I love how easy it is to warp for backstrap weaving especially after reading and hearing about what is involved with warping those bigger table and floor looms-all that threading! However, finding the place and equipment for warping for the backstrap loom is often the problem. Finding the sticks to put a loom together seems to be relatively easy, making a nice beater takes a little time and thought but where and how to wind that warp-now that can be tricky.
As you can see above, my first weaving teachers in Peru taught me to make tiny bands using a tiny warping board. I learned two techniques with them and was eager when I got back to my home in Chile to incorporate both into one large piece.
Perhaps a little over ambitious but you can see the results of my attempts to wind a longer wider warp. My warping stakes leaned horribly and I ended up with this wonky thing-look at the far loom bar and the tilt on it! Firmly grounded warping stakes are a must.
Well, I persevered and put a lot of work into that piece but it was never quite right. At least I was satisfied that I could weave the techniques without the supervision of my teachers.The piece itself ended up in a box. Recently I got it out and salvaged what I could and am now using it to cover some small photo albums that I take with me on my travels.
The colors and layout were inspired by woven sashes that I had seen on Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca, Peru.
A year later I went to Bolivia and studied with two sisters in Potosi. They weave their large pieces on a staked-out ground loom and only use a backstrap set-up for small bands. I love the way they warp there. Two women seat themselves at each end of the loom and roll the ball of yarn back and forth while winding the figure-of-eight. You can see at left that Hilda is pulling up on the end of the yarn with her left hand to maintain tension while she rolls the ball to me. I will do the same before rolling the ball back. The only problem–you tend to talk too much and lose count. Neither of us was counting in our native language-Hilda’s being Quechua and mine, of course, English. Between that and the chatting we lost count many times!
We are using respun acrylic yarn in the bright colors that the weavers in Potosi love. With two people, this would be a great way to direct warp for backstrap weaving.
Probably nostalgia for the fun I had had with Hilda and her sister Julia in Potosi led me to try the following way of warping when I got back home to Chile.
I can tell you right now that it is not as entertaining to do alone and it is pretty slow and difficult trying to manage two colors at once as you need to do for double weave and complimentary warp weaves.
Neverthless I got this warp done, it was well tensioned and even and I wove a big bold design inspired by designs of the Mapuche people of central Chile and Argentina.
I traveled a lot more, met many weavers and saw a lot more ways to warp for a variety of looms and techniques, some of which I’d like to share with you here.
Probably the most interesting system I saw, which, unfortunately, was impossible to photograph, was near Huancayo, Peru where a woman had stakes embedded in the walls of the hall of her home at chest level so she just had to walk up and down the length of the hall to warp. Now if only I had a longer hall……….
I was lucky to have this chair to use when I first got settled in here in Bolivia. It was useful for narrow projects- practice bands, small bags and bookmarks.
The way that I showed in my WeaveZine article using clamps is fine as long as you can clamp those stakes down really well . Don’t use your good table for this. I have heard of people turning chairs and tables upside down and using the legs. I once used a coat rack in a hostel room where I was staying. Whatever way your creativity and circumstances lead you, just make sure that the stakes or posts are very well grounded and will not lean in at all as you wind your warp. Even the smallest amount of lean will make a difference.
If you see yourself continuing in backstrap weaving and making longer and wider pieces, it will be worthwhile buying a warping board or making something sturdy and more permanent. It doesn’t need to be fancy as you can see from my little ”beauty” here.
This allows me to wind a 36” long warp which I have used to make shoulder bags, sets of three mug rugs, placemats, table runners, pillow covers and wall hangings. For making longer pieces such as belts and guitar straps, I have had to get creative.
Basic warping involves winding your yarn around two stakes, like those seen above, in a simple figure-of-eight path. Your loom bars will replace the two warping stakes and the cross you have created will allow you to set up your two sheds using a shed rod and continuous string heddles. I often put a second cross in once my warp is on the loom. (More about that in a future post)
If you want to weave a piece with horizontal stripes in two colors or weave simple warp float patterns or any other complementary warp technique you will need to wind two colors together. Again, this can be done on just two stakes. I like to place my balls of yarn in flower pots so they don’t roll about and get tangled. Other hints and tips will come up in future posts or you can find them in the Backstrap Weaving Group forum at Weavolution.
FOR THE ADVENTUROUS!!
The following is a video from my Flickr page which shows how I was taught in Peru to warp with two colors using four stakes. The colors are separated– each color into its own shed on the warping board itself as you warp–fast and efficient and especially recommended for wide warps. (The two additional stakes that you see in the video are temporarily fixed to the warping board with ”blu-tack”).
Just to finish off, here is what I am working on at the moment……
I fell in love with this design the moment I saw it posted at Weavolution. A member had woven a reproduction of a tablet woven curtain that hangs in a cave church in Abba Yohanni, Ethoipia. These curtains were produced and hung in many such churches in Ethiopia in the 17th Century. Rob S, who wove the reproduction, used over 300 tablets. This is just a small part of the overall curtain design. I am weaving it in two-weft double weave. I have a strip of double weave bordered by plain weave. One weft weaves the plain weave and upper layer of the double weave. The second weft weaves the lower layer of the double weave.
This is quite a change after making all those colorful key fobs but now I have to deal with the black picking up every single speck of dust in the house! I hope to now reverse the pattern and weave a white motif on a black base. I am not sure what I will make of this piece. I’ll decide when it is done. 🙂