Posted by: lavernewaddington | May 14, 2010

Backstrap Weaving- Have sticks, will travel here, there and everywhere!


Oh you can’t get to heaven in a little red canoe,

‘Cos God’s favorite color is Carolina blue.

My friend Lisa told me this today as we gazed up at the perfect blue sky in the yard of her North Carolina home. Forgive me if I am getting repetitive when I go on about the wonderful colors of spring and how beautiful everything is here. I realize how much I miss seasons in my jungly home in Bolivia where we experience warm-and-humid or hot-and-humid weather with a smattering of cool days in between.

The colors of spring… pink azaleas, the blue eggs of what we believe to be a northern mockingbird spotted in Maryland, luscious ripe strawberries on the roadside,yellow flowers – we don’t know what these are called –  and a blue-eyed happy chappy enjoying his yard on a warm spring day.

After the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, I spent a few days in the home of Claudia, one of Weavolution’s founders and her friends in Maryland. We had gorgeous drives through rural Maryland on the way to and from the festival –  green rolling  fields dotted with deep red barns and silos. 


I had ridden up to Maryland from North Carolina with my friends Lisa and Ryan stopping by the Shot Tower Historical State Park to stroll and break the journey. I was making a band in Andean pebble weave in the back of the car while Lisa worked with her Turkish spindle in the front. The inkle loom I borrowed was a perfect lap size but the work space between the top and front peg was a little small for the cross sticks and two sets of string heddles.
The finished band has twelve  spaced motifs for twelve key fobs with motifs from pre-Columbian Peru as well as contemporary Bolivian and Peruvian ones. I have given away a lot of my key fobs on this trip and need to replenish my stock!

A beautiful ball of worsted spun by Lisa on her Spanish Peacock Turkish spindle

You can see that I didn’t use the inkle loom as it was intended, with its shed making system, but, rather, used it simply as a frame and set up two sets of continuous string heddles as required by Andean pebble weave. The  sheds are a lot easier to open on my backstrap loom and I had to take extra care on the inkle loom to make sure they were well cleared before passing the weft. The resulting band isn’t quite as stiff as the ones that I normally produce on my backstrap loom but I would never have been able to backstrap weave in the car!

We stayed the first night with Mike King of  The Spanish Peacock and his wife TJ. Mike makes superbly hand crafted precision spindles, lucets and weaving tools in a variety of gorgeous woods – beautiful to look at, touch and use. He was interested to see the humble little Bolivian drop spindle that I had brought along with me, which wobbles comically to and fro as it spins, as well as the wooden backstrap weaving tools, shiny and smooth with age and use that I have collected in South America.
Over his left shoulder in the above picture you can see  mini inkle looms that he makes and calls “tinkles”.
His stand at MSWF was spindlers’ heaven and moments after the gates opened it was full of eager shoppers lining up to make  purchases. Even before the show could open he had to turn down other vendors who were keen to get their hands on his beautiful work.
We spent Friday night with Mike and TJ as they gathered their energies to face the onslaught the following day. TJ showed us the beautiful machine embroidered outfits she makes for their SCA events.
And then suddenly it was upon us – day one of Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival – described by Wikipedia as “the largest and longest-running showcase of domestic sheep and wool in the United States.  …the heat, the crowds and the craziness. I couldn’t get anywhere near Mike and TJ for the rest of the day! I hear that last year canoes were required to navigate the rain-soaked grounds so I really can’t complain about the weather.

Once I was able to get into shorts, I felt that I might just survive the day. I demonstrated backtrap weaving at the Weavolution meetup at noon. It was fun to see some of those avatars come to life and meet members of some of the local guilds as well as some weavers-to-be.

Some of the Weavolution gang- founder Claudia Segal, Kim Pierce, Deb McClintock, Sharon Carey and Maurice Blackburn.

Deb McClintock, who was visiting from Texas, knowing about my desire to get hold of a real reed to use on my backstrap loom, brought this beautiful Thai reed for me as a gift. This piece has been designed to be used as a wall hanger on which to drape a weaving but she gave it to me so that I could perhaps have someone in Bolivia copy it and make a full sized reed. Isn’t it gorgeous?

