PUTTING DOWN ROOTS AND WEAVING A GUATEMALAN TREE (PART ONE)
It is exciting how much interest there is out there in backstrap weaving. Some people are attracted to all the beautiful pick-up patterns they have seen on ethnic textiles around the world many of which have been woven on backstrap looms. Others are attracted to the loom itself – its simplicity, portability and low cost. Some people are interested in the products they can produce using up their yarn stash with this inexpensive piece of equipment while others are more intrigued by the processes involved in the “slow cloth” it produces.
I think that some people may be unaware that most of the pick-up patterning techniques do not need to be limited to the
backstrap loom and can be set up and woven on other looms. I have heard from quite a few people in the time that I have been active in the online weaving groups who have jumped headfirst into backstrap weaving and attempted some of the more complex pick-up techniques as first projects only to become frustrated and disappointed.
A few have managed to succeed and I am always reminded of the Spanish girl who wrote to tell me how she had taken my monograph on a hiking trip, picked up some sticks along the way, and woven a band in Andean pebble weave as her first ever backstrap loom project. She blew me away!
Unfortunately, I have heard more stories of people falling in love with the llama motifs on my blog, getting some dowels for a backstrap loom and attempting double weave as a first project. The poor backstrap loom now sits under dust on the shelf.
I would like everyone to be as in love with the backstrap loom as I am but, if you are really more interested in the patterns than the loom, why not lash your warps to other looms as I did for my boyfriend above? Now I have to tell you that Jorge had no particular urge to learn Andean pebble weave. He has been listening to me beat away at my loom for many years now with no desire to get down on the floor and join in but I needed to do a timed test run for a lesson I had planned and he kindly obliged – and very well he did too. He even allowed me to post this picture! He is pretty confident that the fellow members of his heavy metal rock band don’t read my blog. 🙂
For those of you who love the loom and want to get down and beat away, I have put together a kind of tutorial on what I would call the “Steps to Success”. It is a list of all the tutorials that I have put out there and the order in which I would recommend doing them. “Putting Down Roots” would be another good name as, taking it slowly, and following these steps will give you a firm foundation, develop your skills and have you well prepared for all those lovely pick-up patterns that we all want to weave. You will find the list here. It is worth checking out as you may have forgotten how many tutorials there were out there amongst WeaveZine, Weavolution and this blog. I have gathered up seven that I would list in the beginner category.
I wove like mad all weekend as I was determined to get two projects off the loom. I have several others churning around in my head and I needed to free up some loom bars. Above you can see the purple fabric that I have been weaving for a tool bag set. This is what always happens when I do pebble weave – I turn the fabric over and then can’t decide which side I like best. Fortunately I have enough fabric to make two bags so I can have one with each of the sides showing. Before I declare this project complete, there is the horrid zipper sewing task to get through. I have one bag finished so far.
You may remember that I had planned to go to Guatemala on my way home from my recent visit to the US. I didn’t go as the US trip had been so long and I really needed to get home. It turns out that it was just as well as Guatemala City soon after was affected by a volcanic eruption which caused havoc. I would normally choose to avoid Guatemala during hurricane season but volcanic eruptions can happen at any time of year.
Anyway, I thought that we could do a little virtual trip to Guatemala in the meantime. I still have the bag of bright Guatemalan acrylics on the shelf and am no nearer to getting down to respinning them to use as warp.
I decided I would use them for some supplementary weft patterning, as they were originally intended, instead.
I wove a tree design using the various warp wrapping and inlay techniques that the Guatemalan weavers employ and this was fun as I hadn’t done any of this since 2008 immmediately after my return from my first visit there.
I learned these techniques with my teacher Martine and her daughter Carmen in Santa Catarina Palopo on the shores of Lake Atitlan. I met Martine in Panajachel where she sells textiles in the street market. She took me to her home and spent one morning setting up the loom and then her daughter took over weaving and teaching me for the next week or so. She was a good teacher. Each motif was repeated six or seven times across the cloth. Carmen would show me five times what to do and then would let me weave the last one or two motifs to practice what she had shown.
The weavers set up their looms with great care. Martine was obviously more skilled at doing this and Carmen only took over when everything was set to go. The warp is wound with two crosses. The second cross helps hold the shed rod in place.
In order to create the patterns, two extra patterning sticks need to be inserted and stored up beyond the shed rod. One is stored on top of the warp and the other underneath.
Here concludes Part One of this tutorial on Guatemalan single face supplementary weft patterning. So far we have looked at how to pick the two patterning sheds and store them on sticks up beyond the shed rod, how to open the patterning sheds and how to weave the basic brick design which separates the motifs on a piece. We also looked at the weaving sequence, that is, first passing the supplementry weft and then the main weft.
In Part Two, next week, I will show you how to create the outlines of shapes by wrapping the supplementary weft around warps and fill them in by laying in supplementary wefts. The Guatemalan weavers create all kinds of bird, plant and human figures. They even include some of their weaving tools, for example, a swift.
To finish off here, let me show you my weaving teacher and her family and some places around beautiful Lake Atitlan where they live.
Strolling back to San pedro La Laguna from San Juan I met Roi from Israel who was attempting to cycle around the world. I have never heard of him since. I wonder if any of you have run into him in your travels? The lady at right is from San Jorge La Laguna, high up on the hillside above the lake shore, which is known for its ikat woven fabric. Here she is demonstrating spinning the natural brown “cuyuscate” cotton which is highly prized and costly in Guatemala.
Speaking of epic cycling journeys, I was contacted through this blog by a lady who is cycling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. She stopped off in Huancayo and had weaving classes with the very same weaver who taught me. Funnily enough she told me that Margarita is no more vocal in her instruction than she was with me fourteen years ago! I can just imagine this lady cycling about with her backstrap loom on the back of her bike. If we can get our timing right, she will come to Santa Cruz to visit me and have some more classes.
Stand by for the four-shaft loom appendix to my e-monograph….:-)
And Karren has been weaving more bookmarks in simple warp float technique with all her own designs.