Posted by: lavernewaddington | October 1, 2010

Backstrap Weaving – Building skills and resources.


I have been busy behind the scenes building  the resource pages on this blog. I am about three quarters of the way to finishing the “Frequently Asked Questions” pages which will deal with fifteen or so topics related to making your own backstrap loom and weaving on it.

You can access the index by clicking on the FAQ INDEX tab on the header image. There you will find links to the finished pages or you can go directly to each page by clicking on one of the topics on the sidebar.

The pages include explanations with photos, links and images. I hope that you find them useful and please feel free to ask any questions, add information from your own experience or suggest other topics by leaving me a comment here on the blog or the relevant FAQ page.

And….I will be translating all the tutorials to Spanish and putting those on new pages too. (Y….voy a traducir todos los tutoriales a español y los voy a poner en paginas nuevas también).

So, that was my keyboard activity for this week along with writing an article and getting some pages done for my next book!

As for 0n-the-loom activity, I was asked to weave some bookmarks for a friend. I was told what design to use but the colors were left to me. I got to use some more of the Turkish cotton that I bought recently and I can’t say enough about how beautiful it is to weave with. It is only for special projects, though, definitely not for sampling as it is a bit pricey. Details can be found on the FAQ 3 page which answers the question “What yarns are suitable for backstrap weaving?”

These have been woven in double weave. As the borders are plain weave I used two wefts. One weft wove the borders and upper layer of the double weave and the other wove the lower layer. Lettering is really easy to do in double weave and although these letters I invented are very basic, they can be very effective. I have charted them out for you all to use. Most of the letters are in the following two images and I am sure that you can invent the ones that are missing. You can, of course, weave the letters after following my tutorial for one weft double weave.

Other woven messages can be done in the Montagnard style lettering. I learned this warp float weave by studying a band I bought from some Montagnard weavers that I met in the US on a recent visit.

This is a “looser” weave and the resulting band is quite flexible unlike the double weave which is very firm.

Next week I will do a tutorial on this warp float lettering.

You have probably heard me mention before my love of the letters that Linda Hendrickson has charted in her book Please Weave a Message.

I got this book hoping that I would be able to use the charts for double weave but found that the “stitches” produced in card weaving sit one on top of the other as opposed to those in double weave that are staggered from left to right. This meant that I would have to adapt Linda’s charts for double weave. I did adapt many of the letters but they were seriously altered and just did not look as nice as Linda’s but now I have had an idea!

I realize now, after my recent experiments with weft twining, that weft twined “stitches” also sit one on the top of the other and that I should, therefore, be able to use Linda’s charts to twine letters and messages. I am not sure how much the slant on the weft twined stitches will affect the appearance of the letters but I can’t wait to try it out.

I haven’t done so yet as I am still building my weft twining skills while working on another project this week with slightly finer yarn.

This time I am using three and sometimes four colors at a time and it is a little cumbersome but I do like the results. The design has been inspired by pieces in a book on Bedouin weaving. From a distance this looks pretty much like a piece of tapestry. Many things amuse me about this technique….firstly, it is something new, secondly, it helps me to better understand what the Montagnard weavers are doing at the edges of their warp-faced weavings and thirdly, it is an off loom technique that does not require tools apart from one’s own hands.

I am grateful to Bonnie Datta who told me that a chapter of Peter Collingwood’s book The Techniques of Rug Weaving is devoted to twining…both warp and weft. The book can be downloaded for free here. The opening line of the chapter reads….Twining is not weaving,… so that settles that debate!

It shows some ways to turn the wefts at the edges for rug making which I must try as that is something with which I am still battling. The piece that I am working on now is still a “skills builder” but, who knows, I might be able to make something useful out of it.

As far as lettering goes, my boyfriend’s mother asked me a long time ago to make something for her. She is from Cochabamba in the Bolivian highlands and, although she was raised speaking Spanish, both her mother and grandparents were bilingual, speaking both Spanish and Quechua. She told me that there are three lines that comprise the “Law of the Qechua” which go…

which translate to… Don’t steal; Don’t lie; Don’t be lazy. She would like me to weave these words into a wall hanging for her. Well, I might not weave them, I might twine them.

What I am really leading up to with my twining experiments is weaving a double weave piece on my backstrap loom with twined edges where the design on the twined edge matches the double weave motifs. There is much skill-building to be done before that point. Hmm…I am not sure if I am less adventurous now or wiser. I am sure that in years gone by I would have launched myself straight into this and not bothered with the “skill-building”!

In the meantime I have been admiring some ikat pieces from Sumba which I found online which have very broad twined edges. They leave the wefts tails hanging out at the sides as fringe. I am trying to hide the weft ends so I can have smooth neat edges, without much success, I might add!