There were just too many sights, sounds and smells on the first day. The afternoon saw people snoozing sprawled out on the grass in the shade , in their cars or any place out of the sun. Few things really held my attention for long on day one – it was all a little overwhelming.

I did enjoy seeing the animals in the relatively uncrowded outdoor areas. The vendor halls on the other hand were packed and too hard to negotiate with inkle loom slung over my shoulder and three backstrap looms in tow.

And then I found my little oasis – the glorious yurt!
It was cool and fresh inside and well insulated from the heat with plush skins on which to sit.
The trellised walls provided the perfect place for tying my backstrap loom.
And there I sat out the afternoon with many visitors who were also quite happy to come in and enjoy the relative cool. Most assumed that I was “keeper of the yurt” and plied me with questions.
Next year I will definitely make that my place to be.
I think I will bring a bunch of backstrap weavings to decorate the walls and we can have our meet up in there!
Lisa took the photo at left of the opening in the top of the yurt surrounded by decorative tassels.
The opening provided good lighting  and air circulation and made the yurt a very exotic and comfortable spot in which to weave.
I stayed that night at Claudia’s place where we rehydrated and planned day two – up and out early to catch the start of Sheep to Shawl. I had never attended one of these before and it was very entertaining. Apparently the first Sheep to Shawl was held in England as far back as 1811.

Probably one of the more unusual groups was the Harley Davidson team dressed in denim with motorcycle and spinning wheel revved and ready to go. Their warp was patterned in orange flame colors and they spun and wove to “Born to be Wild”.

If “Born to be Wild” wasn’t to your taste you could listen to some good old Australian bush and shearing ditties. I enjoyed hearing some of those old tunes and they attracted other Aussies to the stage.You can see the winning Bronson lace shawl at right woven by a group wearing colonial-style costume.

From Sheep to Shawl I headed to the vendors’ halls where I was captivated by a stand of ethnic textiles from around the world. I particularly like the black and white Moroccan textile upper left which is several bands sewn together. I would like to try to reproduce some of those designs. The band lower right is Peruvian from another stand and is woven in Andean pebble weave – some nice motifs to add to my collection. I think I revisited the ethnic textile stand four more times – definitely my favorite.

Then it was time to prepare for the Weavolution meet up and backstrap demonstration.
Although attendance in general seemed to be less on day two of the show, I had a bigger audience at the backstrap demo the second day and the slightly cooler temperature made it a whole lot more fun.
I told you in my last post about the charming English gent I met at Sheep to Shawl and who later came to my demo. I am sure that you have all worked out by now that that was Rodrick Owen.
Having seen my band on the inkle loom on the previous day, Carla Gladstone brought her own inkle loom along at my invitation for a pebble weave class.
Mary Pflueger of the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore also brought along a warp and set up to backstrap weave and learn pebble weave.
We had a pleasant afternoon weaving. I had seen pretty much everything I wanted by that time and so was quite content to hang out at the meet up point and chat to these two ladies. I was happy to see Rodrick Owen and his friend Terry Flynn return after lunch to chat with me about Andean sling braiding and one of my favorite weaving authors, Adele Cahlander. I got to show him one of the braids that I learned from a sling maker in Peru. We also chatted about mutual acquaintances in the Santa Cruz Guild in California. Ingrid, your name was mentioned more than once!

A visit from Roderick Owen, master braider, pictured below with Mary on the left and Terry.

And all good things must come to an end. At left you can see a rather empty stand at The Spanish Peacock. I left a somewhat shell-shocked Mike out of the picture! Only these kids still had enough energy to leap and dance at the end of the day as musicians and stomping puppets entertained them.

I lingered in Maryland a few more days after the show staying at Claudia’s home. Claudia had some friends over for a day of backstrap weaving. One lady brought an inkle loom on which to learn Andean pebble weave.

