold are not appropriate. Some are loosely spun and pied so that they are more absorbent and can be used to weave dish cloths, for example in a balanced weave. My teachers in Ecuador use doubled cotton singles that they spin themselves for their warp faced weaving. It is very resistant and very difficult to break by hand. My Guarani teachers here use mercerized store-bought cotton, the same type that I do. As I said, a lot of it may have to do with how you are treating the heddles when you open the shed but I suspect that the main problem is the cotton itself.

  26. Hello I have been wanting to learn Supplementary weft patterns for a long time so my younger kid (MY CAT) 🙂 woke me up at 4am so made my coffee . coffee in one hand computer in another and bingo it finally got throw my thick skull how to do it after reading it with a fresh mind thank you for a great tutorial . also do you have a video on setting up a warp for horizontal ? was reading your other tutorial on it rearrange the warps so that they are set up for horizontal stripes for doing Simple warp floats patterns cant seem to get it
    thks for video Manuel

    • Hi Manuel,

      If you look at the FAQ on warping there is a video that shows how to create a warp for horizontal stripes…four-stake warping. I am glad you are enjoying the supplementary weft technique…I like your formula: 4am + cat + coffee = weaving success!

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