Posted by: lavernewaddington | June 4, 2010

Backstrap Weaving- The Worldwide Weaving Guild-inspiration from all corners

As Weavolution, the home of my Backstrap Weaving Group, approaches its one-year anniversary on June 8, I have had good cause to stop and reflect on all that has happened in the past year or so since I entered cyberspace in a big way and got into what I like to call the World Weaving Guild.

It all started when I joined WARP in May last year.

I had been struggling along trying to figure out balanced double weave so that I could reproduce one of my pre-Columbian  fragments on my backstrap loom. There were a couple of things that had me puzzled and I really had no idea where to turn. I found Carol Ventura’s contact information in the WARP Members’ Directory. As Carol Ventura has been involved in Latin American weaving, having written, amongst many other things, a book on the hair sashes of Jacaltenango, I decided to contact her with my questions. She pointed me towards some other resources and also happened to mention an online group called Ravelry that had a backstrap weaving forum.

And it all took off from there…

Actually, my very first entry to this World Weaving Guild was through a backstrap thread in the weaving forum on Interweave’s Knitting Daily site. It was just by luck that I stumbled upon this tiny thread embedded in a knitting site and discovered that there were quite a lot of questions about, and interest in, backstrap weaving.

That tiny thread unraveled and lengthened, and along came my entry to Ravelry. Shortly after, the revolution that is Weavolution provided a place just for weavers and my own backstrap weaving group.

Then came the Online Guild of Weavers Spinner and Dyers with its in-depth monthly workshops on all kinds of fiber-related topics which I discovered on fellow Aussie Kaz Madigan’s blog and, after that, several Yahoo groups including Backstrappers started by my friend Caroline and co moderated by Franco Rios and myself.

One of the Online Guild members told me about this person called Syne Mitchell and a thing called WeaveZine and look where that led…an article, an e-monograph.

And now  Handwoven magazine has launced its own new online weaving community called Weaving Today. The offiicial launch was June 2… and so the World Weaving Guild grows…

By the way, I started a thread on Weavolution asking about the balanced double weave project mentioned above and weavers from Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, USA and Australia came on to tell me about Finnweave and provide me with a myriad of resources which eventually led me to the Huichol people of Mexico and their double weave textiles – many corners of the world!!

I got hold of this pre-Columbian fragment after I had woven the balanced double weave/Finnweave band at right using a motif from a book.

The eight journals I have put together so far where I have documented the techniques I have learned in this region. The two larger books in the foreground are big 2 1/2" volumes with braiding, weaving, dyeing, edgings and other crafts from the places I have visited.

Prior to all this cyber space globetrotting, I had used my one month of vacation per year to either go to Australia to see family, or take a weaving “safari” here in South America and spend time with weavers.

For the other eleven months of the year, my weaving world was so small. Apart from some foreign backpackers passing through town to whom I gave lessons, I didn’t know anyone with whom I could share this passion. I have run across many attitudes, one of the most common ones being…”if you can’t make money from it, what’s the point?”

Nevertheless,I continued to carefully document all the techniques I was learning in my journals but would often wonder what would happen to my substantial collection of books on South American weaving and all the information I was storing in my journals when the time came to head to the “big loom in the sky”!

So, when I discovered the online groups and the level of interest that there was out there, everything just started to pour out! It was so exciting to find people to chat with about this and many close friendships have formed where we have moved the chat from the online forums to our own personal emails.

I put together tutorials and ran weave alongs and was thrilled to see people getting their sticks together, making their looms, weaving and participating in the weave alongs with so much enthusiasm. Below you can see contributions from Bibi in France, Franee in Australia, Jeannine in Belgium and Kimo in the US.

But there was so much more that I wanted to say. After having had my knuckles rapped a couple times for veering off topic, having gotten completely carried away with a  travel tale or two, I decided that the time had come for a blog. Opening one was easy…but how to get the thing started? It sat there pathetically for weeks with what I considered a very lame introduction. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it.