Some brightly colored freebie rulers that I picked up at the Maryland Show made excellent improvised beaters. Claudia has an enormous basement studio with plenty of places to tie up looms. We wove simple warp float patterns. Above, I am showing Carol (aka Retrothreads on Weavolution) good heddle opening technique to avoid abrading her warps and having them pill.

Kim aka Clay2Yarn on Weavolution came along bringing her energy and good humor too and wove simple warp floats. She brought me a gift of the Jacqui Carey braiding book!

Mary with her first ever pebble weave band woven on a backstrap loom

Claudia, Janet and I went to a meeting of the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore where Claudia gave a presentation on Weavolution.
Mary Pflueger, who had woven with me on Sunday at Sheep and Wool, attended and  brought along her completed pebble weave band to show me.
I gave a backstrap weaving demo and got to show off Mary’s band too. I just love knowing that my e-monograph is being put to use and that people are enjoying the technique and producing things.
The guild members were fun and very welcoming folks and we had a great evening. I had already met some of them at MSWF and it was nice catching up again.
This was the first weaving guild meeting I had ever attended…sigh! Wish we had these back in Bolivia – so many talented people all in one space!
Rush, rush, rush…the next day I took the train back down to North Carolina to my friend Lisa. We had a trip to the family beach house on Oak Island planned for the weekend.

Quite a change of scene! But…have sticks, will travel…while the guys played in the surf I continued my pebble weave project on the inkle loom and Lisa sat spinning. I don’t know how she managed as there was quite a stiff breeze blowing which is what kept us out of the water. Elderly folks were jogging, cycling and walking their dogs while we two crazy gals sat with our fibery projects. I even got a bit of a tan.

Here, there and everywhere….backstrap weaving on the porch of the beach house. Lisa started a jajim-a Central Asian textile- last year in the summer but had to put it away as she has nowhere to weave indoors. Now it is back out again as the weather warms up and she can once again weave outside.

Now we are back in Lincolnton and time is running out. One more backstrap weaving demo at Lisa’s local weaving guild gave me an opportunity to see Betsy’s gorgeous tencel shadow weave pieces.
Just when I had convinced myself that shadow weave needs four colors to work well, I see Betsy’s two stunning pieces in two colors. To me they have a certain oriental look about them. I find shadow weave fascinating!
I have now been away from home for over a month and am starting to feel a bit weary and a tad homesick too. As I have decided to come back for Convergence, my new catch phrase is…”I’ll do that when I come back in July”. So the felting, cut pile weaving and other projects have been added to a long list of things to get into on my next visit. However, one project demanded immediate attention…


Lisa and I are warping buddies here as I pass the warps to her to be threaded through the heddles.

I have this all figured out now and Lisa and I re-warped her four-shaft six-treadle loom with a tiny sample band, this time using all four shafts with no string heddles and, once again, with the reed removed.
I can weave plain pebble weave on this loom using the shafts. Of course, when one wants to form patterns, the warps must be manipulated by hand for every other weft pass. As I mentioned in my last post, the thing I love most about this loom is the beautiful wide clean sheds it creates with a twiddle of the toes!
Maurice Blackburn came over and put my rough draft into his computer program and showed me how to do the notation for the tie ups. I have had little experience reading the classic weaving drafts and needed some guidance. Maurice kindly came to my rescue.
I intend to add this as an appendix to my e-monograph Andean Pebble Weave and am extremely excited about it!

LEFT: The tiny sample band underway with some simple motifs. RIGHT: Preparing to pick up warps by hand to form motifs

Jennifer Jordan was one of the first people to contact me and tell me about the bands she has been weaving in Andean pebble weave following the instructions in my e-monograph. This is a photo of her second project band and she certainly seems to have gotten the hang of it. Thanks to Jennifer and all the other weavers who have contacted me so far.

The other project that simply couldn’t be put off until July was pinning down the kinds of yarn that are suitable for warp faced weaving on a backstrap loom and readily available in US stores, like Michael’s and Joanne’s.
I have bought examples of four different brands – all crochet cotton –  and will be providing photos and more information soon.
I am leaving this until I get home so I can weave bands with them and see how they perform.