This has led me to look at other twisty twined off loom techniques and especially one that is practiced right here in Santa Cruz where I live by the Ayoreo people. Actually, I have always wanted to learn about this but gave up some time ago trying to find a willing teacher. Maybe it is time to try again.

Information about the Ayoreo people is sketchy. Population estimates in different sources range from seventeen hundred to four thousand Ayoreo people, distributed amongst seven to ten clans living in the area known as the Chaco. They use off loom netting, twining and knotting techniques, sometimes with the aid of a needle, to make a type of shoulder bag called utebetai using a fiber called garabatá fino from the Bromelia Hieronymil plant. The fiber is twisted by rolling it on the thigh using ashes to take away some of its stickiness. It is plied and may be also dyed before use.

I have three of these bags but have opened them out to use as wall hangings.

According to a booklet put out by CANOB (Central Ayorea Nativa del Oriente Boliviano), the designs used in the pieces represent seven clans. The motifs include representations of the patterns on armadillo shells, clouds, snake skins and the eyes of a jaguar.

Miniature pieces are also made which are said to be used to carry talismans.

Even if I don’t make something like this myself, I would like to sit down with the ladies and watch the process and document it. Sometimes they are seen working with the fiber in the street but unfortunately I have not found them very open to my questioning or hanging about in the past.

The Ayoreo also use weft twining to make bags and carve beautifully simple bowls.

My friend Kathleen sent me pictures some time ago of bags called chácaras, which are said to be of Mayan origin, being made in Panama by the Ngöbe and Buglé people. The fiber is from the Aechmea magdalenae plant and is also twisted by rolling on the leg. The netting method appears to be the same although their color palette is quite different.

To finish this week I have some projects to show you from Marsha Knox who is in the Backstrap Weaving Group at Weavolution and Eladio Salas Torres who lives in Mexico and follows my blog.

Marsha used a tapestry loom to weave a band patterned with simple warp floats. I know that Marsha had a few false starts with this but she persevered and I thank her for showing us how warp faced bands can be woven on a tapestry loom.

Eladio has woven a wide piece incorporating three strips of simple warp floats using patterns from my blog. The red and black together look stunning!

He is using the double bird design from coastal Ecuador and a hook design that I adapted. He also sent me a picture of himself at his loom. I LOVE getting photos like this!

It looks like he is using a cardboard roll for his shed rod and maybe pvc pipe or wood for his loom bar and roll up stick. I wish I could sit cross legged like that! He has just bought my pebble weave book and I am sure we are going to be seeing pebble weave bands from him soon.


Here is the link to the most recent Synergo Arts newsletter about their latest progress with the ergonomic bench in Guatemala.


  1. Your posts are always fascinating. I have just started doing Andean pebble weave (on a floor loom) and have purchased you e-book. I think I am hooked. I am also on the board of Synergo Arts and am happy you have a link to the latest newsletter.
    Thanks, Anne

    • Hi Anne,
      Thanks for your comments. I hope you will share photos of the piece you are doing on your floor loom when you are ready.

  2. Thanks so much for putting my little tiny band on your blog. I actually always knew you could do warp face on a tapestry loom. The hard part was trying to warp with two colors on a loom with continuous warping. If I had just put the warp on sticks and lashed onto the frame I would have been up and going sooner. What I really wanted to accomplish though was using a warp bar. That way when the front was woven to the point I could no longer insert my swords, I could simply rotate the bar and have more exposed weaving space. It finally worked by putting in the sticks on each end and then wrapping the warp around the frame and lashing the two sticks together. Making for twice the warp available to me. You can’t see the sticks in the pictures because they are down low behind the bottom beam.

    My new Gilmore loom inkle loom, with string heddles and a warp beam , which means I can make VERY LONG bands should arrive on Tuesday. I sold my rigid heddle for the money. I needed something smaller and more in line for warp face weaving.

    I must say however, that I could never have done any of this without Laverne and her wonderful instructions. Thanks so very much Laverne.

    • I used to lash warps onto my Navajo loom. I used a continuous warp on it once following Mary Pendleton’s instructions for a hopi sash but apart from that I have never wanted to weave anything that long. What you did lashing the two end sticks together is a good compromise.

  3. Hola, no sé si es el lugar indicado para esto pero no encontré una direccion de mail donde escribirte. Estoy empezando con estas técnicas y me cuesta bastante, lo mejor que hay en la web es tu sitio, pero tengo que hacer la traduccion de google y….es astante complicado comprender. Estoy atascada en la cuestion de las diferentes tipos de urdimbre (suplementaria, complementaria, etc, ufff….no entiendo!!!!) sabes de algún material en español que recomendarme? tengo el manual de telar mapuche de Taranto y Marí, es hermoso y completo, pero no aclara mis dudas. Gracias por tu tiempo en leerme.

  4. […] I learned a twining technique from books on Maori Taaniko..You can read more about this here and here. […]

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