Meeting Weavolution buddies at MSWF

One night, my brother, the pilot, called me from one of his many trips to London. I told him about the blog, my doubts  and my reluctance to take it further. He immediately read it and said “Well, what’s wrong with that?” Well I have to tell you that my brother’s opinion means the world to me and that little comment gave me the impetus to throw the blog out there for all to see.

Then came the trip to the US with a chance to meet, stay and weave with my cyberspace companions – amazing! as well the opportunity to attend my first weaving conferences.

What’s next? Convergence, Albuquerque 2010!


Being part of this World Weaving Guild has brought ideas and inspiration flooding into my little corner of the planet.

Two zippered tool bags with pebble weave designs

I told you last week about my new color adventure and what had influenced it. Well I forgot to also mention the weavings of Linda Hartshorn who I met at CNCH. Check out her gorgeous shibori shawls on her site.

I finished the shuttle bag I had on the loom. In fact, I got two bags from that warp. I wove a narrow band to make sides for the smaller of the two bags to make it a bit more substantial.

I had planned to edge them with a tubular band but, after having made the braided zip pulls, I decided that the bags didn’t need any  further embellishment.

LEFT: Almost finished on the loom. RIGHT: Detail of the pebble weave design.

Another encounter in the World Weaving Guild…you may remember my story about having met Kathe Todd-Hooker and Pat Sparks at CNCH and how they shared with me stories of their experiences with the people in the Russian Old Believer communities in Oregon. Kathe allowed me to look at and photograph her collection of Old Believer belts. Well, I am still puzzling over the structure of the weave in the pebble-like belts and have woven a reproduction using Andean pebble weave technique.

The other side of the band on the loom

It certainly looks like the same weave structure but I have learned not to make quick conclusions about these things. The motifs on the back of the Old Believer bands appeared to be exactly the same only with the colors reversed as happens in complementary warp weaves like Andean pebble weave but I would be happier if I could examine them again.

Kathe told me that these belts were woven by members of one branch of the Old Believer groups which had migrated to China before being taken to other countries by the Council of Churches.

In the meantime, Caroline in Australia, my longest World Weaving Guild buddy found this article which indicates that this structure could well be what I refer to as Andean pebble weave.

I will quote one small part of the article here…

The first example is the Andean pebble weave structure woven on 2-hole tablets with a 4-hole warp-twined selvedge. This structure is found in other regions, including Central Asia, but is traditionally not woven on tablets. There is no warp twining, and the front and back are identical but with reversed colors.

Now to hunt down other Central Asian textiles with this structure. I already know that the yurt bands that I have seen so far are not woven in Andean pebble weave. Hopefully any images I find will show both the front and back of the textiles.

So I am weaving this sample band, which unfortunately, is not a good size to actually make into anything. It is too wide and thick for a bookmark, too narrow for a coin purse and too short for a belt or guitar strap. It probably won’t go any further as I am planning to weave this reproducton band again in this heavy duty sewing thread that my friend Janet found for me in the US which should make a band of the right width and weight for  bookmarks.

LEFT: From the left, fobs, 1, 2, 3 and 5 have been made with doubled sewing thread. I nearly went mad doing pick up with the doubled threads and so am grateful to have the heavy duty version of sewing thread you see at right to use.

Caroline then directed me to a 2009 newsletter of TWIST, which is a tablet weaving group. An article in this letter tells of a card weaving technique which has been named Hochdorf after the location of a Celtic noble’s tomb containing weavings made with this pebble-like structure. And so the World Weaving Guild’s threads once again stretched across the world and I found myself at the web site of Kurt Laitenberger who just happens to be a frequent visitor and commentor on my Flickr page. He has been making card woven bands in the Hochdorf technique and I was immediately tempted to try and adapt the knotwork designs to Andean pebble weave. Above you can see a bookmark that I wove with one of the knotwork designs.

Keyfobs and a bookmark with knot work woven in Andean pebble weave. I think I MUST make a guitar strap with these motifs.