With lingering thoughts of the sea, I am heading home to landlocked Bolivia.


Tomorrow, (Wednesday) I will be attempting to fly back to Bolivia. I say “attempting” as I am traveling on a standby ticket and it seems that I may get stuck in La Paz along the way.
Well I can think of a lot worse places for a forced stopover. I haven’t been to La Paz for quite some time now and it is a textile lover’s paradise!!

So…have sticks, will travel. The next place my backstrap loom gets tied up may be at 4000 meters somewhere in La Paz. I would really like to get this demo piece finished, off the loom and made into something useful.
And I would really love to get back home and settled and put some more tutorials together for this blog. My head is full of plans.
A big, warm thank you to all my new friends in the US who made this trip so memorable and amazing. I hope we continue to meet and interact online. 🙂 My next visit will be in July in New Mexico for Convergence!
Wednesday evening…here I sit in Miami airport at the gate waiting for my flight to Bolivia.
I am not very optimistic about my chance of getting on this flight and I have blanket and pillow on hand and  my eye on a good piece of floor on which to pass the night. More importantly I have a good supply of chocolate!
Now what do you think has just appeared in my inbox?…Lisa has leaped back onto the four-shaft loom since my departure this morning and, after a wee false start, is weaving this lovely Chincheros motif from  my Andean Pebble Weave monograph.
She is still working on the original warp that we set up on the four-shaft loom with string heddles as she doesn’t want to waste it.
Woo hoo! I am so pleased!!


  1. Your enthusiatic respnse to all your greet is wonderful. Please keep us all enthused.

  2. Yay!! You’ll be at Convergence! I’ll be there too. I’m visiting my sister and her family and get to go. I’ll bring my sticks if you don’t mind…

    I was just made an HGA rep so I know I have to attend a meeting at some point in time.

    • Cool! Do bring your sticks. We’ll find a place where we can weave together. Bring some C clamps if you you can just in case there is nowhere to set up.

  3. Thanks so much Laverne. It was wonderful meeting you at CNCH and later at Aunt Janet’s. I am working on my Andean Pebble Weave and wishing you a safe journey home.

    • Likewise Connie! Don’t forget to send me pictures of your pebble weave when you are done.

  4. Welcome back Laverne and thank you for posting. Envy your contact with other weavers but your writings and photos have provided company for we isolated wannabe weavers. Many thanks.

    • I know how you feel! When I lived in southern Chile, it was the same for me. Thanks to the internet which has brought the “World Fiber Guild” into my home!

  5. Hi Laverne,
    I have the loom set-up too, on a small table loom, no reed as you say. I have 8 shafts so was able to use 5 and 6 for the border tabby which helped neaten things. Sorry I’m no good with pictures, but that might be a suggestion for those with more than 4 shafts.
    Pamela in Dunedin N.Z.

    • Thanks Pam…good to know. I have the draft made weaving the “thick” border that I show in the monograph. The thick border is, in fact, the one that my teacher, Margarita, always uses and I like it best. I have a couple of people testing the draft at this time and it will be available soon. I had a lot of fun playing on the four shaft loom in the US. Now, an eight-shaft…that will be my next adventure!

  6. Great stories and photos! I spotted my business card being used as a spacer on the inkle loom as you mentioned on Flickr. I”m happy to be traveling with you in this way! Hope your trip home is pleasant. ~Annie

  7. Hi Laverne, I’m just back after a much less eventful trip than yours, and catching up on your blog before I head out of town again–as always it is a treat to read plus a treat for the eyes! I’m so glad you and Rodrick were able to meet each other, he has been a braiding inspiration to so many people including me, especially for me in learning about ancient Andean braiding (some of those braids were incredible, superficially like very intricate weavings)

    • Thanks for checking in Ingrid. Are you going to Convergence?

  8. I suppose not since I havent made any arrangements to go…I’ve never been to one, didn’t even know about them til after I had joined the Braid Society.
    I’ll look forward to reading about it in your blog, maybe it’ll convince me to attend the next one. (esp if they offer any braiding workshops)
    Have a great time!

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