I don’t think that Mr Laitenberger reads my blog and so I will surprise him by posting these pictures on my Flickr page. 🙂

And I was able to dress up my Andean pebble weave band on the inkle loom which, you will see from the photo on the left, started out a little plain. The idea was to see how the inklette stood up to working with the two sets of string heddles required by Andean pebble weave. I really had not put much thought into the project. I added two knotwork motifs to either side and a couple of other embellishments and what a difference it made! This will definitely be a new belt.

The test piece for the Aunt Lydia's number 10 mercerized crochet cotton- beautiful thread!

This above yarn-test piece is coming along slowly.

The photo next to the test piece on the left shows what first inspired the three large motifs.

I took this picture at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC in 2007 and I am sorry to say that I can’t find the notebook where I wrote down the origin of this weaving.

The top motif on my weaving is based on the main motif in the photo. I then designed  two other motifs that had the same elements as the first…basically diamonds, curls and spokes and put the three motifs together.

The charts for these motifs are included in my Andean Pebble Weave e-monograph.

The first time I used these three motifs was in a hanging I made for my friend Tess in Australia which you can see here on the left. I included the comb-like border beside the motifs which I also adapted from the museum piece.

The motifs are in red and gold on off-white but I actually intended the other face to be the front. Once off the loom, however, everyone agreed  that this face looked better.

I haven’t seen it hanging in Tess’s house yet to see which side she decided to show.

Finally, here are a few bands from the backstrap group members and pebble weave weave-along participants.

Jeanne wove four different pebble motifs to make some keyfobs while Michele set up for her first pebble weave band on her Cricket loom.

Donna wove a wide band in plain pebble weave and Cathy made her own backstrap following my article on WeaveZine.

I sent Lydia my draft and instructions for weaving Andean pebble weave on her four-shaft loom. She is testing the instructions, for which I am very grateful, and it looks like she has been having a fine time with it. These instructions will be added to my e-monograph as an appendix at no extra cost and will be sent to all those who have already purchased the book. Coming soon......

I would like to finish this post where I began by mentioning once again the Worldwide Weaving Guild and the inspiration it constantly brings me from all corners of the world from so many people far too numerous to name here, but thank you!

I would like to thank especially Caroline in Australia who is constantly sending me links to articles and interesting sites, Sharon in Florida who has a DIY solution  to every problem I have and has the keenest eye I have ever seen for charting motifs from even the very poorest of images and Lisa in North Carolina who keeps me up to date with her YouTube finds and shares  images and information on Central Asian textiles.



Oh and, ahem, the video I promised showing the sticky warps will be going up some time before next Friday’s post. I ran into some uploading problems which will hopefully get fixed- erratic internet service. Look for it by clicking on the VIDEO tab on the blog banner. I will link to it in the next week’s post.


  1. Happy birthday. You have done so much in just one year. You have touched so many lives in such a powerful way.

    Your book has made the break through for me to be able to understand backstrap weaving. I have started project two. (and thank you for posting my first project) I have read most books on backstrap weaving and this was the one that brought the lesson through to me in a way I am able to understand.

    I’m happy you have been posting early on Friday because I just couldn’t leave for work before I got my backstrap fix.

    • I am so happy to see you on your way, Donna and thank you for sharing your successes with me and all of us!

  2. Laverne, You have made the rest of the members of the world wide guild just happy by joining in. You are a wealth of information and we are glad you found us! Kimmen

    • And thank YOU for joining in. It’s always lovely to get your comments.

  3. I second Donna George, your book is the one that helped me understand backstrap weaving. I am in the process of making my first backstrap loom (working on dowels). Thanks for posting the picture of my first band made on my Cricket loom 🙂 and thanks especially your time and effort, your enthusiasm and the generosity to share it all. Happy blog birthday!

    • You are welcome Michele. I think it is great that you practiced the pebble weave on your Cricket loom, a loom you know and on which you feel comfortable, before transferring the skills to the backstrap loom. Keep the pictures coming, please 🙂

  4. […] newsletter was where I first read about the Hochdorf technique of tablet weaving which led me to weave Celtic knotwork in Andean pebble weave. I met Shirley Berlin of the Braid Society, another group of which, thanks […]

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